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

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Fri Dec 16 19:47:25 EST 2016

Jonathan Lighter wrote:
> 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."
> h
> <https://www.dropbox.com/s/59ha8fah2ozy6gb/Sailing%20Ship%20Shanties%20by%20Long%20John%20Silver%20%28Stanley%20J.%20Hugill%29.pdf?dl=0>
> ttps://www.dropbox.com/s/59ha8fah2ozy6gb/Sailing%
> 20Ship%20Shanties%20by%20Long%20John%20Silver%20%28Stanley%
> 20J.%20Hugill%29.pdf?dl=0
> 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
> "snatch."
> The next page includes an 1871 "scrouge," 'to copulate with' - also an
> antedating.
> 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
> pussy!!"
> 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
> tongue."
> There are a few other variations back to 1833, but too insipid to mess with.

A larger excerpt from the 1867 book informed readers that the
presented version of the adage had been bowdlerized.

Year: 1867 (Date specified by Google Books & WorldCat; not visible in scans)
Title: A Book for Boys: All about Ships: Showing the way in at the
hawsehole, and out of the cabin window, with the way to make model
Author: Captain Charles Chapman
Publisher: Ward, Lock, and Tyler, London
Quote Page 9
Database: Google Books Full View


[Begin excerpt]
Above all, don't forget the knife, for a sailor without a knife is
like a woman without a tongue. I don't think that that is quite the
term used by sailors, but I have no doubt that you will find out the
usual saying before you have been very long at sea.
[End excerpt]

The 1833 version: "A sailor without a knife is like nothing on a
stick" might be interpreted as an encoded version of the cruder adage.


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

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