This word, now often but incorrectly spelt W-A-S-T-E-R, comes from the fact
that only the best hands in a sailing ship were employed aloft in the
rigging: the others were employed in the waist of the ship. Thus the name
"waister" came to be implied reproach on a man's efficiency or experience.
Even as late as 1900 the word still appeared in the quarter-bills of H.M.
Ships - referring to stewards, bandsmem and artificers whose action stations
were in the waist of the ship, armed with boarding pikes ready to repel
boarders or to board an enemy ship.
The line of water astern of a ship through which she has just passed: the
opposite to GRAIN (q.v.).
The Naval officers' mess in a ship or Naval establishment, except in ships
carrying a sufficient number of subordinate officers to justify the provision
of a separate junior officers' mess, known as the GUNROOM (q.v.).
The name is said to derive from WARDROBE - the space below decks in the after
part of the ship where booty was stored. The ship's officers' personal cabins
opened on to this space and they used to foregather in it for conversation.
Later - about 1750 - the Wardrobe became the officers' mess (hitherto they
had eaten in their cabins) and the name eventually became WARDROOM.
WARMING THE BELL or FLOGGING THE GLASS
Old Naval synonyms for being early for an appointment or doing anything
earlier than had been arranged. The phrases originate from the days when
watches at sea were measured by a half-hour sand-glass; each time the glass
was turned the bell was struck denoting the time. In those more leisurely
days, measurement of time to the nearest half-hour was sufficiently accurate
for much of life's affairs, in fact "near enough for a sailing ship".
A word commonly used by officers when referring to Midshipmen - "the lowest
form of life, excrescences on the face of the earth".
WASH-OUT (1) Naval (now common) slang for "Erase" or "Cancel". From the use
of slates on which signals were recorded before the introduction of pencils
and signal-pads. (2) An officer's cabin which, through someone's inefficiency
with the scuttle, has suffered flooding by sea-water, is said to have been
"washed out", not "flooded out".
An incorrect spelling of WAISTER (q.v.).
Watches in the Royal Navy today do not start at the same time as our period.
Ours starts at midnight.
The "Relieve Decks" is worked by the Officer(s) of the Watch only from 11:30
PM to 12:00 AM. Each watch is of four hours, except the "dog watches" which
have two hours. A bell is rung every half hour, and the total number of bells
in a watch (except the "dog watch") is therefore eight.
Eight bells announces the end of a watch. One bell announces that half a
watch has passed, and so on to its end. Members of a watch can then tell,
from the number of bells sounded, just how much of their watch has passed.
The name probably comes for DODGE WATCH: by making in this way a total of
seven watches to the day, men would be enabled not to keep the same watch
each day. The suggestion that the name DOG comes from a dog watch being a
watch cur-tailed is too frivolous to be authentic. A dog watch being two
hours long while all other watches are of four hours' duration gives rise to
the common Naval expression of derision to a junior: "You've only been in the
Navy a dog watch". The custom of striking 1-2-3-8 bells in the last dog
watch, instead of 5-6-7-8, is said to have originated in 1897; the mutineers
at the Nore has time their mutiny to start at "five bells in the dog watches"
on 13th May, 1797, but the officers got to hear of this and directed that
five bells should not be struck then. Since then, one bell has been struck at
6.30pm. Some foreigners still carry out the old routine, but most have come
into line with us. In the Royal Navy, the two Dog Watches are the "First" and
the "Last" not the "First" and the "Second".
IN EVERYONE'S MESS BUT NOBODY'S WATCH
An old Naval expression used to describe a man who talks a lot but avoids
actual work as much as he can - a good hand in the canteen but never
available when there is work to be done.
TO GET UNDER WAY
A Naval expression meaning to get moving. "Way" means progress - of a ship,
therefore, movement through the water. A ship is said to be "under way" when
her anchor is free of the sea bed. The word is not to be confused with
WEIGHing the anchor, which is the physical operation of hoisting the anchor
from the sea bed to the hawse pipe.
Sailor's slang name for his feet.
WEDDING NAVAL WEDDING CUSTOMS
Bridegroom in bluejacket rig wears white silks tapes to his jumper; best man
and other officials may do the same.
Garland is hung between the masts of a ship one of whose officers is being
married that day.
TO HAVE A WEED ON
Sailor's slang for having a grievance and dilating on it.
Naval slang for awarding punishment. Clearly this use of the word comes from
the idea of the scales of Justice.
(1) Adjective... common slang for stupid, half-witted.
(2) Verb... naval slang for celebrating an occasion with a drink.
Sailors' satirical slang name for Sardines.
A binding of twine round a rope, normally to prevent the end unravelling. The
Common Whipping has its ends worked inside the whipping: in the American
Whipping the ends are tied together in the centre of the whipping in a reef
knot: the turns of a West-Country Whipping are half-knotted each side of the
rope and finished off in a reef knot: in a Sailmaker's Whipping the twine is
passed through the strands of the rope.
Whistling in a warship has always been strongly discouraged and as late as
1910 was a punishable offence in Training Establishments. The reason is
fairly obvious - in the old days not only were all orders passed by means of
a bosun's pipe (or whistle) and so whistling could lead to confusion, but
also was a superstition that whistling brought wind which was not always
welcome. Even nowadays, when becalmed in a sailing boat, an old sailor will
stick his knife in the mast and whistle "for the wind". There was one
occasion when whistling was allowed, even encourage: custom ruled that a cook
of the mess should whistle when stoning raisins or prunes when preparing a
pudding, &c., to show that he was not eating them, but with the disappearance
of cooks-of-the-mess, this too has lapsed. It still applies to our period.
By an Act of George II, the Pursers was authorised to bear on the ship's
books two imaginary ratings per hundred of the ship's complement. These men
were given "pusser's tallies" (i.e. imaginary names) and were known as
"Widows' men"; the wages accruing to these men were paid to the "Widows'
Fund", a Fund which provided relief for indigent widows of officers. The
practice lasted from 1760 to 1832.
Sailor's slang name for domestic salt (from Genesis xix, 26).
TO PUT A WIND, or FAIR WIND, BEHIND.....
The request at a Naval dining table to "put a wind (or a fair wind) behind
the butterdish" is a request that the butter should be passed.
A receptacle that is empty is sometimes said to "have a south wind in it".
BETWEEN WIND AND WATER
A vital spot. The part of a sailing ship's sides which, normally above the
water line, is beneath the waterline when the ship is heeled over on a tack;
this one of the worst possible places where a ship's side could be perforated
by a cannon ball.
TO GET TO WINDWARD
Naval expression meaning to gain an advantage. In the days of sailing ships,
warships when going into action would try to get the windward position, as
that was the most advantageous for a squadron, fleet or ship in that it gave
freedom of action. I sailing races, the vessel to windward has an advantage
over her opponent. Also termed the Weather Gauge.
Any young rating who has been 'adopted' as his particular friend - taken
under his wing - by a senior rating. The word was not a complimentary one,
though with the passage of time its original insinuation is probably nowadays
Entertainment reply signal meaning "With Much Pleasure"; the alternative
reply is M.R.U. (= Much Regret Unable). These two replies are to the
invitatory signal R.P.O. (= Request the Pleasure of your Company); to reply
N.C.D. (= No Can Do) is not polite: to reply "Regret N.C.D." is verbose: to
reply "Regret M.R.U." is tautological.
Common slang name for Stewed Prunes.
Worming a rope consists of filling in the spaces between the strands with
lengths of spunyarn or small stuff laid along the lay of the rope. A rope, or
part of a rope, is wormed, parcelled and served to protect it from chafe, to
make it less liable to chafe other ropes, and, with a wire rope, to protect
the hands of men handling the rope.
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