Kalaallit (Greenland)

James A. Landau JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Sat Jul 7 17:54:05 UTC 2001

In a message dated 07/06/2001 4:24:35 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
transedit.h at TELIA.COM writes:

> "Backboard" is "port" on a ship. German has "Backbord", Swedish has
> this to "babord", and Danish has "bagbord". I think that even English had
> word once upon a time: it comes from the epoch when ships had a steering
> instead of a rudder. This oar was usually on the "steerboard"
("Steuerbord", "
> styrbord") side, and the steersman turned his back to the port side.

The English word was "larboard".  The origin of "lar-" is uncertain.  One
theory is that the "larboard" is the "board" (side of the ship) from which
the ship was "laded".

In Old English the term was "baecbord"  (the "ae" was the single letter, not
a followed by e).  "this did not survived into [Middle English], though its
etymololgical equivalent still remains in all the mod continental Teut.
tongues, and was adopted into rom. (F. babord) [circumflex over the "a"]"

The etymology of "port" meaning the left side of a ship (as seen when facing
the bow) is also obscure.  One story is that the red light on the port side
was the color of port wine.  The OED2 does not mention this story and
speculates that the ship was always docked when in port on the port side, or
loaded from the port side, because the steering oar on the starboard would
have gotten in the way had the ship been docked on the starboard side.

[All the above, except the port wine story, from the OED2]

      Jim Landau

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