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When a Loose Cannon Flogs a Dead Horse There's the Devil to Pay: Seafaring Words in Everyday Speech Paperback – April 22, 1996

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When a Loose Cannon Flogs a Dead Horse There's the Devil to Pay: Seafaring Words in Everyday Speech + Seafaring Lore and Legend + Folklore and the Sea (Maritime)
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Isil's lifelong fascination with sea lore has led her to produce this compendium of nautical metaphors and colloquialisms that have "washed ashore" into modern speech. However, the book doesn't always "run on an even keel," as even Isil herself admits. Some of the entries detail lengthy histories or semantic developments, including examples in literature; others are very brief and to the point, while still others are either apocryphal or sail off on tangents (e.g., one never really learns the origin of "blood is thicker than water," only that the same naval commander who once used it was also implicated in the peculiar history of the Merrimac). A couple of chapters on weather lore and sea legends, myths, and superstitions complete the text. Although this colorful work is occasionally "first rate," enough of its bibliography is still in print to make it a low-priority purchase for reference purposes.
Cathy Sabol, Northern Virginia Community Coll., Manassas
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"... this guide... will 'buoy' your spirits and help you 'learn the ropes." -- Lakeland Boating
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 154 pages
  • Publisher: International Marine/Ragged Mountain Press; 1 edition (April 22, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0070328773
  • ISBN-13: 978-0070328778
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 0.4 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #354,503 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Boatner on December 16, 1999
Format: Paperback
It is intriguing to learn how many familiar expressions in our everyday speech have their origins at sea (having "washed ashore" as the author puts it). Many of these sayings started out as fairly technical naval terms.
For instance the "bitter end" is the tail-end of an anchor line that may disappear overboard if not properly secured (along with a sailor's reputation). To "flake out" means to lay chain out on deck so it may be inspected for weak links.
And I won't "let the cat out of the bag" (another entry) in regards to the ever-popular "cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey", except to say that it's NOTHING CLOSE to what you think it means! As always the author's voice is clear and refreshing as she recounts coaxing the explanation out of an old salt. (I can't help thinking that it is the woman's perspective on the subject that helps make this little book so delightful.)
The book is divided up into "Metaphors and Colloquialisms", "Wind, Waves and Weather", and "Yarns of the Sea, Legends, Myths and Superstitions". I recommend a randomized reading approach to best savor the little surprises.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Laura Haggarty on March 25, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a gem! It's full of history and lore related to the sea and those who sail upon it. It has over a hundred pages of interesting information regarding the derivation of words and phrases used in everyday speech. My husband was raised on the seacoast of Nova Scotia, and I've spent many summers on the coast of North Carolina, so we are no strangers to the sea and sailing. This book made a perfect gift for him this past Christmas.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Weeks on May 2, 2014
Format: Paperback
I read this book first and foremost because of the title. As I picked it up and asked myself "did I just read that right?" As soon as I realized what the book was a bout I was absolutely delighted. I've always been interested in the origins of sayings so I was thrilled to pay for it and head home with my new read.

I was even more thrilled when I realized that I'd read some of the author's previous work. Olivia A. Isil's account of what happened to teh Roanoke colonies is the 1500s was incredibly insightful and well researched so I found myself hoping that this book would be too. I can't say I was disappointed! Her engaging yet factual writing style comes to life yet again in When a Loose Cannon Flogs a Dead Horse There's the Devil to Play.

I was genuinely surprised reading this book by how many of our everyday sayings have "washed ashore" from sailor life in years passed. "All if a days work", "Son of a gun", and "Above board" were by far my favorite sayings to learn about - though I won't spoil the meaning of them for you.

The book is split into three sections, "Metaphors and Colloquialisms", "Wind, Waves, and Weather", and "Yarns of the Sea, Legends, Myths, and Superstitions", something which makes it a more manageable read and also gives you the option to flip through it at your leisure. They're all laid our like a dictionary too, something which appealed to me all the more.

Informative, lighthearted, and entertaining, this book certainly does what it sets out to do and a lot more in my opinion. I recommend it! If it hooks you onto sailing culture like it did me, you are sure to also enjoy What Do You Do with a Drunken Sailor? Unexpurgated Sea Chanties.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By D. C. Wilkins on August 23, 2007
Format: Paperback
There are many books that inform us of the number of phrases and words that originated in the days of sail and have become part of every landlubber's English voacabulary. Olivia Isil's book takes a fresh and more comprehensive look at these derivations. Immensely readable, entertaining and informative. Essential to have by the bedside or in the yacht's locker to settle arguments!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Joel DiGirolamo on March 3, 2007
Format: Paperback
I'm now having to purchase my third copy of this book! I buy a copy, loan it out and then never see it again! It is truly amazing to find out how many of our colloquialisms come from the sea. Buy this book and you will enjoy every minute of it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Greg on December 30, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book that identifies the origins of some very common expressions and some, well not so common. One of my favorites included "freezing the balls off a brass monkey". The book tells you what the phrases meant during the time it was used and how the expression may be applied now.
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