"speaking distance" [was: antedating "shouting distance"]

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Sun Oct 9 17:19:43 UTC 2011

At 10/9/2011 10:08 AM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>As for the seafaring connection by both 1841 and 1844, my experience
>suggests that "hailing distance" was more usual - a phrase less often
>employed figuratively.

When ships "spoke" to each other, was the phrase
"speaking distance"?  (There actually is one
quotation containing "speaking distance" in the
OED, from 1860, under "speaking" 5.a, but it is "of the enemy", not a ship.)

To answer my own question, I find a very few:

*  1791 --

"The ships come to anchor between this rock and
the shore, close to the town, which they may
approach within a speaking distance in perfect safety."

Travels Round the World in the Years 1767, 1768,
1769, 1770, 1771. By Monsieur de Pag├ęs.  Translated from the French.
Volume the First. London: J. Murray, 1791. Part II, p. 10.  GBooks

* 1809 --

""Soon after she came in sight, she hoisted two
signals and fired two guns, and the privateer
schooner, which has appeared so often, after
apparently standing out to escape her, hove about
and come with- in speaking distance.

The History of Don Francisco de Miranda's Attempt
to Effect a Revolution in South America. By a
Gentleman who was an Officer under that
General.  2nd ed. Boston: Oliver and Munroe, 1809.  p. 38.  GBooks.

* 1811 --

"I directed Capt. Ludlow to take a position to
windward of her and on the same tack, within short speaking distance."

National Intelligencer and Washington Advertiser
(DC); Date: 05-28-1811; Page: [2];  EAN.


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