s---k pot, 1805 (?)

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Mon Sep 6 18:35:06 UTC 2010

At 9/6/2010 10:12 AM, George Thompson wrote:
> From the report to his owners by the captain of a ship taken by
> privateers, 1805:
>***  We took the privateer to be the Felicity (0ne of the fleet)
>until the moment she run the bloody flag up and commenced a very
>heavy fire of musquetry (upwards of sixty) she had ehr graplings and
>s---k pot to her yard arm, she shot up our windward quarter
>instantly and made an attempt to board. . . .
>N-Y Commercial Advertiser, March 21, 1805, p. 3, col. 2
>the dash I have represented as --- is in the paper a single long
>dash, so it doesn't indicate how many letters are omitted.  The "k"
>is perfectly clear, so barring a typo in the Commercial, the
>disguised word isn't "shit".
>"stink"? -- but I don't know why that word wouldn't be printable,
>nor, indeed, what a stink pot that might be displayed on a yardarm would be.

I acknowledge the hesitations, but:

"stink-pot" = "2. A hand-missile charged with combustibles emitting a
suffocating smoke, used in boarding a ship for effecting a diversion
while the assailants gain the deck."

Might a stink-pot used in naval warfare in 1805 have contained other
odiferous materials, such as excrement? The OED has "transf. 1748
SMOLLETT Rod. Rand. xi, I'll teach you to empty your stink-pots on
me. 1913 J. G. FRAZER Golden Bough VI. Scapegoat iii. 133 The girls
discharge their stink-pots in the faces of their adversaries."  The
use by Smollet -- who surely knew naval warfare -- of "empty" sounds
like more was emitted than smoke.

Might "stink" not have been thought by some to be unprintable in 1805
(perhaps for what a stink-pot might contain)?

Might a stink-pot have been attached to a yard-arm to be handy for a
"stink-pot-flinger" posted on the yard-arm to throw down upon a ship
with which it was engaged "yard-arm to yard-arm"?

I will ask Alan H. Hartley, who is knowledgeable about naval
terminology of the time.


>George A. Thompson
>Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre",
>Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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