Saturday, February 2, 2013
Sailor Mouth Saturday: Mid/Middle
The word middle, perhaps curiously, comes from the Anglo-Saxon into Middle English words middel and middle. According to our old friend Webster they both indicate the halfway point between two others. That's fairly straight forward at least.
At sea, this general application of the word applies often but not always. A middle band is the central band on any sail, one of the many that is sewn to the canvas to give it extra strength. Middling a sail, on the other hand, is the act of arranging the sail for attaching it to the yard. A middle-topsail is one usually particular to schooners and sloops. This type of sail was - and still is - set on such vessels between the top and the cap of their topmasts.
Midrib is an old word for a slender or narrow canal. Mid-channel is the center, or halfway point from one shore to the other of a river, channel or smaller lake.
When a ship's position is determined by converting departure/arrival in difference of longitude, the type of navigation used is said to be middle latitude sailing. In such cases the middle latitude is used as a point of reference rather than the meridion.
Middle-timber reference the planking amidships and to the stern. Middle-wales are the strakes or outer planking along each side of a three decked vessel between the lower and middle deck ports.
The middle watch on naval ships was counted between midnight and 4:00 AM. A middle-watcher is no a member of that watch but a light, usually hand-held meal (such as a biscuit or sandwich) which officers of the middle watch might be able to, as Admiral Smyth puts it, "snatch" at about five bells or 2:30 AM. Fortifying oneself is always a good idea in the middle of the night, after all.
To return to where we started, midshipmen were often referred to, particularly as a group, as mids. Either affectionately or derogatorily they may also be referred to as "middies." I suppose it would depend on the individual young gentleman whether or not he appreciated such a moniker.
A happy Saturday to all the Brethren, then. Fair winds, following seas, and a little sunshine is my wish for you.
Header: Lake Superior by Walter Shirlaw via American Gallery ~ an example of a lake more like a small sea and far too large to have a mid-channel