Nautical

I lived a good chunk of my early life among men who’d made their living at sea. It tends to leave an impression on you. I try to suppress it, but I have a personal liking for the term “smart as paint.” Most of you have only heard the saying from your High School reading of Treasure Island. My father and first father-in-law used it to describe something or someone that looked sharp and well turned out. It derived from the need on board to battle constantly against corrosion in the saltwater environment. Something newly painted was protected and looked – smart as paint. A plum job was an easy berth, referring to the berthing or sleeping arrangements on a ship.
Both of these men had an affection for the term “get underway” – “Get your sorry butt in motion now! Get underway!” Neither was what you’d call verbose, but certain things always had a nautical cast.
This cast of language isn’t too much of a handicap here in New England, where we live close to the sea. But for those from far inland, it can be an obstacle. Two friends from Kansas wished that there was a vaccine for my irritating turns of phraseology. For them, I turned on the full avast, gangway, and shiver me timbers setting. They were hull down and away on the starboard quarter before the second bell of the watch!

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