Admiral of the Navy: There is only one Admiral of the Navy and it was Admiral George Dewey.
Ahoy: This old traditional greeting for hailing other vessels was originally a Viking battle cry.
Aiguillette: Is of French origin and goes back to the use of horses in battle. The Generals Aide carried a loop of cord to tie up the Generals horse when he dismounted. As a practical approach the aides would loop the cord around the buttoned down flap on the shoulder of their shirt. Modern days worn by Aides to Flag officers and Boot Camp Company Commanders.
Anchors Aweigh Music written by Band master Lieut. Zimmerman. In 1906, Lieut. Zimmerman was approached by Midshipman First Class Alfred Hart Miles with a request for a new march. As a member of the Class of 1907, Miles and his classmates "were eager to have a piece of music that would be inspiring, one with a swing to it so it could be used as a football marching song, and one that would live forever."
August Chief Petty Officer: The term august (o gust') means inspiring reverence or admiration; of supreme dignity or grandeur; majestic. The term August Chief Petty Officer is a description of any CPO; inspiring reverence or admiration; representative of supreme dignity or grandeur; majestic.
Aviation Green Uniform: In SEP 1917 the "Forestry" Green uniform of the U.S. Marine Corps was authorized for aviation officers as a winter working uniform. The earliest use of the uniform by enlisted men came in 1941 when chief petty officers designated as Naval Aviation Pilots were authorized to wear the uniform. In NOV 1985 Aviation Working Greens were authorized for wear by women in the aviation community.
Bamboozle: In today's Navy, when you intentionally deceive someone, usually as a joke, you are said to have bamboozled them. The word was used in the days of sail also, but the intent was not hilarity. Bamboozle meant to deceive a passing vessel as to your ship's origin or nationality by flying an ensign other than your own -- a common practice of pirates.
Before the Mast: Literally, the position of the crew whose living quarters were in the forecastle (the section of the ship forward of the foremast). The term is also used more generally to describe seamen as compared to officers, in phrases such as "he sailed before the mast."
Bell Bottom Trousers: Commonly believed that the trouser were introduced in 1817 to permit men to roll them above the knee when washing down the decks, and to make it easier to remove them in a hurry when forced to abandon ship or when washed overboard. The trousers may be used as a life preserver by knotting the legs.
Between the Devil and the Deep: In wooden ships, the "devil" was the longest seam of the ship. It ran from the bow to the stern. When at sea and the "devil" had to be caulked, the sailor sat in a bo'sun's chair to do so. He was suspended between the "devil" and the sea -- the "deep -- a very precarious position, especially when the ship was underway.
Bib The portion of a Navy enlisted uniform that hangs from the back of the neck. In the wooden navy it was fashion for sailors to have long hair but it would get blown about by the winds and get stuck in the rigging or machinery. To counteract this sailors at sea would braid their hair and dip it in tar (used to seal the boards on the ship). When ashore on liberty (as opposed to a longer leave where they would wash the tar out of the hair) they would cut a bib out of sack cloth and tie it around their neck to keep from getting tar on their one good shirt. The bib eventually became an official part of the enlisted uniform.
Binnacle List: Many novice sailors, confusing the words 'binnacle' and barnacle, have wondered what their illnesses had to do with crusty growths found on the hull of a ship. Their confusion is understandable. Binnacle is defined as the stand or housing for the ship's compass located on the bridge. The term binnacle list, in lieu of sick list, originated years ago when ship corpsmen used to place a list of sick on the binnacle health. After long practice, it came to be called binnacle list.
Bitter End: As any able-bodied seaman can tell you, a turn of a line around a bitt, those wooden or iron posts sticking through a ship's deck, is called a bitter. Thus the last of the line secured to the bitts is known as the bitter end. Nautical usage has somewhat expanded the original definition in that today the end of any line, secured to bitts or not, is called a bitter end. The landlubbing phrases "stick to the bitter end" and "faithful to the bitter end" are derivations of the nautical term and refer to anyone who insists on adhering to a course of action without regard to consequences.
Black Balls - Three black balls hung in a vertical line on the mast indicate the ship is aground. - Coast Guard Navigation Rules
Boatswain: As required by 17th Century law, British ships-of-war carried three smaller boats, the boat, the cock-boat, and the skiff. The boat - or gig - was usually used by the Captain to go ashore and was the larger of the three. The cock-boat was a very small rowboat used as the ship's tender. The skiff was a lightweight all-purpose vessel. The suffix "swain" means keeper, thus the keepers of the boat, cock, and skiff were called boatswain and cockswain (or coxswain).
Boatswain's Pipe: No self-respecting boatswain's mate would dare admit he couldn't blow his pipe in a manner above reproach. This pipe, which is the emblem of the boatswain and his mates, has an ancient and interesting history. On the ancient row-galleys, the boatswain used his pipe to "call the stroke". Later because its shrill tune could be heard above most of the activity on board, it was used to signal various happenings such as knock-off and the boarding of officials. So essential was this signaling device to the well-being of the ship, that it became a badge of office and honor in the British and American Navy of the sailing ships.
Brass Monkey - During the civil war, cannon balls were stacked up in pyramids called brass monkeys. When it got extremely cold, they would explode or break, hence the term "cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey".
Bravo Zulu: The term originates from the Allied Signals Book (ATP 1), which in the aggregate is for official use only. Signals are sent as letters and/or numbers, which have meanings by themselves sometimes or in certain combinations. A single table in ATP 1 is called "governing groups," that is, the entire signal that follows the governing group is to be performed according to the "governor." The letter "B" indicates this table, and the second letter (A through Z) gives more specific information. For example, "BA" might mean "You have permission to . . . (do whatever the rest of the flashing light, flag hoist or radio transmission says) "BZ" happens to be the last item in the governing groups table. It means "well done".
Brightwork: Brightwork originally referred to polished metal objects, and bright woodwork to wood which was kept scrapped and scrubbed, especially topside. Bright it should be and work it is.
Brown Shoes: In 1913 high laced shoes of tan leather first appeared in Uniform Regulations and were authorized for wear by aviators with khaki's. The color changed to russet brown in 1922. Uniforms exclusive to the aviation community were abolished in the 1920's and reinstated in the 1930's. The authorized color of aviators shoes has alternated between brown and black since then.
Bull: The term given to the senior ensign in an activity.
Bully Boy: Bully boys, a term prominent in Navy chanties and poems, means in its strictest sense, "beef eating Sailors." Sailors of the Colonial Navy had a daily menu of an amazingly elastic substance called bully beef, actually beef jerky. The term appeared so frequently on the messdeck that it naturally lent its name to the sailors who had to eat it. As an indication of the beef's texture and chewability, it was also called "salt junk," alluding to the rope yarn used for caulking the ship's seams.
Buttons on Trousers, Thirteen: There is no relationship between the 13 buttons on the trousers and the 13 original colonies. Before 1894, the trousers had only seven buttons and in the early 1800's they had 15 buttons. It wasn't until the broad fall front was enlarged that the 13 buttons were added to the uniform and only then to add symmetry of design.
Carry On: In the days of sail, the Officer of the Deck kept a weather eye constantly on the slightest change in wind so sails could be reefed or added as necessary to ensure the fastest headway. Whenever a good breeze came along, the order to "carry on" would be given. It meant to hoist every bit of canvas the yards could carry. Pity the poor sailor whose weather eye failed him and the ship was caught partially reefed when a good breeze arrived. Through the centuries the term's connotation has changed somewhat. Today, the Bluejackets Manual defines carry on as an order to resume work; work not so grueling as two centuries ago.
The Charge Book: During World War II, Commanding Officers were authorized to advance and promote deserving and qualified sailors to the highest enlisted rank of Chief Petty Officer. The determination of "deserving and qualified" could be difficult for the CO. The situation also presented challenges to the Sailor who aspired to attain a Chief rating. From these dilemmas sprang the original charge books. Chiefs began to direct PO1's to prepare themselves to assume the additional responsibilities. Ship's professional libraries were nonexistent or poorly stocked and much had to be learned directly from conversations with the Chiefs themselves and taken down to be studied later. In addition to the technical aspects of the various ratings, CPO's also talked to the PO1's about leadership, accountability, supporting the chain of command, and other subject matter often using personal experiences to illustrate how something should (or should not) be done. The collection of notes and study material eventually came to be called a "Charge Book" perhaps because those who kept them were their "Charges" (entrusted to their care) for professional development or perhaps because the entries included "Charges" (authoritative instructions or tasking of a directive nature).
Charlie Noble: Charlie Noble is an "it," not a "he." A British merchant service captain, Charles Noble, is said to be responsible for the origin, about 1850, of this nickname for the galley smokestack. It seems that Captain Noble, discovering that the stack of his ship's galley was made of copper, ordered that it be kept bright. The ship's crew then started referring to the stack as the "Charley Noble."
Chewing the Fat: God made the vittles, but the devil made the cook", was a popular saying used by seafaring men in the last century when salted beef was the staple diet aboard ship. This tough cured beef, suitable only for long voyages when nothing else was as cheap or would keep as well, required prolonged chewing to make it edible. Men often chewed one chunk for hours, just as if it were chewing gum and referred to this practice as Chewing the fat
Chief Petty Officers: An Executive order issued by President Benjamin Harrison dated 25 February 1893 and issued as General order No. 409 of 25 February 1893 gave a pay scale for Navy enlisted men. It was divided into rates and listed Chiefs Petty Officers. Both the executive and Circular No. 1 listed Chief Petty Officers as a distinct rate for the first time and both were to take effect on 01 April 1893. It appears that this is the date on which the Chief Petty Officer rate actually was established.
Chief Petty Officer Stars: Were introduced with the creation of SCPO and MCPO. The reasoning for stars pointed one ray down is unknown, however, indications point to following the line officers standard.
Chief's Bell; It is at the Navy Memorial, Navy Heritage Center, Gallery Deck. The inscription on the front has an anchor with the words "Chief Petty Officer Centennial 1893-1993" around it.
Chief Petty Officer in Baseball Hall of Fame: Bob Feller is the only CPO to be elected to the baseball hall of fame. He played for the Cleveland Indians. He was a pitcher.
Chit: One tradition carried on in the Navy is the use of the chit. It is a carry over from the days when Hindu traders used slops of paper called citthi for money, so they wouldn't have to carry heavy bags or gold and silver. British sailors shortened the word to chit and applied it to their mess vouchers. Its most outstanding use in the Navy today is for drawing pay and a form used for requesting leave and liberty. But the term is currently applied to almost any piece of paper from a pass to an official letter requesting some privilege.
Church Pennant: The Church Pennant is the only flag authorized to fly above or at the same point of hoist as the National Ensign however it can only be done at sea and only during the hours of a divine service.
Clean Bill of Health: This widely used term has its origins in the document issued to a ship showing that the port it sailed from suffered from no epidemic or infection at the time of departure.
Clothes Stops: A small diameter cord, approximately 12 inches long, used to tie laundry to a clothes line. The early Navy clothes pin. Issued in recruit training until 1973.
Cockbilling Yards: Yards were once "cockbilled" and rigging was slacked off to show grief. The half-masting of colors is in reality a survival of the days when a slovenly appearance characterized mourning.
Cocked Hat: A hat worn by officers with ceremonial uniforms commonly refereed to as a "fore and aft" hat. During the 1700's the hat was worn parallel to the shoulders, but in the 1800's was modified to be worn with the points to the front and back. Wearing of the Cocked Hat was discontinued on 12 October 1940.
Command at Sea Pin: Established in 1960 to recognize the responsibilities placed on those officers of the Navy who are in command, or who have successfully commanded, ships and aircraft squadrons of the fleet. The component parts, a commission pennant, an anchor, and the line star, were determined to be ideally suited for a design which would be symbolic in the ready identification of those officers who have attained the highly coveted and responsible title of Commanding Officer of our commissioned units at sea.
Coxcombing: Small white rope work, wrapped around stantions and railings, mostly in the pre-WWll Navy.
Coxswain:A coxswain or cockswain was at first the swain (boy servant) in charge of the small cock or cockboat that was kept aboard for the ship's captain and which was used to row him to and from the ship. The term has been in use in England dating back to at least 1463. With the passing of time the coxswain became the helmsman of any boat, regardless of size.
Crow's Nest: The crow (the bird not the rating badge) was an essential part of the early sailors navigation equipment. These land-lubbing fowl were carried on board to help the navigator determine where the closest land lay when the weather prevented sighting the shore visually. In case of poor visibility, a crow was released and the navigator plotted a course that corresponded with the birds because it invariably headed toward land. The crow's nest was situated high in the main mast where the look-out stood watch. Often he shared this lofty perch with a crow or two since the crows' cages were kept there; hence the crow's nest
Cup of Joe: Josephus Daniels (18 May 1862-15 January 1948)was appointed Secretary of the Navy by President Woodrow Wilson in 1913. Among his reforms of the Navy were inaugurating the practice of making 100 Sailors from the Fleet eligible for entrance into the Naval Academy, the introduction of women into the service, and the abolishment of the officers' wine mess. From that time on, the strongest drink aboard Navy ships could only be coffee and over the years, a cup of coffee became known as "a cup of Joe".
Cut of His Jib: In the days of sailing ships, nationality and rigs could often be distinguished by their jibs. A Spanish ship, for example, had a small jib or none at all. Large French ships often had two jibs and English ships normally had only one. From ships, the phrase was extended to apply to men. The nose, like the jib of a ship arriving in harbor, is the first part of the person to arrive at a designated place. Figuratively, it implies the first impression one makes on another person.
Cutlass: A short saber with a cut and thrust blade and a large hand guard. Issued to enlisted men as a sidearm and maintained in ships armories until the beginning of W.W.II. The weapons was officially declared obsolete in 1949. The Cutlass was considered an organizational issue item, but was never considered to be a part of the enlisted uniform.
Davy Jones - Davy Jones and His Locker American Sailors would rather not talk about Davy Jones and his infamous locker. They are ready enough to refer to him and his dwelling place, but just leave him an indefinite, unbodied character who keeps to his place at the bottom of the sea. Pressed, they will profess that they do not know what he looks like, his locker is to them something like an ordinary sea chest or coffin, always open to catch any sailor unfortunate enough to find himself in the sea. Some English sailors incline to the belief that his name is a corruption of Duffer Jones, a clumsy fellow who frequently found himself overboard. The only time Davy comes to life is in the ceremony of crossing the line. Then his is usually impersonated by the smallest sailor on board, given a hump, horns and a tail, and his features made as ugly as possible. He is swinish, dressed in rags and seaweed, and shambles along in the wake of the sea king, Neptune, playing evil tricks upon his fellow sailors. Old sailors, rather than speak of the devil, called him Deva, Davy or Taffy, the thief of the evil spirit; and Jones is from Jonah, whose locker was the whale's belly. Jonah was often called Jonas, and as Davy Jones, the enemy of all living sailors, he has become the mariners' evil angel. To be cast into the sea and sink is to fall into his locker and have the lid popped down on one. It is generally agreed that the Christian sailor's body goes to Davy Jones's locker, but his soul, if he is a proper sailorman, goes to Fiddlers' Green. From the book A Sailor's Treasury by Frank Shay, Copyright 1951.
Dead Horse: When a Sailor pays off a debt to the command (advance pay, over payments, etc...) they say they've paid off a Dead Horse. The saying comes from a tradition of British sailors. British seamen, apt to be ashore and unemployed for considerable periods of time between voyages, generally preferred to live in boarding houses near the piers while waiting for sailing ships to take on crews. During these periods of unrestricted liberty, many ran out of money, so inn keepers carried them on credit until hired out for another voyage. When a seaman was booked on a ship, he was customarily advanced a month's wages, if needed, to pay off his boarding house debt. Then, while paying back the ship's master, he worked for nothing but "salt horse" the first several weeks aboard. Salt horse was the staple diet of early sailors and it wasn't exactly tasty cuisine. Consisting of a low quality beef that had been heavily salted, the salt horse was tough to chew and even harder to digest. When the debt had been repaid, the salt horse was said to be dead and it was a time for great celebration among the crew. Usually, an effigy of a horse was constructed from odds and ends, set afire and then cast afloat to the cheers and hilarity of the ex-debtors.
Devil to Pay: Today the expression devil to pay is used primarily as a means of conveying an unpleasant and impending happening. Originally, this expression denoted a specific task aboard ship such as caulking the ship's longest seam. The devil was the longest seam on the wooden sailing ship and caulking was done with pay or pitch. This grunt task of paying the devil was despised by every seaman and the expression came to denote any unpleasant task.
Ditty Bags: Ditty bog (or box) was originally called ditto bag because it contained at least two of everything - two needles, two spools of thread, two buttons, etc. With the passing of years, the 'ditto' was dropped in favor of ditty and remains so today. Before WW I, the Navy issued ditty boxes made of wood and styled after foot lockers. These carried the personal gear and some clothes of the sailor. Today the ditty bag is still issued to recruits and contains a sewing kit, toiletry articles and personal items such as writing paper and pens.
Dog Watch Dog Watch is the name given to the 1600-1800 and the 1800-2000 watches aboard a ship. The 1600-2000 four-hour watch was originally split even to prevent men from always having to stand the same watches daily. As a result, Sailors dodge the same daily routine, hence they are dodging the watch or standing the dodge watch. In its corrupted form, dodge became dog and the procedure is referred as "dogging the watch" or standing the "dog watch."
Down the hatch: Here's a drinking expression that seems to have its origins in sea freight, where cargoes are lowered into the hatch. First used by seamen, it has only been traced back to the turn of the century.
Dress Ship: Commissioned ships are "full-dressed" on Washington's Birthday and Independence Day, and "dressed" on other national holidays. When a ship is dressed, the national ensign is flown from the flagstaff and usually from each masthead. When a ship is full-dressed, in addition to the ensigns, a "rainbow" of signal flags is displayed from bow to stern over the mastheads, or as nearly so as the construction of the ships permits. Ships not under way are dressed from 0800 to sunset; ships under way do not dress until they come to anchor during that period.
Drinking a Toast: This term for drinking to one's health, or in one's honor was coined in early days along the waterfronts, when it was customary to place a small piece of toast in the hot toddy and the mulled wine which was popular with seaman of the day.
Duffle: A name given to a Sailor's personal effects. Also spelled duffel, it referred to his principal clothing as well as the seabag in which he carried and stowed it. The term comes from the Flemish town of Duffel near Antwerp, and denotes a rough woolen cloth made there.
Dungarees: In 1901 regulations authorized the first use of denim jumpers and trousers, and the 1913 regulations originally permitted the dungaree outfit to be used by both officers and enlisted with the hat of the day.
Eagle on Crows/Devices: for many years the U.S. specified modified forms of the Napoleonic Eagle in the devices and insignia used to distinguish the various ranks and ratings of enlisted men and officers. This eagle was usually cast, stamped or embroidered facing left and the same practice was used by the Navy. Why the Napoleonic eagle faced left is unknown. In 1941 the Navy changed the eagles facing direction to follow the heraldic rules which faces the right toward the wearers sword arm. This rule continues to apply and the eagle now faces to the front or the wearers right.
Eight Bells: This measure of time originated in the days when a half-hour glass was used to tell off the four-hour watches. Each time the sand ran out, the ship's boy, whose job it was to reverse the glass, struck a bell to show he was attend-ing to his business. Thus, eight times he turned the glass, and eight times struck the bell.
Eyes of the Ship:Most of the early ships had heads of mythological monsters or patrons carved in the bow; hence, the terms "figure head," "the heads" and the term "eyes of the ship" followed from the eyes of the figures placed there. Large "eyes" are still painted on the bows of Chinese junks. Sailors also believe that these "eyes" help them and their ship through a storm by magically seeing the right of way. One particular Sailor's tale says that on the day before he was to sail, he bought his wife two beautiful, green emeralds for earrings. He was heartbroken when she did not like them, so instead he used them as the eyes of the female "figure head" on the bow of his ship. His wife had a change of heart that night, and unbeknownst to her husband, removed the emeralds from the wooden figure. She planned to wear them upon his return, but he never did. One day after sailing, his ship steered right into a typhoon and sank. Some say it was because the ship could not "see" as his wife had stolen the ship's "eyes." When the wife heard the news, she cried for days until she fell asleep. When she awoke, she was blind...and the two beautiful emeralds had dissappeared.
Fathom: Fathom was originally a land measuring term derived from the Ango-Saxon word "faetm" meaning to embrace. In those days, most measurements were based on average size of parts of the body, such as the hand (horses are still measured this way) or the foot (that's why 12 inches are so named). A fathom is the average distance from fingertip to fingertip of the outstretched arms of a man --- about six feet. Since a man stretches out his arms to embrace his sweetheart, Britain's Parliament declared that distance be called a "fathom" and it be a unit of measure. A fathom remains six feet. The word was also used to describe taking the measure or "to fathom" something. Today, of course, when one is trying to figure something out, they are trying to "fathom" it.
Field Day: This term originally refers to military parade. The term was used starting in the mid-18th century to refer to a day when military units would stand parade for the public. By the 1820s, it had transformed into any day of exciting events and opportunities. How this became "turn two field day" no one seems to know. I don't remember feeling much like I was in a parade when I cleaned bilges during "Field Day".
First Female CPO: YNC Loretta Perfectus Walsh was the first female CPO, 1917
First Admiral: The first Navy Admiral was David Glasgow Farragut, appointed 25 Jul 1866.
First Navy ship named for an enlisted man: 1919 Launching of Osmond Ingram (DD-255). Osmond Kelly Ingram, born in Pratt City, Alabama, 4 August 1887, entered the Navy 24 November 1903. Serving in Cassin when she was attacked by a German submarine off Ireland 16 October 1917, Gunner's Mate First Class Ingram spotted the approaching torpedo, realized it would strike close by explosives, thus dooming the ship, and rushed to jettison the ammunition. He was blown overboard when the torpedo struck, thus becoming the first enlisted man killed in action in World War I as he saved his ship and shipmates.
Flat Hats: First authorized in 1852 the flat hat was eliminated on 1 April 1963 due to non-available materials. The original hats had unit names on the front, however, unit names were taken off in January 1941.
Fying Dutchman: One superstition has it that any mariner who sees the ghost ship called the Flying Dutchman will die within the day. The tale of the Flying Dutchman trying to round the Cape of Good Hope against strong winds and never suceeding, then trying to make Cape Horn and failing there too, has been the most famous of maritime ghost stories for more that 300 years. The cursed spectral ship sailing back and forth on its endless voyage, its ancient white-hair crew crying for help while hauling at her sail, inspired Samuel Taylor Coleridge to write the classic "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," to name but one famous lierary work. The real Flying Dutchman is supposed to have set sail in 1660.
Forecastle: The appropriate pronunciation for this word is fo'ksul. The forecastle is the forward part of the main deck. It derives its name from the days of Viking galleys when wooden castles were built on the forward and after parts the main deck from which archers and other fighting men could shoot arrows and throw spears, rocks, etc.
Fouled Anchor: The foul anchor as a naval insignia got its start as the seal of the Lord Howard of Effingham. He was the Lord Admiral of England at the time of the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. During this period the personal seal of a great officer of state was adopted as the seal of his office. The fouled anchor still remains the official seal of the Lord High Admiral of Great Britain. When this office became part of the present Board of Admiralty, the seal was retained on buttons, official seals, and cap badges. The Navy's adoption of this symbol and many other customs can be directly attributed to the influence of British Naval tradition. The fouled anchor is among them.
Friday Superstition: The reluctance of seaman to sail on a Friday reached such epic proportions, that many years ago the British Government decided to take strong measures to prove the fallacy of the superstition. They laid the keel of a new vessel on Friday, launched her on a Friday and named her HMS Friday. They then placed her in command of one Captain Friday and sent her to sea on Friday. The scheme worked well, and had only one drawback...neither ship nor crew were ever heard from again.
Gadgets: This well known word was originally the nautical name for hooks, and derives from the French "Gache."
Galley: The galley is the kitchen of the ship. The best explanation as to its origin is that it is a corruption of "gallery". Ancient sailors cooked their meals on a brick or stone gallery laid amidships.
Geedunk: To most sailors the word geedunk means ice cream, candy, potato chips and other assorted snacks, or even the place where they can be purchased. No one, however, knows for certain where the term originated, but there are several plausible theories. 1) In the 1920's a comic strip character named Harold Teen and his friends spent a great amount of time at Pop's candy store. The store's owner called it The Geedunk for reasons never explained. 2) The Chinese word meaning a place of idleness sounds something like gee dung. 3) Geedunk is the sound made by a vending machine when it dispenses a soft drink in a cup. 4) It may be derived from the German word tunk meaning to dip or sop either in gravy or coffee. Dunking was a common practice in days when bread, not always obtained fresh, needed a bit of tunking to soften it. The ge is a German unaccented prefix denoting repetition. In time it may have changed from getunk to geedunk. Whatever theory we use to explain geedunk's origin, it doesn't alter the fact that Navy people are glad it all got started.
George: The term given to the junior ensign in an activity. Also Boot Ensign
Goat Locker: Entertainment on liberty took many forms, mostly depending on the coast and opportunity. One incident which became tradition was at a Navy-Army football game. In early sailing years, livestock would travel on ships, providing the crew the fresh milk, meats, and eggs. as well as serving as ships' mascots. One pet, a goat named El Cid (meaning Chief) was the mascot aboard the USS New York. When its crew attended the fourth Navy-Army football game in 1893, they took El Cid to the game, which resulted in the West Pointers losing. El Cid (The Chief) was offered shore duty at Annapolis and became the Navy's mascot. This is believed to be the source of the old Navy term, "Goat Locker".
Goldbrick: The term "goldbrick" achieved it widest use as a military slang, but has been in common use for many years as a term describing the avoidance of work, or shirking. Anything worthless which has been passed on as genuine is also referred to as a goldbrick. It originally referred to a bar of worthless metal which has been gilded to make it appear to be solid gold.
Grog: Grog is an expression for watered rum. In 1740, Admiral Vernon, RN (whose nickname was "Old Grog") ordered that rum rations be watered.
Gun Salutes In the days of cannon, it took as long as twenty minutes to load and fire a gun. When a ship fired her guns in salute, she rendered herself powerless for the duration. By emptying their guns, the ship's crew showed shore batteries and forts that they were no threat. Over time, this gesture became a show of respect, with both shore and ship gun batteries firing volleys. While many people like to say the 21 gun salute was a tribute to the American Revolution, a number determined as a result of adding together the numbers 1+7+7+6, the truth is the 21 gun salute was an effort to cut costs. The habit of firing salutes became wasteful, with ships and shore batteries firing shots for hours on end. This was particularly expensive for ships, which had a limited space to store powder (which went bad quickly in the salt air). The British admiralty first dictated the policies now in place as a practical matter to save gunpowder. The rule was simple, for every volley fired by a ship in salute, a shore battery could return up to three shots. The regulations limited ships to a total of seven shots in salute, so the 21 gun-salute became the salute used to honor the only the most important dignitaries. Today, the U.S. Navy Regulations proscribe that only those ships and stations designated by the Secretary of the Navy may fire gun salutes. A national salute of 21 guns is fired on:
Gundecking: In the modern Navy, falsifying reports, records and the like is often referred to as "gundecking." The origin of the term is somewhat obscure, but at the risk of gundecking, here are two plausible explanations for its modern usage. The deck below the upper deck on British sailing ships-of-war was called the gundeck although it carried no guns. This false deck may have been constructed to deceive enemies as to the amount of armament carried, thus the gundeck was a falsification. A more plausible explanation may stem from shortcuts taken by early Midshipmen when doing their navigation lessons. Each Mid was supposed to take sun lines at noon and star sights at night and then go below to the gundeck, work out their calculations and show them to the navigator. Certain of these young men, however, had a special formula for getting the correct answers. They would note the noon or last position on the quarter-deck traverse board and determine the approximate current position by dead reckoning plotting. Armed with this information, they proceeded to the gundeck to "gundeck" their navigation homework by simply working backwards from the dead reckoning position.
Hammocks: Swinging beds for Sailors were first used by Columbus, who discovered their practical use from natives in the West Indies.
Havelock: A protective cover worn by women over the combination cap to provide cold weather protection. Sometimes refereed to as the "Lawrence of Arabia hat" because it fell to shoulder length in the manner of a hood. A rain hood was also issued to provide rain protection. Discontinued in 1981.
Head: The "head" aboard a Navy ship is the bathroom. The term comes from the days of sailing ships when the place for the crew to relieve themselves was all the way forward on either side of the bowsprit, the integral part of the hull to which the figurehead was fastened.
Holy Stone: The sandstone formerly used for scouring ships' decks, got its nickname from some witty Sailor who declared as its use always brought a man to his knees, it sure must be "HOLY."
Homeward Bound Pennant: From at least the early 19th century, it has been the custom of ships returning from a long overseas deployment to fly an extra long commission pennant made up of whatever bunting could be assembled. In the Royal Navy, this is known as the "paying off pendant" because a ship used to be taken out of commission and its crew "paid off" at the end of each cruise. In the United States Navy, it is called the homeward bound pennant. Although not officially sanctioned by regulations, the Navy has issued guidelines for the use of this pennant in NTP-13(B), Flags, Pennants and Customs. The display of the homeward bound pennant is limited to ships that have been outside the United States continuously for 270 or more days. It is made up by the crew and flown in place of the normal commission pennant from the time the ship gets under way to proceed to a United States port until sunset on the day of arrival in the United States. The pennant is 200 times longer than its width at the hoist. Like the commission pennant, the homeward bound pennant consists of white stars on a blue field at the hoist, and is divided red over white at the fly. It has one star for the ship's first nine months continuously outside the United States, plus another star for each additional six months. The length of the pennant is one foot for each member of the crew who has been on duty outside the United States for nine months or more, not to exceed the length of the ship itself. Once the ship arrives home, the pennant is divided among the crew, with the captain getting the blue portion and the rest of the crew sharing the red and white portion equally.
How long have you been in the Navy? - "All me bloomin' life, Most Honorable Senior Chief! Me Mother was a mermaid, me father was King Neptune. I was born on the crest of a wave and rocked in the cradle of the deep. Seaweed and barnacles are me clothes. Every tooth in me head is a marlinspike; the hair on me head is hemp. Every bone in me body is a spar, and when I spits, I spits tar! I'se hard, I is, I am, I are!"
Hunky-Dori: This term, meaning everything is OK, was coined from a street named Honki-Dori in Yokohama. As the inhabitants of this street catered to the pleasures of Sailors, one can readily understand why the street's name became synonymous for anything that is enjoyable or satisfactory.
In Through the Hawsepipe: Sometimes we hear an old Chief Petty Officer claim he came into the Navy through the hawsepipe and it makes one wonder if he is referring to some early enlistment program. Actually, it was an enlistment program of sorts; it means a person is salty and savvies the ways of the sea because he began his nautical career on the lowest ladder of the deck force. A hawespipe or hawsehole, incidentally, is a hole in the bow of the ship through which the anchor chain runs.
Jack: The Jack is a replica of the blue, star-studded field of the National Ensign that is flown by ships at anchor from 8 a.m. to sunset. The Jack is hoisted at a yardarm when a general court-martial or a court of inquiry is in session. It is half-masted if the Ensign is half-masted, but it is not dipped when the Ensign is dipped.
Jacob's Ladder: Jacob's Ladder is a portable ladder made of rope or metal and used primarily as an aid in boarding a ship. Originally, the Jacob's Ladder was a network of line leading to the skysail on wooden ships. The name alludes to the biblical Jacob, reputed to have dreamed that he climbed a ladder to the sky. Anyone who has ever tried climbing a Jacob's Ladder while carrying a seabag can apreciate the allusion. It does seem that the climb is long enough to take one into the next world.
Jumper Flaps: The collar originated as a protective cover for the jacket to protect it from the grease or powder normally worn by seamen to hold hair in place.
Keelhaul: To be keelhauled today is merely to be given a severe reprimand for some infraction of the rules. As late as the 19th century, however, it meant the extreme. It was a dire and often fatal torture employed to punish offenders of certain naval laws. An offender was securely bound both hand and foot and had heavy weights attached to his body. He was then lowered over the ship's side and slowly dragged along under the ship's hull. If he didn't drown - which was rare - barnacles usually ripped him, causing him to bleed to death. All navies stopped this cruel and unusual punishment years ago and today any such punishment is forbidden.
Khaki: Originated in 1845 in India where British soldiers soaked white uniforms in mud, coffee, and curry powder to blend in with the landscape. Khakis made their debut in the U.S. Navy in 1912 when they were worn by naval aviators, and were adopted for submarines in 1931. In 1941 the Navy approved khakis for on- station wear by senior officers, and soon after Pearl Harbor chiefs and officers were authorized to wear khakis ashore on liberty.
KNOCK OFF WORK: To quit suddenly; to stop.---"It's about time to knock off work."---Nautical origin: Aboard sailing ships, the galleys used to be rowed to the rythem of a mallet striking a wooden block. When the knocking stopped, it was a signal to stop rowing.
Knot: The term knot or nautical mile, is used world-wide to denote one's speed through water. Today, we measure knots with electronic devices, but 200 years ago such devices were unknown. Ingenious mariners devised a speed measuring device both easy to use and reliable called the "log line". From this method we get the term knot. The log line was a length of twine marked at 47.33 foot intervals by colored knots. At one end was fastened a log chip; it was shaped like the sector of a circle and weighted at the rounded end with lead. When thrown over the stern, it would float pointing upward and would remain relatively stationary. The log line was allowed to run free over the side for 28 seconds and then pulled on board. Knots which had passed over the side were counted. In this way the ship's speed was measured.
Log Book: In the early days of sailing ships, the ship's records were written on shingles cut from logs. These shingles were hinged and opened like a book. The record was called the "log book." Later on, when paper was readily available and bound into books, the record maintained it name.
The Lone Sailor: He is a composite of the U.S. Navy bluejacket, past, present and future. The Lone Sailor is the creation of Stanley Bleifeld, the U.S. Navy Memorial's official sculptor.
A "Long" Shot: Here's a modern gambling term with an old nautical origin. Because ships' guns in early days were very inaccurate except at close quarters, it was only an extremely lucky shot that would hit the mark at any great distance, hence the inference of "luck" in the gambling term.
The Lucky Bag: The so-called Lucky Bag was really a huge locker in which articles lost aboard ship were deposited. Once a month these articles were produced and handed back to their respective owners. But there was a catch to it...each lucky recipient of a lost article was then given three strokes from the cat-o'-nine tails to teach him not to lose anything again.
Man the Rails: This custom evolved from the centuries old practice of "manning the yards." Men aboard sailing ships stood evenly spaced on all the yards and gave three cheers to honor a distinguished person. Now men and women are stationed along the rails of a ship when honors are rendered to the President, the heads of a foreign state, or a member of a reigning royal family. Men and women so stationed do not salute. Navy ships will often man the rails when entering a port, or when returning to the ship's homeport at the end of a deployment.
Marooned: This old punishment for mutineers consisted of placing them on an island with musket, cutlass, and a breaker of water; and leaving them to their fate. It got its name from a certain Ci-maroon Indians who had been transplanted in the West Indies as cheap labor and, deserted by their Spanish masters, had been left to starve to death. The famous Captain Drake discovered them in a pitiable condition and gained the Indian's lasting gratitude by returning them to their far-off home.
Mayday: "Mayday" is the internationally recognized voice radio signal for ships and people in serious trouble at sea. Made official in 1948, it is an anglicizing of the French m'aidez, "help me".
MCPO and SCPO: The pay grades of E-8 and E-9, Senior Chief and Master Chief, were created effective June 1, 1958, under a 1958 Amendment to the Career Compensation Act of 1949. Eligibility for promotion to E-8, the Senior Chief level, was restricted to Chiefs (Permanent Appointment) with a minimum of four years in grade and a total of ten years of service. For elevation from E- 7 to Master Chief, E-9, a minimum of six years service as a Chief Petty Officer with a total of 13 years service was required. The E-5 through E-9 levels included all ratings except Teleman and Printer which at the time were being phased out of the naval rating structure. People holding those ratings were absorbed or converted to Yeoman or Radioman from Teleman and primarily to Lithographer from Printer. Service-wide examinations for outstanding Chiefs were held on August 5, 1958, with the first promotions becoming effective on November 16, 1958. A few months later, a second group of Chiefs from the February 1959 exam inations were elevated to E-8 and E-9 effective on May 16, 1959. The names of the first two groups of selectees are listed in Bureau of Naval Personnel Notices 1430 of October 17, 1958, and May 20, 1959. It is noted that after the May 1959 elevations, promotions to E-9 were through Senior Chief only.
GMCM DELBERT D. BLACK 13JAN67 - 01APR71 Deceased March 2000 WIFE: IMA
MACM JOHN D. WHITTET 01APR71 - 25SEP75 Deceased May 1989 WIFE: Helen
OSCM ROBERT J. WALKER 25SEP75 - 28SEP79 WIFE: FRANCES
AFCM(NAC) THOMAS S. CROW 28SEP79 - 01OCT82 WIFE: CAROL
AVCM BILLY C. SANDERS 01OCT82 - 04OCT85 WIFE: Mozelle
RMCM WILLIAM H. PLACKETT 01OCT85 - 09SEP88 WIFE: KAREN
AVCM (AW) DUANE R. BUSHEY 09SEP88 - 28AUG92 WIFE: SUSAN
ETCM(SW) JOHN H. HAGAN 28AUG92 - 28MAR98 WIFE: CATHERINE
MMCM(SS/SW/AW) JAMES L. HERDT 28MAR98 - 22April02 Wife: SHARON
MTCM(SS/AW) Terry D. Scott Current
Mind Your P's and Q's: Nowadays a term meaning "Be on your best behavior." In old days, Sailors Serving aboard government ships could always get credit at the waterfront taverns until pay-day. As they would only pay for those drinks which were marked up on the score-board, the tavern-keeper had to be careful that no Pints or Quarts had been omitted from the customers list.
Navy Blue: Blue has not always been navy blue. In fact it wasn't until 1745 that the expression navy blue meant anything at all. In that year several British officers petitioned the Admiralty for adaptation of new uniforms for it's officers. The first lord requested several officers to model various uniforms under consideration so he could select the best. He then selected selected several uniforms of various styles and colors to present to King George II for final decision. King George, unable to decide on either style or color, finally chose a blue and white because they were the favorite color combinations of the first lord's wife, Duchess of Bedford.
Navy Colors: 27 August 1802 the Secretary of the Navy signed an instruction which set a pattern for the dress of the U.S. Navy in Blue and Gold.
Navy Gray Uniforms: Gray uniforms in the same style as khaki were first introduced on 16 April 1943 as an officers uniform. On 3 June 1943 the uniform was extended to include Chief Petty Officers. On 31 March 1944 cooks and stewards were permitted to wear the gray uniform. The Navy abolished use of "grays" on 15 October 1949.
Navy Mascots: The navy mascots name is Bill XXVIII (28), there has been 2 cats, 1 dog, 1 carrier pigeon. goats have been the mascot since 1904.
Navy Seal: The Department of the Navy Seal was created in 1957. An official Navy flag was authorized by Presidential Order on 24 Apr 1959. The design is on a circular background of fair sky and moderate sea with land in sinister base, a three-masted square-rigged ship underway before a fair breeze with after topsail furled, commission pennant atop the foremast, National Ensign atop the main, and the commodore's flag atop the mizzen. In front of the ship a Luce-type anchor inclined slightly bendwise with the crown resting on the land and, in front of the shank and in back of the dexter fluke, an American bald eagle rising to sinister regarding to dexter, one foot on the ground, the other resting on the anchor near the shank; all in proper colors. The whole within a blue annulet bearing the inscrip tion "Department of the Navy" at top, and "United States of America" at the bottom, separated on each side by a mullet and within a rim in the form of a rope; inscription, rope, mullet, and edges of annulet all gold
Neckerchief: The black neckerchief or bandanna first appeared as early as the 16th century and was utilized as a sweat band and collar closure. Black was the predominant color as it was practical and did not readily show dirt. There is no truth to the myth that the black neckerchief was designed as a sign of mourning for Admiral Nelsons death.
Neckerchief Square Knot: There is no historical significance to the knot other that it being a knot widely used by sailors which presents a uniform appearance.
No Quarter: This is a term, indicative of a fight to the death, gathers its meaning from the reverse of "giving Quarter," an old custom by which officers, upon surrender, could save their lives by paying a ransom of "One Quarter of their pay."
Officers Stars: Were first approved on line officers uniforms on 28 January 1864. All regulations since 1873 have specified that one ray would point downward toward the gold stripe on the sleeve. The reason for this is unknown.
Ornamental Sleeve Buttons: The decorative bone buttons that are today sewn on many suit jackets, sports coats and blazers began as an effort by Lord Nelson to keep young midshipsmen and cabinboys from wiping their noses on their sleeves. In the days of sail, young boys, often as young as nine years old, would sign on sailing ships as cabinboys, usually becoming midshipmen as they got older. Many, particularly on their first voyages, would become homesick, tearfully tending to their duties in their fancy gentlemen's uniform. That uniform had no pockets for a hankerchief, so the young boys would, like all young boys, wipe their noses on their sleeves. To break his cabinboys and midshipmen of this ungentlemanly habit, Lord Nelson had large brass buttons sewn on the sleeves of all midshipmen and cabinboy uniforms. The decorative value of the buttons were soon realized, and in short order, London tailors were adding decorative buttons to frocks, coats, and dinner jackets. Though the buttons have become less gaudy, the practice continues.
Pass the Hat: To make a collection on behalf of a distressed person or people. Taken from William Maginn's Tales of Military Life, 1829 "Having sent round the hat for the benefit of the poor and half petrified". Later referred to by entertainers and religious perofrmers who used a hat to collect their money. This procedure helped create other hat terms such as "talking through your hat", "hat in hand" and "old hat".
Passing Honors: Passing honors are ordered by ships and boats when vessels, embarked officials, or embarked officers pass (or are passed) close aboard - 600 yards for ships, 400 yards for boats. Such honors are exchanged between ships of the U.S. Navy, between ships of the Navy and the Coast Guard, and between U.S. and most foreign navy ships passing close aboard. "Attention" is sounded, and the hand salute is rendered by all persons in view on deck (not in ranks).
Pea Coat: Sailors who have to endure pea soup weather often don their pea coats but the coat's name isn't derived from the weather. The heavy topcoat worn in cold, miserable weather by seafaring men was once tailored from pilot cloth - a heavy, course, stout king of twilled blue cloth with the nap on one side. The cloth was sometimes called P-cloth for the initial letter of the word and the garment made from it was called a p-jacket - later a pea coat. The term has been used since 1723 to denote coats made from that cloth.
Piping: Boatswains have been in charge of the deck force since the days of sail. Setting sails, heaving lines, and hoisting anchors required coordinated team effort and boatswains used whistle signals to order the coordinated actions. When visitors were hoisted aboard or over the side, the pipe was used to order "Hoist Away" or "Avast heaving." In time, piping became a naval honor on shore as well as at sea.
Port holes<:/b> The word "port hole" originated during the reign of Henry VI of England (1485). King Henry insisted on mounting guns too large for his ship and the traditional methods of securing these weapons on the forecastle and aftcastle could not be used. A French shipbuilder named James Baker was commissioned to solve the problem. He put small doors in the side of the ship and mounted the cannon inside the ship. These doors protected the cannon from weather and were opened when the cannon were to be used. The French word for "door" is "porte" which was later Anglicized to "port" and later went on to mean any opening in the ship's side, whether for cannon or not.
Quarters: All hands assemble at established parade.
Radar: An acronym standing for "radio detecting and ranging.
Rating Badges/Distinguishing Marks: In 1841, insignia called "distinguishing marks" were first prescribed as part of the official uniform. An eagle and anchor emblem, forerunner of the rating badge, was the first distinguishing mark. In 1886 rating badges were established, and some 15 specialty marks were also provided to cover the various ratings. On 1 April 1893, petty officers were reclassified and the rating of chief petty officer was established. Until 1949 rating badges were worn on the right or left sleeve, depending on whether the person concerned was on the starboard or port watch. Since February 1948, all distinguishing marks have been worn on the right sleeve between the shoulder and elbow.
Right Arm Rates: Established in 1841 and disestablished 2 April 1949, originally signified men of the Seaman branch. During W.W.II these rates included Boatswains Mate, Turret Captain, Signalman, Gunners Mate, Fire Controlman, Quartermaster, Mineman, and Torpedomans Mate. Other ratings wore rates on the left sleeve.
Sally Ship: "Sally ship" was not a ship but a method of loosening a vessel that ran aground from the mud holding her fast. In the days before sophisticated navigation equipment, ships ran aground much more often than today. A grounded ship could be freed with little or no hull damage if she could be rocked out of her muddy predicament. To free her, the order was given to "sally ship". The crew gathered in a line along one side and then ran from port to starboard and back and forth until the vessel began to roll. Often the rolling broke the mud's suction and she could be pulled free and gotten underway.
Sally Ship: "Sally ship" was not a ship but a method of loosening a vessel that ran aground from the mud holding her fast. In the days before sophisticated navigation equipment, ships ran aground much more often than today. A grounded ship could be freed with little or no hull damage if she could be rocked out of her muddy predicament. To free her, the order was given to "sally ship". The crew gathered in a line along one side and then ran from port to starboard and back and forth until the vessel began to roll. Often the rolling broke the mud's suction and she could be pulled free and gotten underway.
Salutes: The hand salute is the military custom you will learn first and use most while in the military. It is centruries old, and probably originated when men in aromor raised their helmet visors so they could be identified. Salutes are customarily given with the right hand, but there are exceptions. A Sailor, whose right arm or hand is encumbered may salute lefthanded, while people in the Army or Air Force never salute lefthanded.
Scuba: An acronym standing for "Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus."
Scuttlebutt: The origin of the word scuttlebutt which is nautical parlance for a rumor, comes from a combination of scuttle - to make a hole in the ship's side causing her to sink - and butt - a cask or hogshead used in the days of wooden ships to hold drinking water; thus the term scuttlebutt means a cask with a hole in it. Scuttle; describes what most rumors accomplish if not to the ship, at least to morale. Butt describes the water cask where men naturally congregated, and that is where most rumors get started. The terms galley yarn and mess deck intelligence also mean the spreading of rumors and many of course start on the mess deck
The Tradition of Presenting a Shadow Box: The tradition of presenting a shadow box to a retiring sailor is born of early British custom. In the days of sail, when Briton ruled the seas, it was considered bad luck for a sailor, upon final departure from a ship, to allow his shadow to hit the pier before he himself departed the ship. In order to ensure no such misfortune would befall their shipmate, the crew would construct a box of the finest timber and place within it all things that reflected his accomplishments. Only then could the man, with the “SHADOW” of himself in hand, safely depart the ship and go ashore once and for all.
Presentation - "On behalf of your shipmates, we present you this shadow box. With the shadow box is the military person’s most honored and cherished possessions, including the flag of the United States of America."
Why is a ship referred to as "she?": It has always been customary to personify certain inanimate objects and attribute to them characteristics peculiar to living creatures. Thus, things without life are often spoken of as having a sex. Some objects are regarded as masculine. The sun, winter, and death are often personified in this way. Others are regarded as feminine, especially those things that are dear to us. The earth as mother Earth is regarded as the common maternal parent of all life. In languages that use gender for common nouns, boats, ships, and other vehicles almost invariably use a feminine form. Likewise, early seafarers spoke of their ships in the feminine gender for the close dependence they had on their ships for life and sustenance.
Ship's Husband: Sometimes when a ship is heading for the yards, an old salt says that she is going to her husband now and it causes novices to wonder what he is talking about. A ship's husband was once a widely used term which described the man in charge of the shipyard responsible for the repair of a particular ship. It was not uncommon to hear the sailors of creaky ships lament, Ah, she's been a good ship, lads, but she's needing her husband now. In the course of a ship's life, she may have had more than one husband, but this had little bearing upon her true affections. Tradition has it, her love was saved solely for her sailors.
Show a Leg: Many of out Navy's colorful expressions originated as a practical means of communicating vital information. One such expression is show a leg. In the British Navy of King George III and earlier, many sailors wives accompanied them on long voyages. This practice caused a multitude of problems but some ingenious bosun solved one that tended to make reveille a hazardous event - that of distinguishing which bunks held males and which held females. To avoid dragging the wrong mates out of the rack, the bosun asked all to show a leg. If the legged was hairy and tattooed, the owner was forced to quot;turn-to. In today's Navy, showing a leg is a signal to the reveille petty officer that you have heard his call and are awake.
Sick Bay: Ships hospitals were originally known as "Sick Berths," but as the were generally located in the round sterns of the old battle wagons, their contours suggested a "bay," and the latter name was given them.
Side Boys: Side boys are a part of the quarterdeck ceremonies when an important person or Officer comes on board or leaves a ship. Large ships have side boys detailed to the quarterdeck from 0800 to sunset. When the side is piped by the BMOW, from two to eight side boys, depending on the rank of the Officer, will form a passageway at the gangway. They salute on the first note of the pipe and finish together on the last note. In the days of sail, it was not uncommon for the Commanding Officers of ships sailing in convoy to convene aboard the flagship for conferences. It was also not uncommon for COs to invite each other to dine aboard their vessels. Unfortunately, there was no easy way to bring visitors on and off a ship while underway. And there was no dignified may for a high ranking officer to scurry up or down a rope ladder hanging down the side of a ship. Often the boatswain's chair, a rope and wood sling, would be used to hoist the guest onto and off the ship. The Boatswain's Mate would control the heaving by blowing the appropriate commands with a whistle known as a Boatswain's Pipe. The number of "strong backs" needed to bring the visitor aboard depended upon the size of the "load" being hoisted. Somewhere along the line, it was noted that the more senior the visitor's rank, the more Sailors were needed to "man the side." Over time, the need to hoist visitors onto and off of Navy ships went away, but the custom of mustering the Sideboys and piping distinquished visitors aboard ship remains.
Skylarking. Originally, skylarking described the antics of young Navymen who climbed and slid down the backstays for fun. Since the ancient word"lac" means "to play" and the games started high in the masts, the term was "skylacing". Later, corruption of the word changed it to "skylarking".
Smoking Lamp: Sea dogs who sailed the wooden ships endured hardships that sailors today never suffer. Cramped quarters, poor unpalatable food, bad lighting and boredom were hard facts of sea life. But perhaps a more frustrating problem was getting fire to kindle a cigar or pipe tobacco after a hard day's work. Matches were scarce and unreliable, yet smoking contributed positively to the morale of the crew, so oil lamps were hung in the fo'c'sle and used as matches. Smoking was restricted to certain times of the day by the bos'un's. When it was allowed, the "smoking lamps" were "lighted" and the men relaxed with their tobacco. Fire was and still is the great enemy of ships at sea. The smoking lamp was centrally located for the convenience of all and was the only authorized light aboard. It was a practical way of keeping open flames away from the magazines and other storage areas. In today's Navy the smoking lamps have disappeared but the words "smoking lamp is lighted in all authorized spaces" remains, a carryover from our past.
Sonar: An acronym standing for "sound navigating ranging.
S.O.S.: Contrary to popular notion, the letters S.O.S. do not stand for "Save Our Ship" or "Save Our Souls". They were selected to indicate a distress because, in Morse code, these letters and their combination create an unmistakeable sound pattern.
Sounding Bells: By tradition sixteen bells are struck on midnight of New Years...the oldest person on the vessel strikes the first 8 no matter what his rank (enlisted or admiral or whatever)..the second 8 are struck by the youngest person on the vessel....
Splice the Main Brace: Splice the main brace, all hands forward to is a summons to an extra ration of grog for work well done. From the book A Sailor's Treasury by Frank Shay, Copyright 1951.
SQUARED AWAY - This means one is in a satisfactory position for whatever has to be done next. It is a phrase borrowed from square-rigger days. When a square-rigged ship braced her yards before the wind, she was "squared away.
Starboard: The Vikings called the side of their ship its board, and they placed the steering oar, the "star" on the right side of the ship, thus that side became known as the "star board." It's been that way ever since. And, because the oar was in the right side, the ship was tied to the dock at the left side. This was known as the loading side or "larboard". Later, it was decided that "larboard" and "starboard" were too similar, especially when trying to be heard over the roar of a heavy sea, so the phrase became the "side at which you tied up to in port" or the "port" side.
Stars, CPO: Were introduced with the creation of SCPO and MCPO. The reasoning for stars pointed one ray down is unknown, however, indications point to following the line officers standard.
Stars, Officers: Were first approved on line officers uniforms on 28 January 1864. All regulations since 1873 have specified that one ray would point downward toward the gold stripe on the sleeve. The reason for this is unknown.
Stick in the Mud: A colloquial nickname for one who is stubborn or immovable from a position. First noted of James Baker in Sessions of the Criminal Court as his alias "Stick in the Mud", 1733.
Stripes and Stars on Uniforms: On 18 January 1876, Rear Admiral Stephen B. Luce recommended a collar with stars and stripes as a substitute for the plain collar used on the frocks of seamen. Three stripes on the collar was proposed for all grades, with the stripes on the cuffs to indicated grade. One stripe for E-1, etc.
Submarine Song TAKE 'ER DOWN - (1943) Words by Irving Taylor Music by Vic Mizzy
Take 'Er Down, Take 'Er Down, Take 'Er Down.
Underneath the foam is home to submarines.
Take 'Er Down, Take 'Er Down, Take 'Er Down.
There'll be action soon is what that order means.
When the target's dead ahead we've got to sock her,
Send them all the way to Davy Jones's locker.
So Take 'Er Down, down, down, down, down, down, down
Take 'Er Down, Take 'Er Down.
Submarine Song DOWN, DOWN UNDERNEATH THE OCEAN - (1956) Words and music by CAPT William J. Ruhe, USN and R. M. Wall
Tar: was given to sailors because in the old days, sailors used to tar their clothing to make it waterproof.
Tattoos: A tattoo of a pig on one leg of a sailor and a rooster (cock) on the other is a charm against drowning.
The Tie that Binds: This expression of sentiment, regarding blood relationship of a similarity of ideals which hold people in a common bond, is generally believed to have been coined for the short chain which secures main and fore yards to their respective masts.
Thirteen Buttons on Trousers: There is no relationship between the 13 buttons on the trousers and the 13 original colonies. Before 1894, the trousers had only seven buttons and in the early 1800's they had 15 buttons. It wasn't until the broad fall front was enlarged that the 13 buttons were added to the uniform and only then to add symmetry of design.
To Be Three Sheets in the Wind: In the days of sailing ships, this is a phrase which refers to the lines used to control the sails of sailing vessels. When these sheets are cast to the wind (let go), it would cause the old sailing ships to shudder and stagger. The resulting track would be the same as that of a drunken Sailor, out of control, and hence "three sheets in the wind."
Toe the line: The space between each pair of deck planks in a wooden ship was filled with a packing material called "oakum" and then sealed with a mixture of pitch and tar. The result, from afar, was a series of parallel lines a half-foot apart, dunning the length of the deck. Once a week, as a rule, usually on Sunday, a warship's crew was ordered to fall in at qurters -- that is, each group of men into which the crew was divided would line up in formation in a given area of the deck. To insure a neat alignment of each row, the Sailors were directed to stand with their toes just touching a particular seam. Another use for these seams was punitive. The youngsters of a ship, be they ship's boyss or student officers, might be required to stand with their toes just touching a designated seam for a length of time as punishment for some minor infraction of discipline, such as talking or fidgering at the wrong time. A tough captain might require the miscreat to stand there, not talking to anyone, in fair weather or foul, for hours at a time. Hopefully, he would learn it was easier and more pleasant to conduct himself in the requiredd manner rather than suffer the punichment. From these two uses of the deck seams comes our cautionary word to obstreperous youngsters to "toe the line."
Tolling of the Bell: The signifcance of the tolling of the Ships Bell at the Navy Ball is in rememberance of our fellow shipmates who gave the supreme sacrafice, their lives. It is called the Two Bell Ceremony, and when done right, can bring a tear to the hardest of Master Chiefs.
Tomich Hall - Tomich Hall is the location of the Senior Enlisted Academy at Naval Education and Training Center, Newport, RI. It's named after CPO Tomich who received the Medal of Honor.
TONNAGE (TUNNAGE) - Today tonnage refers to a ship's displacement in the water or the gross pounds of cargo it is capable of carrying. In the days of sail this was not so. Tonnage was spelled "tunnage" and referred to the number of "tuns" a ship could carry. A "tun" was a barrel normally used for transporting wine and tunnage specified the number of barrels that would fit in the ship's hold.
Took the wind out of his sails: Often we use "took the wind out of his sails" to describe getting the best of an opponent in an argument. Originally it described a battle maneuver of sailing ships. One ship would pass close to its adversary and on its windward side. The ship and sails would block the wind from the second vessel, causing it to lose headway. Losing motion meant losing maneuverability and the ability to carry on a fight.
Uniform Regulations: The first uniform instruction for the U.S. Navy was issued by the Secretary of War on 24 August 1791. It provided a distinctive dress for the officers who would command the ships of the Federal Navy. The instruction did not include a uniform for the enlisted man, although there was a degree of uniformity. The usual dress of a seaman was made up of a short jacket, shirt, vest, long trousers, and a black low crowned hat.
Very Well: An officer's response indicating that the situation is understood, for example, given to the steersman after his report. "All right" should not be used since it might be construed to mean "right rudder".
Wardroom: The Wardroom originally was known as the Wardrobe Room, a place where officers kept their spare wearing apparel. It was also the space where any loot secured from enemy ships, was stored. In an effort to have some privacy on a crowded ship, officers would sometimes take their meals in the Wardrobe Room. Today, the wardroom aboard ship is where officers take their meals, relax, and socialize.
Watches: Traditionally, a 24-hour day is divided into seven watches. These are: midnight to 4 a.m. [0000-0400], the mid-watch; 4 to 8 a.m. [0400-0800], morning watch; 8 a.m. to noon [0800-1200], forenoon watch; noon to 4 p.m. [1200-1600], afternoon watch; 4 to 6 p.m. [1600-1800] first dog watch; 6 to 8 p.m. [1800-2000], second dog watch; and, 8 p.m. to midnight [2000-2400], evening watch. The half hours of the watch are marked by the striking the bell an appropriate number of times.
White Hat: In 1852 a white cover was added to the soft visor less blue hat. In 1866 a white sennet straw hat was authorized as an additional item. During the 1880's the white "sailors hat" appeared as a low rolled brim high-domed item made of wedge shaped pieces of canvas to replace the straw hat. The canvas was eventually replaced by cotton as a cheaper more comfortable material. Many complaints on the quality and construction led to modifications ending in the currently used white hat.
Women, Enlisted: The first enlisted women's uniform was comprised of a single breasted coat, blue in winter and white in summer, long gull bottomed skirts and a straight-brimmed sailor hat, blue felt in winter and white straw in summer, black shoes and stockings.
Women's Uniform Buttons - How did womens clothing come to be buttoned on the opposite side than mens clothing? - At one time buttons were only worn by very well to do people, peasants only used pull over stuff or strings. This means that the well to do women had servants to help them dress, while most of their spouses did not. It was easier for the servants to button the ladies' clothing if the buttons were on the other side. it was easier because this would put the buttons on the right side of the servant, thereby making it easier to manipulate.
Yankee: Americans are known by their nicknames from Hong Kong to Timbuktu; one of the most widely used is "yankee." It's origin is uncertain but one belief is that it was given to us by the early Dutch. Early American sea captains were known but not revered for their ability to drive a hard bargain. Dutchmen, who were also regarded as extremely frugal, jokingly referred to the hard to please Americans as "Yankers" or wranglers. The nom de plume persists to this day.
Z-Grams: Z-grams were initiated by ADM Elmo Zumwalt, former Chief of Naval Operations (1970 - 1974). Z-55 dealt with Human Resource Management in the Navy.