One of the hardest parts of learning how to sail must be the language. Sailors have an amazing knack for making even the simplest of things sound complicated. Why call it a kitchen when you can call it a ‘galley’? On a boat, a toilet becomes a ‘head’ and a living room a ‘saloon’. Learning the jargon isn’t always easy, but it is an important step in helping newbies feel comfortable on board.

The good news is, you probably already know more than you think you do. Every day in common English, we use expressions that come from the sailing world. Here is a fun task: below is a short story with no less than 31 terms, who’s origins are sourced from the sea. See if you can find them all!


From Stem To Stern

It had been a long day and Celeste was shaken. After her three square meals, she pulled out the whisky. The scuttlebutt heard earlier had let the cat out of the bag: it was official, her boyfriend was having an affair. Downing the liquid, she thought how naive she had been. She had truly thought that for once, she was the one at the helm of the relationship. To her, things seemed to have been sailing along smoothly, that they had been working together quite well. Unsurprisingly, this latest news really took the wind out of her sails.

Undecided as to whether she should cut her lover some slack or just give him the heave ho, she turned to the whiskey for answers. And drink it down she did, almost enough to sink a ship. By the tenth tall glass she was, by and large, three sheets to the wind. She knew she wasn’t toeing the line and that she’d be a wreck at work tomorrow, but hoped and touched wood, that her boss would give her some leeway, considering the circumstances. He was a pretty first rate guy, and they were more or less on an even keel, so she let loose.

The bottle was drunk to the bitter end, and Celeste sensed she had gone a little over board. On her way to the heads, her room-mate Genevieve basically had to hit the deck as she passed, stumbling around as she was. “Whatever floats your boat”, thought Genevieve, but gave her a wide berth anyway.

The next morning found Celeste between the devil and the deep blue sea. She felt ready to keel over, her house was far from ship shape, and the problem had still not been confronted. She decided to try a different tack – she would speak to her boyfriend after work, and hopefully make some headway. Maybe they could give it a clean sweep. If that didn’t work – well, she figured she’d either jump ship, or send him by the board.

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