The Good Old Days at Sea.
Son of a Gun: During the Napoleonic Wars, the Royal Navy pressed sailors. In essence, they grabbed sailors off merchant ships, or in ports, and forced them into service on warships. Because desertion was such a problem, they rarely granted shore leave. So a ship might be out for months or more between home port visits, and you couldn't go ashore when you got back. In port, "wives" were allowed on board. Most of the "wives' were actually Ladies of the Night, but some were legitimately married women. Consequently it happened that women had their babies aboard ship from time to time. Women had their children on the lower deck, where the crew lived and the guns were mounted. To help in a difficult delivery, the ship would sometimes fire off a blank round from a cannon. A male child born in these circumstances was forever more known as a "son of a gun."
Going the whole hog: Warships of the day carried live animals as food sources. Chickens, pigs, sheep and even cattle were sometimes brought aboard by the officers. It was customary for a popular , well respected Captain to occasionally be invited to dine with the ship's officers on Sunday after quarters for the evening meal. The officers mess was called "the gun room", and had it's own cook. Usually, when an animal was slaughtered, some of the fresh meat was eaten by the gun room but some choice pieces were preserved in brine for other meals. However, when the Captain was a guest in the mess, the entire animal was served up in different dishes. This was known as "going the whole hog." Today it means the same thing as "going for broke", doing something all the way without reservation.
Toe the Line: During this period, Sundays were always utilized for the Captain's inspection of the ship. All hands were assembled by divisions on the main deck, and the Captain would read the Articles of War. Then, if he was so inclined, he would read from the bible. Then he inspected the divisions. The Royal Marines were always perfectly aligned, but the sailors , more free spirited, were given an aid to forming their straight lines. A line was chalked on the deck for each division, and the men in the first rank were required to put their toes on it. So, when you tell someone to "toe the line" it refers back to that.
Up to scratch: Bare knuckle fights were popular in the Royal Navy of the day, Ships champions contended for the honor of being the best fighter in a squadron, on up to champion of the fleet. Two men fought until one was thrown or knocked down. That constituted a "round." The fight continued until one of the men was unable to stand up and walk back to a line drawn across the ring, called "the scratch." So a person who is not "up to scratch" is a loser.
The phrase " dog don't bite bitch" was an admonition against doing violence to women . It was considered "low" and "common" for a male to hit a female or physically harm her in any way. This was a firm rule on the lower deck (among the sailors) and breaking the taboo could have fatal consequences.
"Tell it to the Marines" there are all sorts of stories about the origination of this phrase, but it was in use in the Royal Navy at least as early as the American Revolution. Marines were said to be credulous and the easy prey of sailor's practical jokes. If someone wished to express disbelief or incredulity , they would say to the speaker "tell it to the Marines."
"Giving a boost" was an expression for pushing an unpopular individual overboard. If Joe the Ragman made himself unpopular, by thieving or "peaching" on his shipmates, he might well turn up missing at morning muster. Then it would be said that "someone gave Joe a boost."
Bully: When a Royal Navy vessel needed more sailors, they would send a "press gang" ashore. This consisted of the biggest, strongest sailors from the ship, under the command of a Bosun, and usually a Lieutenant or Midshipman. Men chosen for this duty were called "bully boys" because they could intimidate their victims and get them back to the ship without undue violence.
Scuttlebutt: Even today, in the U.S. Navy and the Marines, "scuttlebutt" means rumors. Usually to do with movements, exercises, or events within the unit. The word comes from wooden stands that held buckets or small kegs , known as scuttlebutts, on the old sailing ships. Men were allowed to drink from the scuttlebutt, and they would naturally congregate on hot days. While they were waiting their turn they would exchange rumors and gossip.
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