Sunday, January 27, 2013


There is an absolutely brilliant piece by George Carlin on euphemisms.  A don't-miss performance which really skewers the subject.

(While it is easy, and appropriate, to make fun of political correctness excesses, I recognise that the general notion has it merits and can be quite beneficial in the right context.)

Anyhow, after watching the video, I started thinking - are there any euphemisms in our noble sport?  Are there any sailing terms that have evolved from straightforward words or expressions into mushy, anodyne, soporific, mealy-mouthed drivel?

I am not referring to nautical jargon.  Although it is not really necessary - what do we gain by saying starboard and port instead of right and left -  it is charming and a link to the past and I would not wish to change it.

But, I am having a hard time thinking of any euphemisms in sailing.  The only one that comes to mind is PFD - Personal Flotation Device.  What's wrong with life jacket or even life vest? Nothing apparently in the eyes of the US Coastguard or RLNI, both of whose websites refer to life jackets.  But the Racing Rules of Sailing use personal flotation devices.

Are there any other sailing euphemisms ?


  1. Barber hauler
    Topping lift
    Magic box
    Hiking stick
    Laundry basket

  2. As a sailor of small dinghies I have always felt that the descriptions in the Beaufort scale are euphemisms.

    Ilm sorry, but 7-10 knots is not a "gentle breeze". In a Laser that wind strength could be described as fun, speedy, great, nice - but not "gentle".

    And 11-16 knots is not "moderate". It's exciting, fast, woo-hoo!, champagne sailing, "what I retired for", etc. etc. etc. Nothing boring and moderate about it.

    And 17-21 knots is not "fresh". It's "hike your guts out", "screaming planing reaches" weather. Eggs can be fresh. Girls can be fresh. 17-21 knots is not fresh.

    And I'm sorry but 22-27 knots is not a strong "breeze". A breeze is something that wafts over your body on a warm sunny day. 22-27 knots is a freaking strong wind.

    1. Excellent.

      Of course the Beaufort Scale equivalent wind is measured at 10 meters above the water - Admiral Beaufort was clearly not concerned with those whose butts are skimming the waves.

    2. Oh, I didn't know it was measured 10m above the water. But I do suppose that the descriptions are based on the perceptions of a 19th century naval officer on a man of war, not a sexagenarian Laser sailor.

  3. quit playing with your dinghy.

  4. I think 'autopilot' is a euphemism.

    Anyone who's owned one of the damned things for more than six months will tell you there's nothing 'auto' about them.

  5. I think "sailing" is a euphemism when applied to any boat with an engine.

  6. The scoring alphabet soup appears to be our greatest collection of euphemisms. OCS, DNF etc. etc. etc.

  7. "Racing" is a euphemism when applied to all the one boat races in this year's Louis Vuitton Cup.


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