I’ve been reading C.S. Forester’s Hornblower novels, and can recommend them to you in the strongest possible terms.  Very exciting and fun to read.   One of the things that makes them fun is the frequent use of nautical terms that are now part of our everyday talk.  Some of them are kind of obvious, if you think about it, like “groggy” (too much grog).  But others, like “get your bearings” or “over-reaching”, are less so.  I’ve been checking this glossary of nautical terms frequently, so that I’ll have a better idea what he’s describing when Hornblower is engaged in a battle at sea, which happens nearly continuously in these books.  I was already checked out on port, starboard, bow and stern, but for “hove to” and “hull down” I was just guessing at the meaning.  The glossary was also helpful to me in that it clarified that the phrases “let the cat out of the bag” and “not enough room to swing a cat” referred to the “cat o’ nine tails”, the thing they used to flog guys who broke one rule or another aboard ship, and apparently was kept in a bag.  I never liked the idea of a cat being in a bag, or being swung around if space for that were available.

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