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To Swear like a Sailor: Maritime Culture in America, 1750-1850 Paperback – February 15, 2016
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"From the pen of a premier historian of early working and seafaring Americans comes a fascinating new work of cultural history. To Swear like a Sailor starts with the idea that language offers a window into the intellect and the 'soul' of the user. Gilje sets out to study the expressions of his saltwater people in literally every form he can trace: curses, jargon, log books, yarns, songs, and drawings. A clever epilogue on the sea chest as the container of a sailor's trove of worldly possessions packs the whole subject back into a carrying case. The execution is both artful and accessible."
John L. Larson, Purdue University, and author of The Market Revolution
"With To Swear like a Sailor, Paul Gilje once more takes us below decks to life in the forecastle. In this meticulously researched, imaginative examination of sailor speech and story, song and scrimshaw, Gilje explores the complex relationships between the reality of shipboard life and the images of Jack Tar produced for American audiences. Not only does this fascinating book illuminate the meanings of sailors' distinctive argot and shipboard pastimes, it also recovers a popular culture of Jack Tars on stage and in print and sheds new light on the maritime literature of Cooper, Melville, and Dana. It's a d----d good yarn."
Tamara Plakins Thornton, State University of New York, Buffalo, and author of Nathaniel Bowditch and the Power of Numbers
"By listening keenly across the centuries to swearing and storytelling sailors, Paul Gilje brilliantly recovers the lost power of words to shock outsiders and to bind a crew together."
Alan Taylor, University of Virginia, and author of The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832
"No historian has a better sense for what coursed through the minds of American mariners during the Age of Sail than Paul Gilje. With a stunning command of seafaring literature, he exhibits an eye for their vision, an ear for their voices, and a willingness to listen to them on their own terms. In To Swear like a Sailor, he lands you in their shoes."
Daniel Vickers, University of British Columbia
This book is for readers interested in American maritime history and in the history of the United States before 1850. Using a wide range of sources, including cursing, language, logbooks, spinning yarns, sailor songs, and material culture, the book demonstrates that the United States was once a maritime nation.
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