Things like the title of this post - taking the cat o’ nine tails (a whip with nine knotted cords) out of its bag to be used as punishment for undisciplined sailors.
I thought it would be interesting to delve in to this a little more and see how many of these you were aware of and the response has been huge. There are so many, and I only listed 9 in my initial post, but was soon inundated with more.
And so, without further ado, here we go...
Sailing Too Close To The Wind
Literally speaking, it means to sail as close to the wind as you can, but it also takes on another meaning in that you're staying very close to an issue that could end up being dangerous or illegal.
In modern speech, changing tack is trying a different method to deal with a problem.
Three Sheets To The Wind
A sail is said to be sheeted to the wind, when it is set to backfill..
A backfilled jib is usually bad, but in a storm, if a ship were 'hove to' and at the mercy of winds and weather, the helm is lashed to windward, and the jib(s) are sheeted to the windward side of the ship (sheeted to the wind) causing the ship to sit sideways to the wind and waves to minimise the distance the ship is blown off course during a storm.
As a storm progresses, more force is required to hold the ship in position and additional jibs are sheeted to the wind to keep the ship on balance.
A ship with three jibs sheeted would be sitting sideways to the wind and waves in stormy weather, causing it roll wildly from side to side and in constant danger of capsize.
And so in modern usage, 3 sheets to the wind means drunk and all over the place!
Well, you can see why!
The Cut Of Your Jib
Something I usually say to new friends made whilst drunk in pubs because I like to pretend I'm a pirate.
The jib of a sailing ship is a triangular sail set between the foretopmast head and the jib boom of a tall ship. Each country had its own style of sail and so the nationality of a sailing ship could be determined from the jib and you would know if they were friend or foe!
Showing Your True Colours
Pirates often used to sail under false colours and fly a friendly flag, in order to sail within range of potential targets without arousing suspicion. Once within range they would unfurl their 'true colours'.
Now? We use it when somebody has been misleading, sneaky or the opposite of how they have been portrayed!
Pipe Down was the last signal from the Boatswain's call every evening, which meant it was time to 'pipe down', be quiet and go to bed.
By & Large
"By and large XYZ is amazing"
On a tall ship the word 'by' meant in to the wind and large meant 'off the wind' and so 'by and large' the ship handled well!
A Loose Cannon
What others do you use that you know to have a nautical origin?