Savvy?


All professions throughout time have had their own language.
The U.S. Navy is, of course, no exception. Some of these terms have found their way into today's mainstream use. Listed here is a partial list of...

Navy Terminology Origination
From Navy.mil




Above Board | Ahoy! | Between the Devil and the Deep | Chewing the Fat | Crow's Nest | Cup of Joe 
Devil to Pay |  Eight Bells | Fathom | Feeling Blue | Forecastle | Galley | Gun Salutes | Head 
He Knows the Ropes | Holystone | Hunky-Dory |  Listless | Log Book | Long Shot Mayday   
No Quarter
 | Pea Coat  | Port Holes | Scuttlebutt | S.O.S.  |  Splice the Mainbrace 
Starboard | Taken Aback | Three-Mile Limit | Three Sheets to the Wind
Took the Wind Out of His Sails | Wallop | Watches



Above Board

The term today means someone who is honest, forthright. It's origin comes from the days when pirates would masquerade as honest merchantmen, hiding most of their crew behind the bulwark (side of the ship on the upper deck). They hid below the boards.



Ahoy!

This old traditional greeting for hailing other vessels was originally a Viking battle cry.



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.



Chewing The Fat

"God made the vittles but the devil made the cook," was a popular saying used by seafaring men in the 19th century when salted beef was staple diet aboard ship. This tough cured beef, suitable only for long voyages when nothing else was cheap or would keep as well (remember, there was no refrigeration), required prolonged chewing to make it edible. Men often chewed one chunk for hours, just as it were chewing gum and referred to this practice as "chewing the fat."



Crow's Nest

The raven, or crow, was an essential part of the Vikings' navigation equipment. These land-lubbing birds were carried on aboard to help the ship's navigator determine where the closest land lay when weather prevented sighting the shore. In cases of poor visibility, a crow was released and the navigator plotted a course corresponding to the bird's flight path because the crow invariably headed towards land.

The Norsemen carried the birds in a cage secured to the top of the mast. Later on, as ships grew and the lookout stood his watch in a tub located high on the main mast, the name "crow's nest" was given to this tub. While today's Navy still uses lookouts in addition to radars, etc., the crow's nest is a thing of the past.



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".



Devil to Pay

Today the expression "devil to pay" is used primarily to describe having an unpleasant result from some action that has been taken, as in someone has done something they shouldn't have and, as a result, "there will be the devil to pay." Originally, this expression described one of the unpleasant tasks aboard a wooden ship.

The "devil" was the wooden ship's longest seam in the hull. Caulking was done with "pay" or pitch (a kind of tar). The task of "paying the devil" (caulking the longest seam) by squatting in the bilges was despised by every seaman.