Archive for April, 2014

Yiddish Proverbs …

Posted on April 17, 2014. Filed under: Guide Posts, Light plus Weighty, Quotes, The Good Book, Vocabulary/Words | Tags: |

Ever come across Jewish Proverbs? Here are some from the Race that has, percentage wise, produced more Nobel Prize winners, than any other!                                                  

The wise man, even when he holds his tongue, says more than the fool when he speaks. Imagination is more important than knowledge.

 

What you don’t see with your eyes, don’t invent with your mouth.  A wise man hears one word and understands two.

 

A hero is someone who can keep his mouth shut when he is right.

One old friend is better than two new ones.

One of life’s greatest mysteries is how the boy who wasn’t good enough to marry your daughter can be the father of the smartest grandchild in the world.

 

“Don’t be so humble – you are not that great.”

Pessimism is a luxury that a Jew can never allow himself.

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.

Intellectuals solve problems; geniuses prevent them. You can’t control the wind, but you can adjust your sails.

 

We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.

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A Pakistani on Sam Manekshaw’s 100th Birth Anniversary …

Posted on April 16, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

3 Apr 2014
http://www.ndtv.com/video/player/news/remembering-sam-manekshaw-india-s-greatest-general-on-his-birth-centenary/315665?sp

What follows is by Hamid Hussein –

Sam was representative of an earlier generation of Indian officers. If you look Sam in pictures, he is always wearing black PIFFER pips although usually senior officers do not wear regimental color pips.

Gen Sinha is originally from Jat regiment but in WWII, he spent about two weeks with a draft of 4/12 FFR (Sam and present Pakistan army chief General Raheel Sharif’s battalion) before his own battalion came to the theatre.  Later, he too went to Gorkha Rifles.

In 1947, three young officers were serving together in Military Operations (MO) directorate in Delhi.  Sam was GSO-1, Yahya Khan was GSO-2 and Sinha GSO 3.  In 1971 Indo-Pak war, Sam was Indian army chief, Yahya Khan Pakistan army chief and Sinha was at GHQ heading a pay commission. Sinha asked Sam to be given a chance to participate in war and stated, “The old G1 is going to war with the old G2 and the old G3 is being left out”.

Sam owned a red motorcycle and in 1947 he sold it to Yahya for Rs.1000.  In the upheaval of 1947 Yahya went to Pakistan and never paid the money.  Sam used to joke about that Yahya never paid him for the motorcycle therefore he went ahead and got half of the country of Yahya.  I wrote the obituary of Sam attached below;

This is from the Defence Journal, August 2008   Sam Manekshaw (April 03, 1914 – June 27, 2008) by Hamid Hussain –

On June 27, 2008 Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw passed away in a hospital in India.  He was called Sam by his colleagues, Sam Bahadur by soldiers and Lord Mountbatten called him Manekji.  He was the last of the breed of an officer corps which joined the British Indian army in the 1930s.

Sam was the most popular soldier in India and was admired even in Pakistan. Sam was born in Amritsar and educated at Sherwood College in Nainital and Hindu Sabha College in Amritsar.  He passed out from Indian Military Academy at Dehra Dun in 1934 getting his military identity of IC-0014.  He followed the routine of spending one year of probationary period with a British regiment; 2nd Battalion of Royal Scots after commission.  He then joined the elite 4/12 Frontier Force Regiment (FFR).

This battalion had evolved through its one hundred and fifty year history going through various reorganizations which changed its name.  It started as 4th Sikh Local Infantry after First Sikh War in 1846.  In 1901, it became 4th Sikh Infantry and in 1903 became 54th Sikhs. The 1922 reorganization changed it into 4th Battalion of 12 Frontier Force Regiment. The 1957 reorganization gave it its present designation of 6 Frontier Force (FF).   The original designation of the force deployed on the frontier of newly acquired territories in 1849 was Punjab Irregular Frontier Force (PIFFER).  Till today those who join Frontier Force Regiment are known as PIFFERS.

Young impressionable cadets in the Academy see their instructors as role models and the caliber of an instructor may be a factor when a cadet chooses his battalion.

Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Carter of 4/12 Frontier Force Regiment was a first rate officer and then instructor at Dehra Dun (he later commanded the battalion in 1942 when it was being reorganized into a reconnaissance battalion at Ranchi).  He may have been responsible for two cadets of the batch joining the 4/12 FFR; Sam and Atiq-ur-Rahman, nick named Turk.

In the Second World War, Sam then a captain was leading Sikhs of Charlie company of 4/12 FFR in Burma.  A small group of Japanese soldiers surprised the troops and sneaked into the perimeter of the battalion at night.  This caused anic and a number of soldiers bolted from the scene.  Sam’s Sikhs firmly stayed in their positions.  Sam had threatened them that he will personally distribute ‘bangles’ if any of them moved from their position.

Later, in one of the attacks on a Japanese position, Sam was severely wounded when seven bullets of a Japanese machine gun hit him in his stomach.  His orderly Sher Singh put Sam on his back and evacuated him to the Regimental Aid Post where Regimental Medical Officer (RMO) Captain G. M. Diwan tended to him.  Sam was in a serious condition and all who saw him were convinced that he would not survive from his serious wounds.

Major General D. T. Cowan pinned his own Military Cross (MC) on Sam’s chest stating that ‘a dead person cannot be awarded a MC’.

Death was, it seems, closely lurking around Sam.  When Sam was being treated at a hospital at Pegu, Japanese planes bombed the hospital and Sam’s bed was moved to the lawn. Severely wounded Sam was moved to Mandalay and then to Rangoon.  Sam was on the last ship which left Rangoon before the Japanese overran it.  The ship was also bombed by Japanese planes but Sam made it to Madras.  He survived this ordeal to live up to the ripe age of 94.

After partition in 1947 when Sam’s battalion was allotted to Pakistan, 8th Gorkha (Shiny Eight) became Sam’s home.

During the 1947-48 Kashmir Operations, Sam then Colonel was a staff officer at Directorate of Military Operations.  In Baramulka, Pakistani tribesmen killed Colonel Thomas Dyke and his wife who were on holidays.  Dyke had done his first year attachment with 2nd Royal Scots along with Sam before joining Sikh Regiment.

Sam commanded an infantry brigade, served as Commandant of Infantry School, commanded an infantry division and then went on to become Commandant of Defence Services College at Wellington.  He commanded 4th Corps and then became Western Army Commander followed by commanding Eastern Army Command.  In June 1969, he succeeded General Kumaramangalam to become eighth army chief of the Indian army.

In early 1950s, two PIFFERS on Pakistan side and one old PIFFER from Indian side were commanding the brigades close to the border.  Brigadier Bakhtiar Rana was commanding a brigade in Lahore, Brigadier Atiqur Rahman (nick named Turk) was commanding 101 Brigade (based in Sialkot but sent to Lahore due to anti-Ahmadiya riots) while Sam was commanding a brigade in Ferozepur.  Rana and Turk went to see Sam and old PIFFERS buddies enjoyed Sam’s hospitality.

After 1971 war when Sam came to Pakistan as Indian army chief for negotiations, Turk was his host.  Sam had lifelong attachment to his parent battalion.  When he was army chief, there was a standing order to all the staff, guards and sentries that whenever an ex-serviceman of 4/12 FFR came to the army headquarters, he should be brought to the Chief no matter what the Chief was doing.

In 1971 war when he was Indian army chief, he kept an eye on performance of 4/12 FFR (now 6FF) which was fighting from Pakistan’s side.  His staff would notice a certain pride in his eyes when the briefing officer would give some account of 4/12 FFR.  He commented to his military assistant ‘I should like to see one of my 8th Gorkha battalions fighting the 4/12 Frontier Force Regiment’.

When Major Shabbir Sharif of 6 FF got the highest gallantry award of Nishan-e-Haider fighting from Pakistan side, Sam wrote to his old British Commanding Officer (CO) of 4/12 FFR in England that he was so proud that an officer of ‘his battalion’ got the honor although Sam’s forces were fighting against Pakistan.

In 1973, when he came to Pakistan for post-war negotiations, he requested that dinner be served in the silverware of his parent battalion.  4/12 FFR (6 FF) was then stationed in Okara and cutlery of the battalion was carefully packed and sent to Lahore where Sam was entertained.  During his 1973 visit to Pakistan, Sam was given a lunch at Station Artillery Mess in Lahore.  Sam went around looking at the impressive array of trophies in the mess.  He stopped by a trophy and asked what a trophy of 54th Sikh (4/12 FFR) was doing in the artillery mess.  One Pakistani officer confided that the trophy was brought to the mess for the special occasion.

In March 1973, when Sam visited England, he hosted a dinner where all serving and retired officers who had association with 54th Sikhs and 8th Gorkha Rifles were in attendance.

In his professional career, Sam was famous for his brief and to the point orders.  In 1962 Indo-China war, Sam was urgently dispatched to take over 4th Corps from Lieutenant General B. M. Kaul (nick named Bijji).  On his arrival Sam assembled all staff officers and gave his one sentence address stating ‘Gentlemen I have arrived.  There will be no more withdrawals in 4th Corps, thank you’ and walked out. He issued a brief order to all in the Corps which read, ‘there will be no more withdrawals without written orders and these orders shall never be issued’.

These statements elevated Sam’s reputation but the fact was that Sam took over the Corps after the unilateral ceasefire announced by China.

Sam himself summed up his philosophy of work by stating that ‘I am a simple infanteer and a Gorkha at that and I want everything cut and dried.  Complicated stuff is for the intellectuals’.  He was known for his straight talk even with heavy weights of Indian political scene.

In 1971, when a large number of refugees started to pour from then East Pakistan into neighboring states, the Chief Ministers of West Bengal, Assam and Tripura started to flood Delhi with urgent telegrams.  Prime Minister Indira Gandhi summoned Sam to a cabinet meeting.  She was very angry and after a long diatribe about the situation turned towards Sam and asked him ‘What are you doing about it?’

The response which Sam gave was typical.  On the question of what he was going to do, he said ‘Nothing, it’s got nothing to do with me.  You didn’t consult me when you allowed BSF [Border Security Force], the CRP [Central Reserve Police] and RAW [Research and Analysis Wing] to encourage the Pakistanis to revolt.  Now that creates trouble, you come to me.  I have a long nose.  I know what’s happening’.

Sam’s working method was based on simplicity and he avoided lofty statements.  He was well aware of the ground realities and talked frankly about tricky issues even with his soldiers.  In the run up to 1971 war, when he visited a garrison he would bluntly tell soldiers that when war breaks out there will be no scavenging.  He told them that he was commanding soldiers and not thieves.  He also warned them against womanizing.  He reminded his soldiers that the war was against the Pakistan army and not against their women.

In professional matters, he kept high standards.  A general was accused of misusing funds.  When Sam summoned him to his office and narrated the charge, the general blurted ‘Sir, do you know what you are saying?’  Sam snapped at him, ‘Your Chief is not only accusing you of being dishonest but also calling you a thief.  If I were you I would go home and either shoot myself or resign.  I am waiting to see what you will do’.  The same evening the general resigned.

Sam had a sense of humor and there are many stories of his witty responses.  When he lay critically wounded in Burma, the Australian surgeon tending to wounded asked him what happened, Sam replied ‘I was kicked by a mule’.

In 1971 conflict, when then prime Minister Indira Ghandi asked him if he was ready for the impending conflict, Sam replied with a twinkle in his eyes ‘I am always ready, sweetie’.  In the run up to 1971 war, when he visited different garrisons, he warned soldiers against womanizing.  He would tell them that ‘when you feel tempted, put your hands in your pockets and think of Sam Manekshaw’.

In 1973, after becoming Field Marshal when Sam was visiting England, he hosted a dinner.  One of his former Commanding Officer was also present who asked him ‘May, I call you Sam’.  Sam replied, ‘Please do, Sir.  You used to call me a bloody fool before.  I thought that was my Christian name’.

After retirement, Sam was a director with Escorts.  A hostile bid for the organization was thwarted by changing of the whole board.  Mr. Naik was one of the new directors.  Sam remarked that ‘This is the first time in history when a Naik has displaced a Field Marshal’.

He was sometimes brash but always had enough humility.  In 1971, when Prime Minister asked him to go to Dacca to accept surrender of Pakistani forces he said that the honor should go to Eastern Army Commander Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Arora.

After the surrender, Sam flew to Calcutta to congratulate officers of eastern command.  When he landed at Dum Dum airport, he was escorted to a Mercedes car captured from Pakistanis but he refused to sit in Mercedes.

When wearing casual dress, he always preferred Peshawari chaplis.

Sam was lucky during his whole career.  In 1947-48 Kashmir war, he was a staff officer at General Head Quarters (GHQ). In 1962 debacle, he was serving as Commandant of Defence Services Staff College far away from the conflict. He was asked by his mentor and new army Chief J. N. Chaudhri (nick named Mucchu) to take over 4th Corps from Lieutenant General B. M. Kaul.  Sam took over after the unilateral ceasefire by China and therefore never put his skills into any battle.  In 1965 war, Sam was Eastern Army Commander while all the action was on the western front. India was in a much better strategic position in 1971 and the outcome of the war was a foregone conclusion. Sam became a popular soldier after India’s victory on 1971.

Sam’s life was not without controversy.  Sam’s frank comments got him into trouble with his superiors.  In 1962, then Defence Minister V. K. Krishna Menon and Chief of General Staff Lieutenant General B. M. Kaul initiated an inquiry against Sam for alleged ‘anti-national attitude’.  Sam was accused of being more loyal to Queen of England than President of India.  He was also accused of stating that as commandant of Staff College, he will not allow any officer as instructor whose wife looked like ‘ayah’.

Sam’s promotion was held for eighteen months during this time.  A Court of Inquiry headed by then Western Army commander Lieutenant General Daulat Singh exonerated Sam.  The principle witness against Sam was Brigadier H. S. Yadav (he was commissioned in Grenadiers and nick named Kim).  Brigadier Inder Vohra was another witness against Sam.

In 1963, when Sam took over as Western Army Commander, Yadav served under him as a brigade commander.  Some officers trying to curry favor with Sam, made adverse remarks about Yadav.  Sam quickly replied ‘Look chaps, professionally, Kim Yadav is head and shoulders above most of you – all he lacks is character’.  Yadav himself had enough sense of humor that after the conclusion of the 1971 war, he sent a telegram to Sam which read, ‘You have won the war: all by yourself, without me! A remarkable achievement.  My congratulations’.

In January 1973, Sam again stirred a controversy and was accused of having disdain for everything Indian.  In an interview he had stated that his favorite city was London where he felt at home.  More explosive comment was his statement that in 1947 Jinnah asked him to join Pakistan army.  Sam added that ‘if I had, you would have had a defeated India’.

In this author’s dictionary, the pinnacle of any officer’s career is not in attaining general rank but the honor to command the battalion he is commissioned in.  Unfortunately, in Sam’s illustrious career, he never had the chance to command a battalion.  However, this fact does not diminish his position in Indian army history.

Sam’s first annual confidential report by his superior read, ‘this officer, I beg his pardon, this man, may one day become an officer’.  He not only became an officer and a gentleman but became the most popular officer of Indian army.  In his passing, an era has come to an end.

Knowing Sam, it is most likely that even up there, he will be hanging out with old warriors of PIFFERS and Gorkha regiments.  Good bye, Sam. Rest in peace.

 

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Phrases, Customs, Traditions – the WHY???

Posted on April 16, 2014. Filed under: Searching for Success, Vocabulary/Words |

1. WHY:
Why do men’s clothes have buttons on the right while women’s clothes have buttons on the left?
Because:
When buttons were invented, they were very expensive and worn primarily by the rich. As most people are right-handed, it is easier to push buttons on the right through holes on the left.  Because wealthy women were dressed by maids, dressmakers put the buttons on the maid’s right!   And that’s where women’s buttons have remained since.

2. WHY:
Why do ships and aircraft use ‘mayday’ as their call for help:

Because: This comes from the French word m’aidez – meaning ‘help me’ – and is pronounced, approximately, ‘mayday.’

3. WHY
Why are zero scores in tennis called ‘love’?
Because:
In France, where tennis became popular, the round zero on the scoreboard looked like an egg and was called ‘l’oeuf,’ which is French for ‘the egg.’   When tennis was introduced in the US, Americans (naturally), mispronounced it ‘love.’

4. WHY:
Why do X’s at the end of a letter signify kisses?
Because:
In the Middle Ages, when many people were unable to read or write, documents were often signed using an X. Kissing the X represented an oath to fulfill obligations specified in the document. The X and the kiss eventually became synonymous.

5. WHY:
Why is shifting responsibility to someone else called ‘passing the buck’?
Because:
In card games, it was once customary to pass an item, called a buck, from player to player to indicate whose turn it was to deal.  If a player did not wish to assume the responsibility of dealing, he would  ‘pass the buck’ to the next player.

6. WHY:
Why do people clink their glasses before drinking a toast?
Because:
In earlier times it used to be common for someone to try to kill an enemy by offering him a poisoned drink.  To prove to a guest that a drink was safe, it became customary for a guest to pour a small amount of his drink into the glass of the host.  Both men would drink it simultaneously. When a guest trusted his host, he would only touch or clink the host’s glass with his own.

7. WHY:
Why are people in the public eye said to be ‘in the limelight’?
Because:
Invented in 1825, limelight was used in lighthouses and theatres by burning a cylinder of lime which produced a brilliant light. In the theatre, a performer ‘in the limelight’ was the centre of attention.

8. WHY:
Why is someone who is feeling great ‘on cloud nine’?
Because:
Types of clouds are numbered according to the altitudes they attain, with nine being the highest cloud. If someone is said to be on cloud nine, that person is floating well above worldly cares.

9. WHY:
In golf, where did the term ‘Caddie’ come from?
Because:
When Mary Queen of Scots went to France as a young girl, Louis, King of France, learned that she loved the Scots game ‘golf.’ He had the first course outside of Scotland built for her enjoyment.  To make sure she was properly chaperoned (and guarded) while she played, Louis hired cadets from a military school to accompany her.  Mary liked this a lot and when she returned to Scotland (not a very good idea in the long run), she took the practice with her.  In French, the word cadet is pronounced ‘ca-day’ and the Scots changed it into caddie.

10. WHY:
Why are many coin collection jar banks shaped like pigs?
Because:
Long ago, dishes and cookware in Europe were made of dense orange clay called ‘pygg’. When people saved coins in jars made of this clay, the jars became known as ‘pygg banks.’  When an English potter misunderstood the word, he made a container that resembled a pig.  And it caught on.

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Common Phrases and Their Nautical Origins …

Posted on April 12, 2014. Filed under: The English | Tags: , , , |

As the Crow Flies – 

When lost or unsure of their position in coastal waters, ships would release a cagedcrow. The crow would fly straight towards the nearest land thus giving the vessel some sort of a navigational fix. The tallest lookout platform on a ship came to be known as the crow’s nest

Leeway – 

The weather side of a ship is the side from which the wind is blowing. The Lee side is the side of the ship sheltered from the wind. A lee shore is a shore that is downwind of a ship. If a ship does not have enough “leeway” it is in danger of being driven onto the shore.

Windfall – 

A sudden unexpected rush of wind from a mountainous shore which allowed a shipmore leeway.

Over the Barrel – 

The most common method of punishment aboard ship was flogging. The unfortunate sailor was tied to a grating, a mast or over the barrel of a deck cannon.

To Know the Ropes – 

There was miles and miles of cordage in the rigging of a square rigged ship. The only way of keeping track of and knowing the function of all of these lines was to know where they were located. It took an experienced seaman to know the ropes.

Dressing Down – 

Thin and worn sails were often treated with oil or wax to renew their effectiveness. This was called “dressing down”.   An officer or sailor who was reprimanded or scolded received a dressing down.

Footloose – 

The bottom portion of a sail is called the foot. If it is not secured, it is footloose and itdances randomly in the wind.

Booby Hatch – 

Aboard ship, a booby hatch is a sliding cover or hatch that must be pushed away to allow access or passage.

First Rate – 

Implies excellence. From the 16th century on until steam powered ships took over, british naval ships were rated as to the number of heavy cannon they carried. A ship of 100 or more guns was a First Rate line-of-battle ship. Second rates carried 90 to 98 guns; Third Rates, 64 to 89 guns; Fourth Rates, 50 to 60 guns. Frigates carrying 48 to 20 guns were fifth and sixth rated.

Pipe Down – 

Means stop talking and be quiet. The Pipe Down was the last signal from the Bosun’s pipe each day which meant “lights out” and “silence”.

Chock-a-Block – 

Meaning something is filled to capacity or over loaded. If two blocks of rigging tackle were so hard together they couldn’t be tightened further, it was said they were “Chock-a-Block”.

Groggy – 

In 1740, British Admiral Vernon (whose nickname was “Old Grogram” for the cloak of grogram which he wore) ordered that the sailors’ daily ration of rum be diluted with water. The men called the mixture “grog”. A sailor who drank too much grog was “groggy”.

Three Sheets to the Wind – 

A sheet is a rope line which controls the tension on the downwind side of a square sail. If, on a three masted fully rigged ship, the sheets of the three lower course sails are loose, the sails will flap and flutter and are said to be “in the wind”. A ship in this condition would stagger and wander aimlessly downwind.

Pooped – 

The poop is the stern section of a ship. To be pooped is to be swamped by a high, following sea.

Buoyed Up – 

Using a buoy to raise the bight of an anchor cable to prevent it from chafing on a rough bottom.

By and Large – 

Currently means in all cases or in any case. From the nautical: by meaning into the wind and large meaning with the wind: as in, “By and Large the Ship handled very well”

Cut and Run – 

If a captain of a smaller ship encountered a larger enemy vessel, he might decide that discretion is the better part of valor, and so he would order the crew to cut the lashings on all the sails and run away before the wind. Other sources indicate “Cut and Run” meant to cut the anchor cable and sail off in a hurry.

In the Offing –

Currently means something is about to happen, as in – “There is a reorganization in the offing.”    From the 16th century usage meaning a good distance from shore, barely visible from land, as in – “We sighted a ship in the offing.”

Skyscraper – 

A small triangular sail set above the skysail in order to maximize effect in a light wind.

The Bitter End – 

The end of an anchor cable is fastened to the bitts at the ship’s bow. If all of the anchor cable has been payed out you have come to the bitter end.

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.

Back and Fill – 

A technique of tacking when the tide is with the ship but the wind is against it.

Overhaul – 

To prevent the buntline ropes from chaffing the sails, crew were sent aloft to haul them over the sails. This was called overhauling.

Slush Fund – 

A slushy slurry of fat was obtained by boiling or scraping the empty salted meat storage barrels. This stuff called “slush” was often sold ashore by the ship’s cook for the benefit of himself or the crew. The money so derived became known as a slush fund.

Bear Down – 

To sail downwind rapidly towards another ship or landmark.

Under the Weather – 

If a crewman is standing watch on the weather side of the bow, he will be subject to the constant beating of the sea and the ocean spray. He will be under the weather.

Overreach – 

If a ship holds a tack course too long, it has overreached its turning point and the distance it must travel to reach it’s next tack point is increased.

Gone By the Board – 

Anything seen to have gone overboard or spotted floating past the ship (by the board) was considered lost at sea.

Above Board – 

Anything on or above the open deck. If something is open and in plain view, it isabove board.

Overwhelm – 

Old English for capsize or founder.

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea – 

The devil seam was the curved seam in the deck planking closest to the side of the ship and next to the scupper gutters. If a sailor slipped on the deck, he could find himself between the deviland the deep blue sea.

The Devil to Pay – 

To pay the deck seams meant to seal them with tar. The devil seam was the most difficult to pay because it was curved and intersected with the straight deck planking. Some sources define the “devil” as the below-the-waterline -seam between the keel and the the adjoining planking. Paying the Devil was considered to be a most difficult and unpleasant task.

Rummage Sale – 

From the French “arrimage” meaning ship’s cargo. Damaged cargo was sold at a rummage sale.

A Square Meal – 

In good weather, crews’ mess was a warm meal served on square wooden platters.

Son of a Gun – 

When in port, and with the crew restricted to the ship for any extended period of time, wives and ladies of easy virtue often were allowed to live aboard along with the crew. Infrequently, but not uncommonly, children were born aboard, and a convenient place for this was between guns on the gun deck. If the child’s father was unknown, they were entered in the ship’s log as “son of a gun“.

Let the Cat Out of the Bag – 

In the Royal Navy the punishment prescribed for most serious crimes was flogging. This was administered by the Bosun’s Mate using a whip called a cat o’ nine tails. The “cat” was kept in a leather or baize bag. It was considered bad news indeed when the cat was let out of the bag.    Other sources attribute the expression to the old english market scam of selling someone a pig in a poke(bag) when the pig turned out to be a cat instead.

Overbearing – 

To sail downwind directly at another ship thus “stealing” or diverting the wind from hissails.

No Room to Swing a Cat – 

The entire ship’s company was required to witness flogging at close hand. The crew might crowd around so that the Bosun’s Mate might not have enough room to swing his cat o’ nine tails.

Taking the wind out of his sails – 

Sailing in a manner so as to steal or divert wind from another ship’s sails.

Start Over with a Clean Slate – 

A slate tablet was kept near the helm on which the watch keeper would record the speeds, distances, headings and tacks during the watch. If there were no problems during the watch, the slate would be wiped clean so that the new watch could start over with a clean slate.

Taken Aback – 

A dangerous situation where the wind is on the wrong side of the sails pressing them back against the mast and forcing the ship astern. Most often this was caused by an inattentive helmsman who had allowed the ship to head up into the wind.

At Loggerheads – 

An iron ball attached to a long handle was a loggerhead. When heated it was used to seal the pitch in deck seams. It was sometimes a handy weapon for quarrelling crewmen.

Fly-by-Night – 

A large sail used only for sailing downwind and requiring rather little attention.

No Great Shakes – 

When casks became empty they were “shaken” (taken apart) so the pieces, called shakes, could be stored in a small space. Shakes had very little value.

Give (someone) a Wide Berth – 

To anchor a ship far enough away from another ship so that they did not hit each other when they swung with the wind or tide.

Cut of His Jib –

Warships many times had their foresails or jib sails cut thinly so that they could maintain point and not be blown off course. Upon sighting thin foresails on a distant ship a captain might not like the cut of his jib and would then have an opportunity to escape.

Garbled – 

Garbling was the prohibited practice of mixing rubbish with the cargo. A distorted, mixed up message was said to be garbled.

Press Into Service – 

The British navy filled their ships’ crew quotas by kidnapping men off the streets and forcing them into service. This was called Impressment and was done by Press Gangs.

Touch and Go – 

This referred to a ship’s keel touching the bottom and getting right off again.

Scuttlebutt – 

A butt was a barrel. Scuttle meant to chop a hole in something. The scuttlebutt was a water barrel with a hole cut into it so that sailors could reach in and dip out drinking water. The scuttlebutt was the place where the ship’s gossip was exchanged

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