“Mind your p’s and q’s” came from taverns keeping tabs on sailors’ drinks (pints and quarts) until pay day.
“Bootlegger” derived from smugglers hiding valuable packages in their huge sea-boots.
“Keep your shirt on” dates back to the Vikings, who furiously tore off their shirts and fought half-naked.
“Big wigs,” slang for those in high positions, originated from the fact that British naval officers wore huge wigs.
Discover the true meaning of the pirates’ skull and crossbones flag, why a ship’s lookout station is called the “crow’s nest,” and the origins of such terms as “logbook,” “quarantine,” and “shove off.” Hundreds of bite-size, illustrated facts from around the world and throughout history offer fascinating insights into nautical traditions of the ancient Greeks and Norsemen as well as latter-day sailors from the United States, Great Britain, and Europe.
Illustrator and author Cedric W. Windas (1888–1966) was a columnist for the World War II-era magazine Our Navy. His tidbits of sea lore and language, accompanied by striking images, explore all aspects of sailing and shipping terms and customs. Active members of the Navy and veterans, as well as anyone with an interest in sailing or maritime history, will delight in these fascinating facts, which are equally appealing for in-depth perusal or casual browsing.