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Pull The Other One With Bells On

In English, if you doubt what someone is telling you, you can say so with such idioms as Stop pulling my leg or Pull the other one — it has bells on. Other languages have similarly colorful phrases for expressing skepticism. In French, you might say...

Overhauling Has Nautical History

In nautical parlance, if you slacken a rope by pulling in the opposite direction to separate the blocks in a block-and-tackle system, you’re said to overhaul it — the inspiration for the more general term that means to “change...

Fiddler’s Green

In nautical lore, Fiddler’s Green is the mythical place where dead mariners go to enjoy a life of leisure, with plenty of song, dancing, flirting, and rum. It may be tempting to connect this expression with mariners’ term fid, or a...

Coast Guard Prank

A listener shares yet another prank played on newbies: One of the first things you learn in the Coast Guard is that rope is called line, not rope — a vocabulary lesson reinforced by officers who would send new recruits down below to fetch 100 feet...

Three Sheets To The Wind Sailing Origins

Sister Patricia Marie in San Antonio, Texas, wonders why we use three sheets to the wind to describe someone who is inebriated. In nautical terminology, some of the ropes, or lines, attached to the corner of a sail are called sheets. If three of...