Seamen in the days of sail (as well as today) spoke a language so full of technical jargon as to be nearly incomprehensible to a landlubber. For example, few could follow these instructions:
Lift the skin up, and put into the bunt the slack of the clews (not too taut), the leech and foot-rope, and body of the sail; being careful not to let it get forward under or hang down abaft. Then haul your bunt well up on the yard, smoothing the skin and bringing it down well abaft, and make fast the bunt gasket round the mast, and the jigger, if there be one, to the tie.
—Richard Henry Dana, Jr., The Seaman’s Manual (1844)
These phrases date back to the 17th century:
If the ship go before the wind, or as they term it, betwixt two sheets, then he who conds uses these terms to him at the helm: Starboard, larboard, the helm amidships… If the ship go by a wind, or a quarter winds, they say aloof, or keep your loof, or fall not off, wear no more, keep her to, touch the wind, have a care of the lee-latch. all these do imply the same in a manner, are to bid him at the helm to keep her near the wind.
—former pirate Sir Henry Mainwaring (see Harland (1984) p.177)
From Lt. Robert Maynard’s report of Blackbeard at the Battle of Ocracoke:
He styl’d us ‘young puppies’ and shouted ‘May the Devil take my soul if I ever gives quarter or asks it of ye!’
“Damn ye, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, I’m a better man than all of ye milksops put together” – Blackbeard
The only written records recovered from the Adventure after Blackbeard’s death ran as follows.
Such a day, rum all out- Our company somewhat sober- A damned confusion amongst us !- Rogues a-plotting – Great talk of separation- so I looked sharp for a prize- Such a day found one with a great deal of liquor on board, so kept the company hot, damned hot, then things went well again.
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