Nautical Expressions

Cap’t Engine Cleaner emailed me “break the lead” and in researching nautical expressions trying to figure out what she meant, I got hooked. Now I get to test your knowledge:

match the words to the definitions:

scuttlebutt “no room to swing a cat”
“splice the mainbrace” “minding your Ps and Qs”
“in the offing” “freeze the balls of off a brass monkey”*
“the cat is out of the bag”

1. taking a drink

2. “…Said of a ship visible at sea … Such a ship is often approaching port…”

3. “….the bag was sometimes brandished in front of a potential miscreant to warn him, somewhat like brandishing the mace before an unruly member of a legislature.”

4. “…During punishment all hands were called on deck to bear witness. In the case of a ship with a full complement on board this could make for a very crowded deck.”

5. “… sailors used to be told to watch their “Pea” jackets and pig-tails [queues, laden with pre-mousse tar, so that their jackets would not become tarred.]

6. … eventually, someone thought to put a hole in the cask halfway up, attach it to the upper deck, and have the water ration poured in each day up to the hole.

7. On ships, … were sometimes stacked in what was called a …, usually made from …. When it got really cold the monkey would contract forcing some of the cannon balls to …

* they’re not sure about this definition.
All definitions from Nautical expressions in the vernacular


1. splicing the mainbrace
2. in the offing
3. “the cat is out of the bag”
4. “no room to swing a cat”
5. “minding your Ps and Qs”
6. scuttlebutt
7. “freeze the balls of off a brass monkey”*