Click on this button to read another Naval term or phrase:


It is incredible how much of our everyday sayings and slang has been derived from the British Navy. Most civilians would never believe just how much of their English language has been adapted from matelots of old. It is easy to see from studying these phrases and customs just what a large influence the sea and the navy had upon the island nation of Great Britain and in turn its Dominions.


The Church Pendant
Is the oldest flag in our code of signals, dating from the early struggles between the British and the Dutch. Both sides were Roman Catholic, and decided mutually that some form of signal was necessary to call a truce whilst prayers were being said. At this stage war had not lost all chivalry. The colours of both nations were sewn together, and at the part next to the mast you may see the flag of England, whist the rainder is the ensign of the Netherlands.

A Dog Watch
Though a curtailed watch, was originally called a "dodge" watch. Designed to make the day have seven watches instead of six, in order that the men who had the middle watch might dodge it the next day. Best information available on the Ship's Bell page

Davy Jones
This was "Duffy", or ghost, of Jonah" - Duffy being an old English word for ghost.

Blue Peter
The signal to denote a ship will shortly sail, derives its name from the French "patir" meaning 'to depart.'

Mess
In which we live, comes from the spanish 'mesa', a table.

One Gun Salute (or rogues salute)
Is the signal gun fired for the assblage of a court martial

Splice the Mainbrace
In the Royal Navy it means that a double issue of rum (or now beer) will be served. Thought to derive from the fact that the mainbrace (in a sailing ship) would seldom, if ever, be spliced. On account of its size and the rarity of the occasion. Those who performed the work were probably rewarded with an extra tot. Further information on the Rum Issue Page

Half Masting Colours
A sign of mourning. Said to be accompanied by other signs of untidiness in olden times: .eg. leaving yards cocked, or ropes hanging lossely, etc. A more poetical explanation is offered. Many know that when a prize is captured the White Ensign is hoisted superior to the national flag of the prize. It is suggested that the ensign is worn at half mast in order to make room for the invisible colours of death, who invariably wins the last encounter.

Show a Leg
Dates from the times when wives sailed in men-o'-war. On calling the hands the owners of the finine legs were allowed to rain abed until Guard and Steerage.

Sons-of-Guns
Dates from the same times. Infants were born under the guns, and once or twice a gun had been fired to assist a difficult birth. Records of this have been found in old diaries.

Grog
Admiral Vernon insisted on having the rum watered down before issue, and he always wore grogam clothing, he was nick named "Old Grog" Further information on the Rum Issue Page

 



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