May 22:  Words From the Sea Day

Today is National Maritime Day established in 1933 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The date was established as May 22nd based on the first successful transoceanic voyage under steam propulsion. The steamship The Savannah set sail from Savannah, Georgia, on May 22, 1819 (1).

National Maritime Day is the perfect day to acknowledge and recognize the large number of English words that have washed up on shore and been adopted into everyday speech.  Many words we use today have their origins in the salty talk of sailors. Below are some examples from An Ocean of Words: A Dictionary of Nautical Words and Phrases by Peter D. Jeans:

Blowhard: Sailor’s slang for a wind-bag.

Debacle: Referred to the break-up of ice on a river or navigable channel.

Filibuster: Originally a term for a buccaneer, pirate, or other person who obtained plunder. It later evolved to refer to the use of obstructive tactics in the legislature.

Nausea: From the Greek nausia, meaning seasickness.

Vogue: From the French, voguer, ‘to be carried forward on the water.’ No doubt it comes from the figurative sense of being in fashion – that is being in the swim, going with the flow or current, or moving with the tide (2).

In addition to words with nautical origins, there are boatloads of idioms and common expression we use every day.  For example, if one of your co-workers is a “loose cannon,” it means he or she does not conform to the rules and might say or do something at any time that might hurt the company. Few people realize that this term originates from the actual heavy metal cannon that were tied and secured to a ship’s side. If a cannon became loose, it could cause a lot of damage to the ship and the crew.

Here’s a list of more expressions:

All hands on deck , Ship shape , Full steam ahead, Like a fish out of water, Turn the tide, To make Waves, To Stem the Tide, To run a tight ship, Rock the boat, To have bigger fish to fry, Two ships that pass in the night , In deep water, A big fish in a small pond, The coast is clear, The tip of the iceberg, The world is your oyster, Happy as a clam, Above board, Don’t rock the boat, We’re all in the same boat

Today’s Challenge:  A Net-full of Nautical Words

What are some examples of words in English that you associate the sea?  Although there are many words like tide, wave, and vessel that have clear associations with the ocean, many of the words we use frequently have a hidden nautical history.  Select two of the words below, and research each word’s etymology to find out how its origin or former meaning was sea-related. Contrast any former uses of the words with current dictionary definitions.

Ahoy, Bamboozle, Cranky, Derelict, Exonerate, Fairway, Guzzle, Handsome,  Idler, Junk, Kickback, Listless, Mayonnaise, Noggin, Over-rated, Posh, Quarter, Rummage, Scope, Trick, Victuals, Wash-out, Yarn

(Common Core Language 4 – Knowledge of Language)

Quotation of the Day: There is no frigate like a book to take us lands away. –Emily Dickinson

1-https://www.marad.dot.gov/education/national-maritime-day/a-short-history-on-national-maritime-day/

2- Jeans, Peter D. An Ocean of Words: A Dictionary of Nautical Words and Phrases. Secaucus, New Jersey: Birch Lane Press, 1993.

May 21:  Yoda-Speak Day

Released on this day in 1980 was the film The Empire Strikes Back.  The second installment of the original Star War trilogy, features the debut of one of the most memorable characters in the history of science fiction: Yoda.  Although small and unimposing in appearance, Yoda is a wise and powerful Jedi master who trains Luke Skywalker in the ways of the Force. Just as distinctive as Yoda’s appearance is his manner of speaking.

Yoda Empire Strikes Back.pngFrom the first words out of Yoda’s mouth when he meets Luke Skywalker, we realize something is different in his speech pattern:

Luke: I’m looking for someone.

Yoda: Looking? Found someone, you have, I would say, hmmm?

Luke: Right…

Yoda: Help you I can. Yes, mmmm.

Luke: I don’t think so. I’m looking for a great warrior. (1)

The reason Yoda’s manner of speaking seems odd to us is because it doesn’t follow the typical pattern of English syntax.  The majority of sentences in English follow the subject-verb-object word order.  In his speech, however, Yoda inverts the typical word order to verb-object-subject.  For example, instead  of saying to Luke, “You still have much to learn,” Yoda says,  “Much to learn, you still have.”

Yoda’s syntax might seem alien, but it’s not. Generations of writers, especially poets, have used the rhetorical device called anastrophe (or inversion) to rearrange the syntactic furniture for effect (Anastrophe in Greek means “turning back or about.”).  Using something other than the usual word order, makes the reader slow down a bit and spend a bit more time pondering a phrase or a clause.  Anastrophe also allows writers to add emphasis to a particular word, just as you might move your sofa to a more prominent position in your living room.

So, for example, Shakespeare might have written:

The question is: to be, or not to be?  

Instead, Shakespeare used anastrophe to alter the typical pattern, kicking off the most famous soliloquy in English with:

To be, or not to be, that is the question.

Kennedy might have said, “Don’t ask what your country can do for you”; instead, he inverted his words slightly, saying, “Ask not what your country can do for you . . . .”

Today’s Challenge:  “Try Not. Do…or Do Not.  There Is No Try”

What are some of the most famous quotations in the English language?  Brainstorm some famous quotations.  Then, try your hand at applying anastrophe by changing the word order of at least three separate quotations. You can change the word order any way you like, as long as make sense it does.

For example,

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . . . -Charles Dickens

Revised with anastrophe:  

The best of times, it was; the worst of times, it was

Here are a few classic quotations:

Give me liberty or give me death. -Patrick Henry

Speak softly and carry a big stick.  -Theodore Roosevelt

Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. -Thomas Edison

You must be the change you wish to see in the world. -Mahatma Gandhi

The unexamined life is not worth living. -Socrates

Necessity is the mother of invention. -Plato

With great power comes great responsibility. -Voltaire

The pen is mightier than the sword. -Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely. -John Dalberg-Acton

Quotation of the Day:  Much to learn, you still have. -Yoda

1-http://www.starwars.com/databank/yoda