Category Archives: Nautical trivia

Toe the line

When called to line up at attention, the ship’s crew would form up with their toes touching a seam in the deck planking. Accept the authority, principles, or policies of a particular group, especially under pressure.

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To be Pooped

We might use the word “pooped” to mean the same thing, but its seagoing origin is quite different. The rearmost, highest deck of a sailing ship was called the poop deck, from the Latin word “puppis.” If a ship were unlucky enough to be overtaken by a massive, breaking sea which drenched her from astern, […]

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Footloose

The foot is the bottom of a sail, whether triangular or square, that is attached to the boom to keep it stretched. A sail that is not attached to the boom is said to be footloose and is very difficult to control as it moves with the wind The term ‘footloose and fancy free’ refers […]

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Flying Colours

To come through a battle with flying colours means a ship has come through relatively unscathed and with her colours (flag) flying. Today it means to come through an ordeal having done very well.

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Keel Hauling

A severe naval punishment during the 15th and 16th centuries. The victim, presumably a delinquent sailor, was dragged from one side of the boat to the other, under the bottom of the boat (keel). Tossed over one side and pulled up on the other, he was usually allowed to catch his breath before suddenly being […]

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