The Bugler

Bugler Newsletter

Navy Day - October 27th - or not!

This day is set aside to honor our U.S. Navy. It was created by the Navy League for the United States in 1922. But on what day is it? Your call! It's either October 13th or October 27th! Why the confusion? The original date was October 27th, the birthday of President Theodore Roosevelt, an avid supporter of the U.S. Navy. In the 1970s, research determined that the U.S. Continental Navy was founded on October 13, 1775. Efforts were made to move Navy Day to the earlier date, but October 27th is the date more commonly celebrated.

For more information:
Official website of the United States Navy:

Navy Jargon
Every profession has its own jargon and the U.S. Navy is no exception. For the Navy: bulkhead, deck, overhead, and head - not wall, floor, ceiling, and toilet. Some of the navy terminology is used by all of us. Here are for instances! ...

Above board
The term means someone who is honest and forthright, but its origin dates back to pirate days. Pirates would masquerade as honest merchantmen, hiding most of their crew behind the bulwark (the side of the ship on the upper deck) and below the boards.

This old traditional greeting for hailing other vessels was originally a Viking battle cry.

Chewing the fat
"God made the vittles but the devil made the cook," was a popular saying used by seafaring men in the 19th century when salted beef was staple diet aboard ship. This tough cured beef, suitable only for long voyages when nothing else was cheap or would keep as well, required prolonged chewing to make it edible. Men often chewed on chunk for hours, as if it were chewing gum, and referred to this practice as "chewing the fat."

Crow's Nest
The crow was an essential part of the Vikings' navigation equipment. The birds were carried on board to help the ship's navigator determine where the closest land lay when weather prevented sighting the shore. In cases of poor visibility, a crew was released and the navigator plotted a course corresponding to the bird's flight path because the crow invariably headed towards land. The Norsemen carried the birds in a cage secured to the top of the mast. Later, as ships grew and the lookout stood his watch in a tub located high on the main mast, the name "crow's nest" was given to this tub.

Devil to pay
The expression describes an unpleasant result from some action taken, as in someone doing something they shouldn't have and, as a result, "there will be the devil to pay." Originally, this expression described one of the unpleasant tasks aboard a wooden ship. The "devil" was the wooden ship's longest seam in the hull. Caulking was done with "pay" or pitch (a kind of tar). The task of "paying the devil" (caulking the longest seam) by squatting in the bilges was despised by every seaman.

Fathom was originally a land-measuring term derived from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning to embrace. Back when, most measurements were based on the average size of body parts, such as the hand. (Horses are still measured this way; or the foot, which is why 12 inches are so named.) A fathom is the average distance from fingertip to fingertip of the outstretched arms of a man - about six feet. Since a man stretches out his arms to embrace his sweetheart, Britain's Parliament declared that distance be called a "fathom" and that it be a unit of measure. The word was also used to describe taking the measure or "to fathom" something. Today, when we're trying to figure southing out, we are trying to "fathom" it.

Feeling Blue
If you're sad and "feeling blue," you are using a phrase coined from a custom among many old deepwater sailing ships. If the ship lost the captain or any of the officers during its voyage, she would fly blue flags and have a blue band painted along her entire hull when returning to home port.

The "head" aboard a Navy ship is the bathroom. The term comes from the days of sailing ships when the place for the crew to relieve themselves was all the way forward on either side of the bowsprit, the integral part of the hull to which the figurehead was fastened.

He knows the ropes
Once upon a time and long ago ... this phrase was written on a seaman's discharge to indicate that he was still a novice. All he knew about being a sailor was just the names and uses of the principal ropes, or lines. In a strange twist, today, this same phrase means just the opposite - that the person fully knows and understands the operation.

Today it means to be dull or without pep. In the days of yore when sailing ships were becalmed and rode on an even keel without port or starboard list, there was no wind, thus no list. No list, then listless.

Long Shot
Today it's a gambling term for something that would take an inordinate amount of luck. But its origins are nautical. Because ships' guns (way back when) were very inaccurate except at close quarters, it was an extremely lucky shot that would find its target from any great distance.

"Mayday," the universal call for help on the sea, is used in cases of grave and imminent danger and is derived from the French, m'aidez, which means "help me." Not surprisingly, m'aidez is pronounced "mayday."

The word is nautical parlance for a rumor - a combination of "scuttle" (to make a hole in the ship's hull and thus causing her to sink) and "butt" (a cask used in the days of wooden ships to hold drinking water). The cask used by the ship's crew to take their drinking water was the "scuttlebutt." Since the crew used to congregate around the scuttlebutt, that's where the rumors about the ship or voyage would begin. Fast forward to today's office water cooler, and you'll note the comparison!

Took the wind out of his sails
We use that term to describe getting the best of an opponent in an argument. Originally it described a battle maneuver of sailing ships: one would pass close to its adversary and on its windward side. The ship and sails would block the wind from the second vessel, causing it to lose headway. Losing motion meant losing maneuverability and the ability to carry on a fight.
            When adversity strikes today, there is a relevant aphorism based on this historical consequence: We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails. Good advice!

New product alert!

Four Pistol/Accessory CaseFour Pistol/Accessory Case. Another quality case in the Plano line! This one case has three padlock locations to safely and securely lock contents. The wide, recessed, snap-over latches, with steel hinge pins for maximum durability, are designed for travel. The case will hold multiple longer barreled pistols with scopes or other accessories.

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