Origins of Words and Phrases

Once more we are marching back to the glorious days of sail, completely contrary to popular demand.

popeye

The Glorious Days of Sail

 

 

 

 

 

 

I heard today’s rather jocular phrase recently, and it took me back to when I was writing my very first adult book Deadly Winter, the biography of the Trafalgar veteran and Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin…

In my opinion, which is "A landmark work in the history of the biographical form" Muswell Glibbery

 “Indubitably a landmark work in the history of the biographical form”
Muswell Glibbery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and I came across a letter of his where something he said made me realise where the expression came from. He was a teenage midshipman on board HMS Bellerophon, known affectionately as Billy Ruffian to the crew, which was soon to feature prominently at Trafalgar and suffer heavy casualties. Before that, the Bellerophon was caught in a summer storm in the Bay of Biscay, and Franklin wrote:

A violent explosion of electric fire took effect in several parts of the ship at the same instant…the maintop gallant mast except the heel and yard totally disappeared and the rigging burnt to pieces… Another ball of fire struck the mizzen topmast and shivered it to pieces…

Napoleon being transported to England by the Bellerophon after his surrender. The British officers are standing by a replacemnt of the mizzenmast that was "shivered to pieces".

Napoleon being transported to England by the Bellerophon after his surrender. The British officers are standing by a replacement of the mizzenmast that was “shivered to pieces”.

When he says the mizzenmast was ‘shivered’, he was using the term in the now rather archaic sense of splintered or shattered: hence the phrase Shiver me timbers!

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About ramblesofawriter

Writer, thinker, tea drinker.
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4 Responses to Origins of Words and Phrases

  1. chloefb says:

    Ah, I use the phrase “shiver me timbers” all the time. No… wait… I never use that phrase. But it’s interesting to know it doesn’t mean what I assumed it meant!

    I just read a SS about something called the Bellerophon – having never heard the word in my life before. But it was an early attempt at a flying machine, not a boat in this case.

  2. Have you been drinking again?

  3. The sad decline of a once bright and promising young writer…

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