Running around Belfast’s Titanic Quarter is always an education and yesterday was no exception where I stopped at my halfway point to learn about ‘JackSpeak,’ a series of nautical slang words which sailors of old would use. I thought I’d share a few with you and see if you could work out the meaning. No cheating though, Google is banned. Let’s see what you can come up with. Ready, steady….go!

Published by Fractured Faith Blog

We are Stephen and Fionnuala and this is our story. We live in Northern Ireland, have been married for 17 years and have three kids - Adam, Hannah and Rebecca. We hope that our story will inspire and encourage others. We have walked a rocky road yet here we are today, together and stronger than ever. We are far from perfect and our faith has been battered and bruised. But an untested faith is a pointless faith. Just as a fractured faith is better than none at all. We hope you enjoy the blog.

40 thoughts on “JackSpeak

  1. I heard all of those phrases growing up, except for “panic stations.” Never knew they came from Jackspeak. I’m assuming “Loose Canon” originally meant a canon on the ship that was loose. “Cut and run” probably had something to do with cutting a rope and getting out of the way fast. Not sure what they meant by “Shake a leg.” Of course that means “hurry up” now. Maybe it had something to do with a wooden peg leg. 🙂 “Panic stations” must be like the muster stations drill on cruise ships. “High and dry” is probably something they said if their ship was stuck on dry ground. I’ve never been a sailor, but those are my best guesses. God bless!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Fun. Some of them I know (my dad’s both a sailor and a font of trivia-based info, a tendency I share). The origin of “panic stations” and oddly “shake a leg” are a mystery. I know what the latter means, I just have no idea how it connects to boats. Great post.


  3. Son of a Gun is another good one. Comes from small children being employed to run powder for the guns. I’ve always been fond of warming the bell too, which is when you are waiting to leave or end the day by hanging around the door. Sailors use to warm the little stem of glass between the two bulbs on an hour glass to make the grains move faster and speed up the end of their watch. Thanks for sharing these.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes, fun. I always thought ‘loose cannon’ referred to a volatile person with explosive temper. I’ve used these phrases myself but as to the origins…tempted to Google!


  5. I’ve heard all of these phrases, but didn’t know they came from sailors. ‘Loose cannon’, I’m guessing it came from the fact that if a cannon gets loose on a boot it could roll around all over the place, depending on the sea conditions, and could cause all sorts of problems.
    ‘Cut and run’, possibly from when a ship needed to leave in a hurry they would cut the anchor line or the lines attaching it to a wharf.
    ‘Shake a leg’, I have no idea for this one!
    ‘Panic stations’, could that be the stations that the sailors were to assume if either a terrible storm was coming or maybe a threat from another ship (pirates for example)?
    ‘High and dry’, when a ship gets beached?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for this, it was fun! I’m with jenniwadeeditingproofreading I knew Loose cannon, cut and run, hight and dry and panic stations…. But shake a leg? I definitely will be googling THAT one….My dad used to say it to me All The Time (even when I became a grown-up)


  7. Its strange how these well known phrases and cliches develop over the centuries within their own little sub cultures. Like language dialects in more remote regions in Europe or Africa. One neighbour can barely understand the other. Lol. Human cultures are amazing! Keep up the good work


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