The English language is sprinkled with idioms that have a nautical origin. Some people may use them routinely without being aware of the fact. The following are 10 such idiomatic expressions. They illustrate, not only how the shipping world has impacted on everday language, but also how it has helped unify peoples across the English-speaking world.
The use of the catchphrase “the human element” to refer to seafarers has always bothered me no end. It sounds too cold. It calls to mind the periodic table of elements invented by the Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev. But more important, the term degrades seafarers to the status of mere objects.
One can understand that the printed edition of the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (or STCW) cannot be given for free. Like any other publisher, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has to cover the cost of printing plus some markup for overhead expenses and profit. But why sell the electronic edition, and for a hefty £50 (USD67.16) at that?
After reading the limericks of Edward Lear, the English painter and writer, I felt that I should try my hand at this popular form of humourous verse. Traditional limericks are often nonsensical and even bawdy. But why not, I thought, put in some meaning and relevance to the times? The following nautical limericks are my first attempts at the craft.
Why listen to the slogans blaring out of the IMO and its global maritime chorus? These incessant tributes to seafarers are not music to the ears. They are hackneyed and shopworn. They don’t mean a thing. It is more pleasant to hear the wonderful beat of commerce on the waterfront and the enchanting sounds of the sea and seagulls.
Who in this age of tweeting is not familiar with a hashtag? This sequence of characters preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) is used by milliions on Twitter and other social media sites to identify digital content on a specific topic. Hashtags have become as ubiquitous as coffee houses, their presence felt even outside the internet (read the article The ‘hashtag’: a new word or a new rule? by Dr. Paola Maria Calaffi).
The following are hashtags which I have created to focus attention on the plight of seafarers. Some are so maverick, so irreverent, that you are not likely to encounter them on social media. But perhaps someday you will — on my Twitter and LinkedIn accounts.
The following is an updated version of an article that was originally posted on Marine Café Blog on 20th July 2021.
It’s interesting how the plight of seafarers can be encapsulated in a single word. The following list of transitive verbs (action words with a direct object) provides good examples. The words tell some of the ways seafarers are exploited or mistreated. I have defined each one with specific reference to seafarers, illustrating how the word is used with an example sentence.
“All nonsense questions are unanswerable,” wrote the British writer and lay theologian C.S. Lewis in his book A Grief Observed, which was first published in 1961. The following questions are not nonsense. In fact, they are valid and important questions. It seems, though, that they are seldom, if ever, raised by maritime folks. I myself continue to ask these questions, but I’m not sure if I have found the answers to all of them.
Marine Café Blog was launched on 25th August 2009. Twelve years and hundreds of posts later, it is still sailing through waters that can be quite choppy at times. Some readers may wonder why. How can a blogger keep going when blogging does not fill his pocket and there will always be those who will bash him for his views? In my case, I have four simple answers.
In the maritime world, there are some individuals and organisations you can admire and some that can put you off and spoil your day. The following is a list of adjectives to describe those in the second category.
Civility dictates that one should use disparaging words with prudence. On the other hand, honesty and candidness seem more necessary than ever in an industry where seafarers continue to be exploited. When it comes to the rights and welfare of mariners, there ought to be no sacred cows.
To suggest that poetry can be useful to maritime executives and professionals may sound silly. In the contemporary shipping world, it is Plutus, the Greek god of wealth, who rules — not Apollo, the god of music, poetry, and light. Indulging in poetry seems such a waste of time, a luxury for practical people. But is it really?
Unless one is a polyglot, searching for the equivalent of ‘seafarer’ in different languages can be a daunting task. According to Ethnologue, the leading resource on world languages, there are 7,139 known living languages. Perhaps not all of them have names for ‘seafarer’, but even a partial list of such names would call to mind the biblical story of the Tower of Babel.