Saturday, March 9, 2013

Sailor Mouth Saturday: Lap

Today's word swings widely at sea. From superstitions about weather to naval uniforms to the building of iron vessels, lap plays a little part in them all.

In shipbuilding, lap over revers to the carlings of masts which Admiral Smyth explains clearly in The Sailors Word Book:

Pieces of timber about five inches square, lying fore and aft, along from one beam to another. On and athwart these the ledges rest, whereon the planks of the deck and other portions of carpentry are made fast.

Thus, the mast carlings are said to lap over or upon the deck because they are necessarily deep. Laps proper are the ends of a carling that support an unusual heft. Admiral Smyth gives the example of the capstan step.

Lap jointing refers to the overlapping plates of iron on a vessel. This form of shipbuilding is similar to the old wooden fashion known as clincher or clinker building.

We've all read of the wave "lapping" at the shore or some other solid surface but at sea, lapping often refers to thin ice. Indicating the way the ice slowly builds as the temperature descends, these layers of overlapping ice can be an extreme danger to ships and men, trapping or even crushing vessels in their stealthy grasp.

The word lapel (lapelle) was once as important to naval uniforms as the more modern epaulette. The golden fringed epaulette came into use in European navies during the late 18th and early 19th century. Prior to that, a white lapelle was used in uniform making to indicate the rank of lieutenant. Admiral Smyth quotes what he calls "the brackish poet, in the craven midshipman's lament":

If I had in my country staid,
I then had learnt some useful trade,
And scorned the white lapelle.

In northern seas women who claimed a certain talent for weather-witchery were sometimes dubbed Lapland Witches. Apparently the women of this Finish tribe were more than capable of bringing fair weather - but at a price. One was considered an ignorant gob among his mates if he bought weather for coin.

Famously, the dish known as lap's course is said to be one of the oldest savory dishes served to any working ship's foc's'l men. It developed into the more familiar lobscouse, a stew of salted meat, potatoes, onions, spices and ship's biscuit for thickening that warmed the heart and stuck to the ribs of many a hungry seamen throughout history.

And so, an end to lap. I chose this word today because it is my youngest daughter's fourteenth birthday today. Like any mother who loves her children, I now see a beautiful young lady but remember a very little redhead who used to like to sit on my lap and listen to me sing...

Happy Saturday, Brethren; fair winds, following sails and full tankards to you all!

Header: Beach Scene by Gustav Courbet c 1874 via Old Paint


Timmy! said...

This post made me think of the song "Happy Jack" by The Who, Pauline:

"But they couldn't stop Jack, 'or the waters lapping,

And they couldn't prevent Jack from being happy."

Pauline said...

Which in turn makes me think of drag queen Roxxxy Andrews being left at a bus stop by her mom when she was three years old. What the hell is wrong with people?