Well I Never Knew That
By John Parker, (pub. Edward Gaskell, Bideford, 2008) illustrated, at £8 - ISBN 190676902 – 8
This is an excellent book to dip into, and also for those trivia questions at Christmas time. Having taught some English to foreign language students I realise what a difficult tongue English is. Grammar rules are quite flexible and colloquial expressions abound. Therefore it is quite reasonable to expect many words and expressions to originate from nautical and 'ship board speak'.
John Parker from North Devon, a folk song and shanty singer who has been involved in nautical events and fundraising for many years, has collected a sizable kit bag full of nautical expressions and individual words in everyday use which can be traced back to the days of sail. These entries, listed in A to Z format, are separate to 'Jackspeak' or RN slang. What is so surprising is how many expressions common today can be traced back to our nautical forefathers. As with some other words in the English language, the meaning of a number have altered over time. A 'bully' on land today would mean a person who terrorises those weaker than themselves, but a 'bully crew' would have been looked up to as strong, able and well respected! In the ballad, 'Ten thousand miles' 'a good ship and a bully crew' is sought for, although was 'Bully' Forbes (the subject in another folk song), the 19th century North Atlantic packet ship skipper, very able or just a hard driving commander hated by his crew?
This is a handy little paperback packed with 100 pages of nautical lexicon with, we are told, proceeds going to maritime charities. It would make an excellent stocking filler. The book is certainly not full of 'bilge' as entries are 'as clear as a bell', the author being very 'clued up' there being no 'dead wood'. So go out and buy this offering if you are 'feeling blue' or 'pooped' - it will cheer you up. It only costs eight 'quid'!
Here is the text from the frontispiece.....
”A ship is called 'She' because
There is always a great deal of bustle about her.
There is usually a gang of men about.
She has a waist and stays;
And it takes a lot of paint to keep her looking good.
It is not the initial expense that breaks you,
It is the upkeep.
She can be all decked out,
But it takes an experienced man to handle her correctly.
Without a man at the helm'
She is absolutely uncontrollable.
She shows her topsides,
And hides her bottom,
And when coming into port
She always heads for the bouys.”
Reviewed by Martin Hazell
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