Article: Jackspeak (3rd Edition 2011) by Surgeon Captain Rick Jolly, OBE, Orden de Majo, RN


War Hero
Book Reviewer
Now for some nit-picking detail - even Rick Jolly occasionally misses stays (but see Kipling, above, and of course “@Different ships, different long splices“):

(@ = item not listed in Jackspeak)
@Anson’s Balls: The globes atop the pillars of the gates to Portsmouth Dockyard, and the gates to the Royal Naval College at Greenwich were known as Anson’s Balls in recognition of that officer’s circumnavigation of the globe, 1740-4
Any Fool Can be Uncomfortable: Not just ‘(RM)’: I picked this up from an RN contemporary in General Service in 1961.
Barricoe: a barricoe was used to store the neat spirit for junior rates at Up Spirits at 1130 prior to its being mixed with water at the grog issue at 1150. The pint being that it was a cask of oval cross-section which therefore did not roll around the deck in a seaway.
Batch: Lieutenant Commanders were grouped in seniority batches for promotion and similarly Commanders
@Blowing Soot: A necessary process to clear the funnel uptakes in the days of steam, done with the permission of the OOW so that the wind could be put abeam beforehand (surely I don’t have to explain why). From this, mindless, boring or repetitive chattering.
Bolter: According to an officer quoted in Jean Hood’s ‘Carrier’, this term comes from that used for a bowl that goes clean through a set of ninepins without touching any of them
Booster: And from the same source, the catapult was originally called the ‘shooter’
Bracket: In the Bracket meant within the minimum and maximum ranges for attack by ahead-throwing anti-submarine weapon
Bravo Zulu: My recollection is that the actual ANSB (Allied Naval Signal Book) definition is ‘Manoeuvre well carried out’
@Bugle Calls (and see ‘G’ below: See (scroll to p.202 et seq. Most calls should ordinarily not require any qualifying pipe.
@Bullshit: I defer to anyone with O-level Latin! The motto of HM S/M Aurochs was ‘Excreta Tauri Sapientam Fulgeat’ but that actually means BS illuminates brains .. oh dear.
Bum boat: Sometimes said to be from the boats that ferried females out to ships in harbour
Bung Up and Bilge Free: In full, “bilge and cantline, bung up and bilge free”, the way to store casks as illustrated in the Seamanship Manual
@ Bus There, Bang Off, Bus Back: A recipe for a really cheap run ashore. A Chief GI on his Fifth Five (so no question of any exaggeration) told me one could have all the ingredients of a run ashore for sixpence in Hong Kong before the war.
Chamfered: Torpedoed. Also to chamfer up (polish) bright work.
Charlie Noble: Also the polished brass funnel on a steam pinnace
@Chocolate Signal: A signal of congratulations or thanks
@Chucking up party: Noisy, vocal supporters of a ship’s team or boat crew
Coalhole: I think the observer was awarded a window in the FAW2 version of the Sea Vixen.
Codswallop: I have difficulty with Mr Codd and think the term originally refers to the offal resulting from gutting fish.
Commander: Also a small metal mallet for knocking off the gripe slips of a seaboat
Corticene was originally light brown
Cowes Rig: aka Mountbatten Yachting Rig
Crossing the Bar: Tennyson
Cummerbund is a corruption of the Urdu Kamarband, introduced into English in 1616 (OED) and not a specifically naval word
Cutlass: The senior rating’s alternative to a sword, and still in use as such in 2011 at Ark Royal’s decommissioning parade in Guildhall Square, Portsmouth.
Daps - the spelling is Plimsolls! (Trade Mark Journal 1885 (OED))
Darts entered at 16 years from 1949.
@Dockyard Trout: A turd floating in the harbour
Dolphin Striker: Not a rope (what is referred to is a martingale, same thing on a horse) but the vertical spar protruding downwards from the bowsprit. Put like that you can see it makes sense.
Doolally is from Deolali(e), see 1936 F. Richards Old-Soldier Sahib iv. 74 “Time-expired men sent to Deolalie from their different units might have to wait for months before a troop-ship fetched them home. The well-known saying among soldiers when speaking of a man who does queer things, ‘Oh, he's got the Doo-lally tap,’ originated, I think, in the peculiar way men behaved owing to the boredom of that camp” (OED). An army word.
Drongo is originally Australian slang (see OED).
Farm: HMS Diamond collided with HMS Swiftsure in 1953. Swiftsure (senior officer): “What are you going to do now?” Diamond: “Buy a farm.” I think this is cited in Jack Broome’s Make a Signal.
Field Officer: Lieutenant commander/Major or above but below star rank. A Field Officer is entitled to a Present Arms rather than a simple butt salute from any armed sentry.
Figurehead: fortunately the fine collection of figureheads that wa son exhibition on board the Cutty Sark at Greenwich was out of the ship when she was gutted by that disastrous (and inexcusable) fire.
@G (as such) is missing. On the one hand it is the recognised initial for a Gunnery Officer and it is also the note sounded on the bugle by the drummer preceding the Captain on Rounds, and also the call to order ‘Out boats, booms and ladders’ when the anchor is let go or the picking up rope is
brought to the capstan’
Gas and Gaiters: referred to the Gunnery school at Whale island which originally had responsibility for anti-gas training, and where respirators were worn every Thursday; the staff officers wore black gaiters (liquorice leggings, q.v.). So, Gas and Gaiters.
Gasoline gig is an Americanism, as is SNAFU.
@Gharry: Horse-drawn Maltese taxi. So also Gharry Horse, typically malnourished and worn out; and that by extension an ugly female.
Gin Pendant: The pendant used is actually the starboard pendant (ANSB)
Goffa was the brand name of a soft drink sold by NAAFI, but whether this came before or after it denoted a dose of seawater coming green over the bridge baffles and down the neck of your oilskin is one of those chicken and egg questions.
Gravel belly: used of any really keen, Bisley wannabe rifle shot.
Green Rub: if your bright work station was exposed to the sea air and therefore was always heavily tarnished, you had a green rub. Hence any piece of hard luck or unfair treatment.
Grey Funnel Line: a pun on Red Funnel (the Southampton - Isle of Wight ferries) and Blue Funnel (a shipping line trading to the East Indies) lines (see Brown’s Flags and Funnels)
Grog Blossom: Primarily a nose swollen and reddened through a lifetime’s excess alcohol consumption
Groin Exchange: if this is included so also should be the @Rotten Apple, the Pomme d’Or nightclub in Southsea.
Grunt: Infantryman from the German for ground, hence grunt-cruncher, a tank (used by Leslie Thomas in one of his books). But yes, quite possibly of US origin via BAOR.
Grunter: Indeed a Lower Deck word for an officer, from Pig , but the referback is missing.
Guard and Steerage: relates to passengers and others in the after guard not having to turn out when hands were called, the after guard being actually those who berthed abaft the RM guard, i.e. in the Officer‘s section the ship.
Guppy: Named for the eponymous fish. Also a class of US submarine, and a strangely shaped cargo aircraft used for moving aerospace components.
Half Mast: used derogatively for a slack necktie- “Got your tie at half-mast I see?”.
Handcarted: From the handcart used in dockyards for moving small quantities of heavy stores.
High-charged, it was easily overturned and smashed, particularly if Jack was racing with it.
Hard tack: Ships’ biscuits were our turn-out fare at Dartmouth in 1955 and while Whaley was still a Gunnery school were routinely put out on the wardroom bar as a nibble.
Heads Up: Originally from ATP something, Operational Brevity Codes: call from the CAP that a bogey has got past the CAP and will have to be taken by guns (or, I suppose nowadays, missiles). This ATP, whose contents probably stem from the Pacific War, is a rich fund of words now also used metaphorically.
Holdfast: The original, an anchor holdfast, is described in the Seamanship Manual
Holidays: Not to be permitted when hanging dhobeying to dry
Holystone: Six days shalt thou labour and do all that thou art able - the seventh shalt thou holystone the deck and scrub the cable.
Horse: A matelot was saying goodbye to ’is ’orse: goodbye ’orse; goodbye ’orse; and as ‘e was saying goodbye to ’is ’orse, ‘e was saying goodbye to ’is ’orse: goodbye ’orse; goodbye ’orse; ’e was saying goodbye to ’is ’orse … and so on ad infinitum
Hot Run: Sidon was not sunk by a hot run but by the explosion of the High-Test Peroxide (HTP) propellant in a @Fancy Fish
Jaunty: I have always understood the derivation to be from gendarme
Joe: Then OCRM in a big ship was always the Major (even when he was a captain) or The Soldier, famous for having nothing to do and forty bullocks to do it for him. His No.2 was the Young Joe from J.O., Junior Officer.
In/on a Ship: The stricture is correct, and observed with care by Officers, but Jack always says
‘On’ a ship so that is genuine naval slang.
Jumbo: The original was the London Zoo’s African elephant 1865-1885, see Wiki etc.
Jumper: The seaman’s jumper was (is) his top as worn in square rig, over a flannel in summer or a jersey in winter. No.3s negative Jumpers = Half Blues, and a smart and sailor-like rig too before sailors were dressed as traffic wardens.
Jungle Bunny: Originally ladies in Mombasa who gave comfort to Jack in breaks from his arduous duties on the infamous Beira Patrol.
Jury Rig: From Jewry Rig (perhaps)
Kipper: Also the RAN term for RN person. Certainly goes back to the 50s, maybe beyond
Klaxon: Also a standard issue for ships’ power boats
Knocker: Also a nickname for the surname Grace
Lead On, McDick: From ‘Lead On Macduff’, a popular misquotation of ‘Lay on, Macduff’, from Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 8
@Lay Aft: the traditional order for a junior rate to report to the OOW. Senior rates are ‘required on the quartedeck’, Officers are ‘requested to come to the Quarterdeck‘.
Lecky: Also Merchant Navy word
Lie To: Should be ‘Light To’, see Seamanship Manual vol.1, hoisting and lowering seaboats
Lifelines: See also Seamanship Manual vol.1 as above. The midship lifelines from the davit head jackstay are there for the midship hands to clear the boat before hoisting.
Lobsters: Also the entire British Army standfast Riflemen
Logged: 1. The pages of the log are glued together after the logging. 2. C-in-C’s displeasure is by no means the pinnacle - that is incurring Their Lordships’ Severe Displeasure. Somewhere in between is an Admiralty Warning - I knew of an FAA pilot who had several of these framed in his cabin, incurred for ‘calling the wire’.
Lovats: from: Lord ‘Shimi’ Lovat the founding CO of the first (Army) Commando
@Malta Fever: Brucellosis caused by infected goats’ milk. The goats were driven through the streets of Malta and milked on the hoof. I’m surprised a sawbones missed this one! My great uncle Neville Martyn, midshipman of HMS Inflexible, fatally succumbed to this in 1895.
Manky: From Fr. Manqué
Master at Arms: The only rating to wear a sword; unlike an officer’s sword his has a black gripe.
Mate of the Upper: is NOT a boatswain but an Officer responsible to the XO for, with the assistance of the Buffer, keeping the appearance of the upper deck a model of shimmering perfection.
@Mustering the deckhead rivets: Sleeping
Not Me Chief: from “Not me Chief, I’m Radar”, the cry of men brought in from the Admiralty Scientific Service to keep the original, and fairly flaky radar sets going. Although put in a blue suit they had no training in any other sort of ship’s duties. One of these survived the Bismarck Chase to become Director of the Admiralty Surface Warfare Establishment.
No Treating Rule: Intended to prevent the buying of rounds, as well as making individual Officers’ personal consumption properly visible in the wine accounts.
One Armed Paper Hanger: Not sure what this is doing here, there’s not much wallpaper in an HM ship. Another goat.
Paravane: In minesweeping, overtaken by the otter, an adaptation of the otter board used by trawlers to splay the net. The principal use was to be streamed each side of the bow of a capital ship to fend off mines (see seamanship manual vol,2).
@PIM: Position and Intended Movement. Something to enquire of a bridegroom at midn ight on his wedding night if he is fool enough to leave the telephone on.
@Pink Ticket: Permission from wife to enjoy oneself.
Puck: It’s not a cringle, it’s a grommet.
Pusher: Also the Walrus aircraft (Shagbat) which had a pusher propellor
Pusser’s Brown: The squares of rough brown paper that preceded proper lavatory paper in naval use
Pusser’s Grey: Also, by extension, any RN ship
Queen’s Bad Bargain: For me, that is actually a Queen’s hard bargain. Let the debate rage.
Reeve: Not to attach a rope to anything but to route it through tackles and deadeyes and so forth
@Scorp: A Gibraltarian
Seaman’s Eye: Also the ability instantly to see anything out of place, such as the pin of a guardrail slip hanging judas
Senior: The second senior engineer Officer even if there are no more below him. (So used HMS Euryalus 1968)
@Shag: Untidy or laid back. Features in Charles Gidley (Wheeler)’s ‘The Raging of the Sea’ (1984 but relating to the ‘60s)
Shellback: From the home-made stiff, tarred tarpaulin foul weather coat that preceded the oilskin in the days of sail
Shipping it Green: Over the bridge and down the funnel!
Skipper: From the Dutch. In ordinary use right across the Lower Deck but never by officers, for whom Father or The Old Man are used for the Captain (out of earshot). Owner (q.v.) is Merchant Navy usage.
Sloshy: Should be Slushie, which links it to Slush, as defined
@Snowball hitch: A hitch that can easily be slipped, for instance one covertly used on one’s oppo’s hammock
Soldier: OCRM, as above; @as a verb, to be absolutely useless on board ship.
Spiking a Gun: Ramming a spike down the vent of a cannon so that it is rendered useless
Squawk: What’s more important is that IFF Identifies Friend from Foe (except in the case of an unfortunate airliner approaching an American ship on the same bearing as a military IFF signal)
Squeegee: A broom handle terminating in a wooden board with an inset rubber blade
Stanchion: A vertical steel pillar
Starbolins: R H Dana has Starbowlines
@Straddle Rise: Bradell Rise, where the Foreign Office had a hen-house of well-brought up (and therefore security cleared) gels who were very helpful to lonely Officers.
Tampion: Should be tompion, which ius technically the plug which seals the muzzle of a gun when not in use, rather than the badge which may be on a separate fitting. So spelt a tompion is thus distanced from tampon which is also not spelt tampion, and which seals into a quite different aperture.
Tanky: originally the Master’s sidekick whose job it was to check the fresh water tanks which were the Master’s responsibility, the word also covers, for in stance, the Coxswain’s gofer in a minesweeper.
Tiddy Oggy: Tiddy is allegedly from the Cornish for potato
Tiger: Specifically the Captain’s personal steward (also MN usage). Also Singapore’s Tiger beer, sometimes served as Tiger Tops with lime juice added.
Tingel: Slap a TINGLE on it: Spelling! See Seamanship Manual.
Torps: The actual progression was from L (Electrical) 1946 to Weapons and Radio (WR) in 1963 to Weapons Electrical (WE) (1966)
Toss: Toss-bombing (two forms, the long toss where the aircraft continues towards the target, and the Idiot’s Loop, where the aircraft goes into a loop and releases the bomb as it approaches the vertical, allowing a roll off the top and a getaway with tail towards the flash) developed for chucking instant sunshine at the enemy in the FAA’s glory days when it was the Royal Navy’s Sunday punch
Tot: Note that only senior rates’ rum wa sissued (neat) at Up Spirits, juniors’ was mixed to grog and issued to leading hands of messes at grog call at 1150.
Transmit: The point of this is that the OOW would not give permission for a man to go aloft iuntil the Safe to Transmit and Safe to Rotate keys were in place on a special board in the OOW’s keeping.
@Trog: A lower-class type of Officer (at least I think that‘s what Charles Gidley (Wheeler) has in mind in ‘The Raging of the Sea’ (1984 but relating to the ‘60s)
Turn in the Barrel: This used to be featured in the Goon Show (Eccles, plaintively: “It’s not my turn in the barrel!”) and as the Goons comprised three Pongoes and one Crab, may not be naval after all.
Two, Six, Heavee! Two and six were the numbers of the run-out tackles of a gun. So, at the order, “Run out the gun” the Captain of the Gun gives the order “Two, Six, Heavee!”
Upper Deck: Specifically, the uppermost continuous deck wholly or partly exposed to the weather
@Warmer: The first round fired from a naval gun in surface fire, which is disregarded for spotting purposes
Yarpie: sp. Jaapie, a common Afrikaans diminutive forename
Yonks: Not naval, it’s Cockney rhyming slang (Years -> Donkeys’ ears -> Donks -> Yonks)

Assumes NBCD State 1, Condition X-Ray.


War Hero
Review Editor
Book Reviewer
I know that in the land of Percy Pongo there are many slang words, acronyms and abbreviations, which make life difficult for strwberry mivvies, but this book and review only go to show that Jack does not even speak the Queen's English.

Are language proficiency certificates issued when young Jack has mastered his new language?

Great review, great fun and a wonderful list of additionals. Cheers Seaweed.


War Hero
Book Reviewer
It's our private, watery world and it has always been like that. Some of these things go back a very long way. Early in the nineteenth century (see his 'Recollections') James Anthony Gardner recalled girls on Gosport beach singing 'My Little Rolling Sailor'. The same tune is used for the 1960s 'Me no likee Blitish sailor, Yankee sailor come ashore'. The same bends and hitches I was taught in training have been recovered from the Mary Rose.

It does also make the RN pretty well walt-proof!
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