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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Frederick Marryat (1792–1848)

Nautical Terms

From “Peter Simple”

ALL the sailors were busy at work, and the first lieutenant cried out to the gunner, “Now, Mr. Dispart, if you are ready, we’ll breech these guns.”

“Now, my lads,” said the first lieutenant, “we must slug (the part the breeches cover) more forward.” As I never had heard of a gun having breeches, I was very curious to see what was going on, and went up close to the first lieutenant, who said to me, “Youngster, hand me that monkey’s tail.” I saw nothing like a monkey’s tail, but I was so frightened that I snatched up the first thing that I saw, which was a short bar of iron, and it so happened that it was the very article which he wanted. When I gave it to him, the first lieutenant looked at me, and said, “So you know what a monkey’s tail is already, do you? Now don’t you ever sham stupid after that.”

Thought I to myself, I’m very lucky, but if that’s a monkey’s tail, it’s a very stiff one!

I resolved to learn the names of everything as fast as I could, that I might be prepared, so I listened attentively to what was said; but I soon became quite confused, and despaired of remembering anything.

“How is this to be finished off, sir?” inquired a sailor of the boatswain.

“Why, I beg leave to hint to you, sir, in the most delicate manner in the world,” replied the boatswain, “that it must be with a double-wall—and be damned to you—don’t you know that yet? Captain of the foretop,” said he, “up on your horses, and take your stirrups up three inches.” “Aye, aye, sir.” I looked and looked, but I could see no horses.

“Mr. Chucks,” said the first lieutenant to the boatswain, “what blocks have we below—not on charge?”

“Let me see, sir. I’ve one sister, tother we split in half the other day, and I think I have a couple of monkeys down in the store-room. I say, you Smith, pass that brace through the bull’s eye, and take the sheep-shank out before you come down.”

And then he asked the first lieutenant whether something should not be fitted with a mouse or only a Turk’s-head—told him the goose-neck must be spread out by the armourer as soon as the forge was up. In short, what with dead-eyes and shrouds, cats and cat-blocks, dolphins and dolphin-strikers, whips and puddings, I was so puzzled with what I heard, that I was about to leave the deck in absolute despair.

“And, Mr. Chucks, recollect this afternoon that you bleed all the buoys.”

Bleed the boys, thought I; what can that be for? At all events, the surgeon appears to be the proper person to perform that operation.