“And this one tests his ability to decode a word, or sound it out, as opposed to his ability to guess it from its context. So we give him a list of nonsense words, like ‘jib’ … and”

He nodded understandingly at his kid’s kindergarten teacher, then added without hesitation, “But ‘jib’ is a real word.

I nodded and said said “Trust him. He’s a sailor.”

Several hours later, we somehow ended up in the middle of the lake without a foresail. The jib halyard had gone up the forestay, and we ended up having to wearship: that is to gybe through 270 instead of a 90 tack. Finally we caught a run to the harbor, past the nuns, cans, and backrollers, and then back to the slip. And we managed it all with a cracking tiller. That’s where I found the fender and put it in a button while our boson figured where the lines had gone afoul.

Lost? Me too. Nonsense words indeed!

Thus today I started to wonder if “swearing like a sailor” is less about the crassness of the content and more about its utter unintelligibility. But one of these days, perhaps if I stay the course, I’ll know all the ropes yet.



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