Son of a Gun! Nautical Phrases Part 2
In our first lesson on nautical phrases, you learned that the terms “powerboat” and “yacht” are interchangeable and what “three sheets to the wind” really means.
In this blog, we’re going to cover some additional terms and sayings that have nautical origins. Let’s have some fun!
- “Son of a Gun” – While we recognize this saying today to be a friendly way of calling a person a rogue or a misbehaver, as in “You are joking, aren’t you, you son of a gun?” it has origins that date back to the 1800s and the Royal Navy in particular. At the time, women were allowed to live on naval ships. A child who was born on board but whose paternity was unknown was logged as a “son of a gun”. The “gun” meaning a military man.
- “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” – The jury is still out on where this one came from, although the meaning is clearly being stuck between two bad things. Some possible explanations of its origins follow:
- Greek Mythology: In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus is caught between a six-headed monster and a whirpool in the sea.
- The Devil on a ship is the seam between the last deck plank and the top plank on the side. This seam would require regular maintenance, requiring a sailor to hang over the side of the ship. This would also explain the term “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.”
- “Give a Wide Berth” – Berth is considered to be the place where a ship is moored nowadays. But in the past, the berth was a place where there was room to moor a ship”. Thus, you would tell your sailors to keep a wide berth between you and, say, some jagged rocks along the shore. People use that in common speech nowadays similarly. When you give a person a wide berth, figuratively speaking, you are going to leave them alone, stay out of their way, etc.