Origins of Sayings No 53ish

Ye olde days of sail

I’ve long been interested in naval history, and it’s surprising how many of the phrases and saying we use today come from ye olde days of sail, perhaps the most common and obvious one being ‘Learning the ropes’. But here’s one whose nautical origins might not be so obvious. If you were to try an unwise manoeuvre in your sailing ship or the wind suddenly changes direction, you might find it blowing into the front of the sails rather than from behind, thus impeding progress or halting the vessel altogether. Sometimes ships were deliberately turned into the wind to help bring them to a standstill, which was called ‘backing’ the sails. But if it happens accidentally, it is said that you are ‘Taken aback‘.


About ramblesofawriter

Writer, thinker, tea drinker.
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