Last Updated 31 October Notes: --'RN' denotes Royal Navy usage. The traditions and origins remain. While I have attempted to present things with a bit of humor, if you are easily offended this FAQ may not be for you.
Last Updated 31 October Notes: --'RN' denotes Royal Navy usage. The traditions and origins remain. While I have attempted to present things with a bit of humor, if you are easily offended this FAQ may not be for you. You have been warned.
An admiral is the senior ranking flag officer in the US Navy, but his title comes from the name given the senior ranking officer in the Moorish army of many years ago. A Moorish chief was an "emir," and the chief of all chiefs was an "emir-al. In today's Navy when you intentionally deceive someone, usually as a joke, you are said to have bamboozled them. The word was used in the days of sail, also, but the intent was not hilarity. Bamboozle meant to deceive a passing vessel as to your ship's origin or nationality by flying an ensign other than your own -- a common practice of pirates. As any able-bodied seaman can tell you, a turn of a line around a bitt, those wooden or iron posts sticking through a ship's deck, is called a bitter. Thus, the last of the line secured to the bitts is known as the bitter end. Nautical usage has somewhat expanded the original definition in that today the end of any line, secured to bitts or not, is called a bitter end. The landlubbing phrases "stick to the bitter end" and "faithful to the bitter end" are derivations of the nautical term and refer to anyone who insists on adhering to a course of action without regard to consequences.
Scuttlebutt in slang usage means rumor or gossip , deriving from the nautical term for the cask used to serve water or, later, a water fountain. The term corresponds to the colloquial concept of a water cooler in an office setting, which at times becomes the focus of congregation and casual discussion. Water for immediate consumption on a sailing ship was conventionally stored in a scuttled butt : a butt cask which had been scuttled by making a hole in it so the water could be withdrawn. Since sailors exchanged gossip when they gathered at the scuttlebutt for a drink of water, scuttlebutt became Navy slang for gossip or rumours. Hoisting the scuttlebutt is an event that Sea Scouts participate in during regattas such as the Old Salts Regatta.