Nautical Terms You Might Not Know
THE WHOLE NINE YARDS American fighter planes in WWII had machine guns that were fed by a belt of cartridges. The average plane held belts that were 27 feet (9 yards) long. If the pilot used up all his ammo, he was said to have given it the whole nine yards.
BUYING THE FARM This is synonymous with dying. During WWI, soldiers were given life insurance policies worth $5,000. This was about the pri ce of an average farm, so if you died, you "bought the farm" for your survivors.
IRON CLAD CONTRACT This came about from the ironclad ships of the Civil War. It meant something so strong it could not be broken.
RIFF RAFF The Mississippi River was the main way of traveling from north to south. Riverboats carried passengers and freight, but they were expensive so most people used rafts. Everything had the right of way over rafts which were considered cheap. The steering oar on the rafts was called a "riff", and this transposed into riff-raff, meaning low class.
SHIP STATEROOMS Traveling by steamboat was considered the height of comfort. Passenger cabins on the boats were not numbered. Instead, they were named after states. To this day, cabins on ships are called staterooms.
SHOWBOAT These were floating theaters built on a barge that was pushed by a steamboat. These played small towns along the Mississippi River. Unlike the boat shown in the movie "Showboat", these did not have an engine. They were gaudy and attention-grabbing, which is why we say someone who is being the life of the party is "showboating".
BARGE IN Heavy freight was moved along the Mississippi in large barges pushed by steamboats. These were hard to control, and would so metimes swing into piers or other boats. People would say they "barged in".
HOGWASH Steamboats carried both people and animals. Since pigs smelled so bad, they would be washed before being put on board. The mud and other filth that was washed off was considered useless "hog wash".
BARRELS OF OIL When the first oil wells were drilled, no provision had been made for storing the liquid so they used water barrels. That is why, to this day, we speak of barrels of oil rather than gallons.