"Sorry, I'm on the blower!"


This page is the work of my webmaster Barry Sturrock. Barry sadly died in April 2005. I thought it only right and proper to leave this page as it is. He had a real quirky sense of humour and was always one for the trivia of life. If you click on the may little blinking British Seagulls on the site, yes they are winking at you, you will see a few of his favourites, plus a smattering of bits of info from me. 

John July 2005


Have you ever considered how living on this sceptred isle has affected the way you converse with you fellow man. There are many influences that mould the way we are and the way we speak. Schools, occupation, social status (whatever that may mean), birthplace, parents and so on.

However, there is one influence that affects all of us in a very subtle and often unnoticed way -we live on an island.

It is true that we are no longer the great Naval force we used to be. Never the less the affect of those heady days when we went swaning around the globe claiming large chunks of other people's countries as ours has left a lasting affect on our everyday language.

Not only did we "nick" their lands, but often we nicked their languages too, or at least bits of their languages - the bits we liked and could pronounce. The English language contains words and phrases from many countries throughout the world and many of the influences are nautical.

Due to constraints of space I have not listed the origins of the words below, anyway, most of the origins are obvious some not so. This one deserves a special mention:-

Fanny- Oval or cylindrical mess serving dish originally used in the packing of tinned meat for general Naval issue. When it began in 1907, this technique was regarded with great suspicion by the sailors, especially as a young girl named (sweet) Fanny Adams had been murdered and dismembered around that time.

The tins were re-used on the mess decks as utensils, but the coincidence resulted inFanny's name living on in a completely unintended way..........

what did you think it meant??

This then is a list of some 200 words and phrases that have a nautical origin. It could be argued that some of these words and phrases may have other origins, so I stand to be corrected.

It was "touch and go" whether I would complete this on time. I managed to "steer clear" of the TV and "knuckle down" to it but I was a bit "hard pressed".

So I decide to "change tack", "bear down" on the problem and keep going to the "bitter end". Before long I was "home and dry".

The "down side" was that all my other work was "knocked into a cocked hat" and I just "flaked out".

If you have any more to add or you can provide a known origin please let me know.

Acknowledgements to the many contributors to this list who must lead as sad a life as I do.


Hard pressed

Pipe down

Piping hot


In the pink

Roped in (to something)

Tie the knot

Scrape the bottom of the barrel

Fanny (about)

In deep water

Still waters run deep

Going overboard

At half mast (trousers)

Steer clear

Give a wide berth (to)

Run a tight ship

Touch and go

Warm the cockles (of your heart)


Pier head jump


The down side


Pooped (tired)

Steady as she goes


One over the eight

Three sheets to the wind

On the fiddle

Square meal

Ship shape and Bristol fashion

Keel hauled

No room to swing a cat (of nine tails)

Push the boat out

Up the creek without a paddle

Know the ropes

I will show you the ropes

Freeze the balls of a brass monkey

Take the wind out of their sails

Full steam ahead

P.O.S.H. (port out, starboard home)

Jack tar


One bad apple.......

Anchor man

Anchors away

Hard cheese

Hard tack

Cannon fodder

Packing them in (slaves)

Flotsam & Jetsam

Running free

Bit by bit

Galley slave

Taken aback

Hard aground


Put your oar in

Nelson's blood

Belay (stop that)

Dressed up to the nines

Carry on (naval pipe message)

Bone in her teeth

Long in the jaw


Home a dry

Homeward bound

On the blower (speech tubes)

Sounding out

Taken or caught aback

Show a leg

Like a shot

Dressed overall

Jack of all trades

Take a turn

Shiver me timbers

The suns over the yard arm

The tides out

Tide mark

All in the same boat

Jury rigged

Standing four square

Trim your sails

All hands (to the pumps)

Plain sailing

Ebb and flow

Turn of the tide

Under the weather

Old salt

When my ship comes in

Wreck (wrack) and ruin

Top notch

Copper bottomed........

A1 condition (Lloyds)

Batten down

Abandon ship

Sling your hook

Hook line and sinker

Sinking feeling

Between the devil and the deep blue sea

Blow your stack

Bye and large

Clear the decks

Close quarters

Haven't a clue (clew)

The coast is clear

To deck someone

Trip up (anchor)

Hell or high water


Stow away On the beach


Any port in a storm

Hot bed

Safe haven

Take the plunge


Swab the decks

Turn turtle

Stem to stern (to clean)

Fend off

Flare up

Fetch her mark

Up anchors (and away)

Leading light (a)

On an opposite tack

To thwart (thwarted)

In a trice

Scandalised (her name)

Tuck in

Heave to/ho


Wake (left a trail in his)

Standing watch

Flog to death

Aye aye captain

Knocked into a cocked hat


Bitter end

Bear up

Bear down

Bale out (to)


Take sounding

Turn a blind eye

Two by two

Get spliced

Get hitched

Raise the flags

Nail your colours to the mast

Spike his gun

Show a light (shine a light)

Mark time

Sound him out

Keep a sharp look out

Slippery as a fish

Has no bearing on the matter

All points meet

Tipping a hat

Leeway (to give a little)

Blowing a gale

Land lubber

8 Bells

Head room (Heads)

Rough with the smooth


All at sea

Sea legs (got his)

Back water

To founder

To gripe

Make ready

Take the strain


Don't make waves

Long walk of a short pier

Change tack

Sail close to the wind

Put a block on it

Flake out

All found (well found)


Heading (he was)

To heel

Ranging about

Bobbing up and down

On the crest of a wave

Hitch up

Jack in the box

Knuckle under

Come along side


To lug (lugging home)

Take the middle ground


Give no quarter

Round up (on someone)

Get a strop

Sweep (her off her feet)

Wedding tackle

Pilot (hole)

Fair and square

Tarred with the same brush


Barry Sturrock