There are three reasons why seafarers and other maritime professionals should learn to use idioms more often. First, they enable one to express an idea concisely and avoid being verbose. Second, they enrich one’s vocabulary. Third, and not the least important, they add a bit of flavour to everyday conversation.

The following idioms are all anchored on the word “ship”. Some have nautical origins that date back centuries but are given new life each time they are spoken.

a sinking ship — an enterprise or a cause that is hopelessly failing

Example: No infusion of additional capital xould save the company. It was a sinking ship.

like rats abandoning a sinking ship  — said of people who abandon something or someone that they see as failing and no longer beneficial to them

Example: Like rats abandoning a sinking ship, his friends left him when he fell into hard times.

don’t give up the ship — keep on trying or working on something until you achieve your goal

Example: Don’t give up the ship now. You’re almost there!

steady the ship — to bring a situation under control

Example: Fortunately, there were cooler heads to steady the ship before the meeting descended into total chaos.

run a tight ship — to exercise close and strict control over an organisation or activity

Example: He was a disciplinarian who ran a tight ship when it came to family and household.

pump ship — to urinate

Example: Excuse me, mates. I have to go to the toilet and pump ship.

ship (someone) off —to send somebody away to some place, usually in an abrupt manner

Example: The boss decided to ship off the inefficient employee to one of the company’s regional branches, hoping that he would shape up.

shape up or ship out — improve one’s performance or behaviour or be forced to leave; usually said as a threat

Example: “Shape up or ship out,” the captain warned the unruly ones amongst the crew.

steer the ship of state — to lead an entire country or nation

Example: The dumb electorate chose a nincompoop to steer the ship of state. Incredible!

that ship has already sailed —said of an opportunity that has passed or an option that is no longer available

Example: He thought of migrating to another country, but that ship had already sailed as he was now too old.

ships that pass in the night — a metaphorical expression referring to people who cross paths, exchange a few words, and then go their separate ways perhaps to never see each other again

Example: Maritime conference delegates exchange pleasantries and make small talk, but they are ships that pass in the night.

when one’s ship comes in — when one has made a fortune or has become rich

Example: A man whose ship has come in suddenly finds himself with plenty of friends.

~ Barista Uno

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