A Traveller's Guide to Sailors' Phrases
So, you've decided to go on an ocean voyage. Here are a few handy phrases to help you understand the people you're going to be stuck with for the next few days or longerSailors are known for their colourful language but amongst the swearing, there are also some terminology and phrases not heard outside this particular line of work. What follows are some examples to help you along the way.
PhrasesTo have the wind in one's sails
For non-sailors, you take this to mean that things are going your way. However, within the maritime community, it actually means something quite different. This is, in fact, an insult. It is used to describe someone acting pompously, with their chest looking like a sail inflated by the wind blowing into it. To be becalmed
In terms of ships themselves, being becalmed is when the wind vanishes, leaving the ship without movement. Similarly, when used in relation to an individual it can either mean when someone is riled up and/or arguing and then suddenly find themselves shut down or when a series of good fortune is abruptly ended. Hull-faced
Essentially, comparing someone's face to that of a barnacled hull i.e. spotty. Often used to describe younger sailors. Useful as a ballista in a storm
Useless. Ballistae are the common defensive weapon on board a ship and are notoriously inaccurate as soon as waves get rough. To chase the horizon
Usually uttered as the longer phrase 'they might as well be chasing the horizon' when someone is undergoing a task that will never succeed. Often, this will relate to a shipmate's pursuit of a relationship with an individual unlikely to feel the same way. Empty barrel for a nest
A phrase used to call someone an idiot. Crow's nest is atop the mast, so an empty barrel for a nest is saying their's nothing up top. That's star
Derived simply from 'starboard' (the right side), a literal analogy of 'that's right'. It will also be useful to know the sides of a ship. The bow is the front (referred to directionally as forward - this one is easy). The stern is the rear (referred to directionally as aft). To complete the four, the left side is the port side. May Talas calm the seas and Essina stir the winds
Not a colloquialism as such, but this is the wish of good luck said to a departing vessel/sailor. Talas is the god of the ocean and Essina the goddess of winds (and winter, but that is not relevant for sailors).