Q: "Nantucket coach"?

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Sun Dec 9 04:15:18 UTC 2012

In his 1824-1827 story "Peter Rugg, the Missing Man," William Austin
writes "The chair in which Rugg sat was very capacious, evidently
made for service and calculated to last for ages. The timber would
supply material for three modern carriages. This chair, like a
Nantucket coach, would answer for everything that ever went on wheels."

What is a "Nantucket coach"?  I have not found any explanation, or
even instances, not counting Austin's tale and various coaches of
Nantucket sports teams.  Except for one -- Alain Geoffroy claims,
referring to Austin's use, that it is "a local expression used to
designate a whaleboat tugged by the whale once the harpoon has been
stuck into the animal."

Geoffroy's source is -- 'Zimbalatti refers to the phrase as a
"Nantucketism." "A Nantucket coach is not a type of stagecoach, but a
reference to a whale. . . . Nantucket whalers referred to the upper
jaw of a whale as both a 'coach' and a 'sleigh.' . . . Austin merely
substitutes the synonymous term 'coach' for 'sleigh'
(127).'  Zimbalatti = Zimbalatti, Joseph A.. Anti-Calvinist Allegory:
A Critical Edition of William Austin's "Peter Rugg, the Missing Man,"
Ph.D., (Fordham University, N.Y., 1992).  I don't know what
Zimbalatti's authority is.

OED2 s.v. "sleigh" has sense 3, with the single quotation
1874   C. M. Scammon Marine Mammals N. Amer. viii. 75   Next to and
above the bone of the upper jaw (which is termed the 'coach' or 'sleigh').

Geoffroy seems to have morphed Scammon's "coach" and Zimbalatti's
"Nantucket coach" from a part of a (Nantucket) whale into a
(Nantucket) whaling boat tugged by a whale.


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