[Ads-l] crude seafaring proverb; "scrouge"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Fri Dec 16 19:21:14 EST 2016

In a letter written in 1966, the sea-song collector Stan Hugill mentioned
to G. Legman a proverb he'd heard at sea, apparently in the 1920s or 30s:
"A sailor without a knife is like a whore without a cunt."


What appears to be an early (1871) MS. allusion to the same proverb
appeared in an article by B. R. Burg in Journal of the History of Sexuality
Vol. 11, No. 3 (July, 2002), p. 445:

"[He was] cracking jokes from the Dingy's [sic] stern sheets on 'sailors'
knives and whores' snatches.' "

I believe the 1871 date is additionally an antedating or early dating of

The next page includes an 1871 "scrouge," 'to copulate with' - also an

Elsewhere online:

"Discovering I lacked the proper tools, he said in a rough curt voice burnt
by decades of cigarettes and coffee, 'A sailor without a knife is like a
prostitute without a #%@*, useless!'"

"There is an old saying..a sailor without a knife is like a whore without a

1931: "'A sailor without a knife is like — ' He stopped, appalled by the
brutal phrasing of the old simile.

1867 (in print): "A sailor without a knife is like a woman without a

There are a few other variations back to 1833, but too insipid to mess with.


"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list