Won­der who said that first? It was prob­a­bly a sailor

Penticton Herald - - LIFE - FRED TRAINOR

Have you ever won­dered where many of our every­day say­ings came from? Many have nau­ti­cal roots. For ex­am­ple:

Taken aback: Means taken by sur­prise, stopped in one’s tracks. “Aback” is a nau­ti­cal term for sud­den wind change in which the sails flat­ten against the mast, which would not only slow the ship down but also drive it back­wards if the winds were strong enough.

Cut and run: Es­cap­ing a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion. In the 1700s, pulling up a heavy an­chor re­quired many men and con­sid­er­able time. Ships un­der at­tack could sus­tain con­sid­er­able dam­age be­fore the an­chor was dis­lodged and raised, so it be­came stan­dard prac­tice to chop the hemp an­chor line with an axe to al­low the ship to “run on the wind,” also re­ferred to as “cut and run.”

Freeze the balls off a brass mon­key: Very cold, so you should dress warmly. Guns on 18th-cen­tury Man-of-War ships were fired by gun­pow­der stored in a dif­fer­ent part of the ship for safety rea­sons. Young boys, who were small enough to slip through tight spa­ces, hauled the pow­der along tiny pas­sages. They were known as Pow­der Mon­keys and the brass trays used to hold the can­non­balls be­came known as Brass Mon­keys.

In cold weather, the can­non­balls stored on the low­est level of the pyra­mid would con­tract, break loose and spill onto the floor — thus “cold enough to freeze the balls of a brass mon­key.” Some phrases not of nau­ti­cal in­flu­ence: Egg some­one on: To en­cour­age some­one to do some­thing fool­ish or risky. Eg­gian is an An­glo-Saxon word mean­ing to spur some­one on, to en­cour­age or in­cite.

Keep your chin up: Means don’t take your trou­bles to bed with you. In Scot­land, it’s “Keep your pecker up.” Hang your trou­bles on a chair with your trousers or drop them in a glass of wa­ter with your teeth.

I don’t know what you call these or where they came from, but I like them: One sand­wich short of a pic­nic. One screw short of a hard­ware store. A few cards short of a deck. A few fries short of a Happy Meal. Have a nice week. Fred Trainor is a re­tired broad­caster liv­ing in Okana­gan Falls. Email: fred­trainor@shaw.ca

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