Feb 24

Salty Talk

Wednesday, February 24, 2016 12:01 AM


We have many ways of saying “Hurry up,” including “Get the lead out,” “Step on it,” and “Move it.” Another-“Shake a leg”-has nautical origins.



In the bygone world of wooden ships and iron men, some skippers would allow the men to take their “wives” with them on the long journeys. These females often shared much of the work with the men, ate with them, and shared their hammocks. The area below decks set aside for sleeping usually allowed little space and less privacy, with the hammocks slung less than a foot apart in a close compartment with little illumination. When it was time to awaken a duty section (called a “watch”), the responsible petty officer would come roaring into the compartment, threatening dire consequences to those laggards slow to “hit the deck running.”

The “ladies” were permitted to remain abed, but first one had to know which hammocks they were in. So the boatswain’s mate would holler, “Shake a leg” or “Show a leg.” A quick check of the size and shape of a leg extended out from under a blanket, and the amount of callousing on the soles of the feet quickly established the sex of its owner. In coming ashore, the phrase’s meaning was transposed from one of identification to the related one of making haste. займы онлайн

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