As The Saying Goes

I am now into my thirteenth year of editing the bi-annual magazine of a sailing association that we belong to. When compiling the magazine there are often little pockets of space, usually at the bottom of a page, where it doesn’t seem sensible to start a new article when it would look better beginning on the following page. This means that I have to find ‘fillers’ for these spaces.

From the first issue that I produced I began a series of ‘fillers’ which I called “As The Saying Goes”. For this series I take a well-known phrase that has its roots in the glory days of sail and explain how the saying came into being and what it means. I try to find those phrases that are less obviously nautical and that I think will be of interest to the members. Another advantage of this series is that some sayings need longer explanations than others so I can pick and choose appropriate ones to fill the space available.

Having just completed and sent out our Spring/Summer issue for this year I thought it might be of interest to post here the saying that appears in the current issue:

“By and Large”

The expression ‘by and large’ is used in common parlance today to mean on the whole, generally speaking, all things considered, but it is yet another expression of nautical origin. To understand this we need to understand what is meant by the nautical terms ‘by’ and ‘large’.

A ship is said to be sailing ‘large’ when the wind is blowing from a compass point somewhere behind the direction of travel, either directly behind or on the stern quarter. Conversely to sail ‘by’, or ‘by the wind’, means to be sailing as close-hauled as possible into the direction of the wind. To ‘sail by and large’ required the ship to sail not only downwind but also against the wind. The 19th Century windjammers like the Cutty Sark were able to maintain progress ‘by and large’ even in bad wind conditions by the use of aerodynamic triangular sails and large crews of able seamen.

So there you have it!


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. julespaige
    May 09, 2016 @ 11:02:22

    Like finding out the single meanings of words… fascinating. I am sure there are many sayings from other arenas that are just as fun. I really like this – thanks.


  2. Soul Gifts
    May 09, 2016 @ 11:38:27

    Fascinating! thank you for sharing. Sailing and boating stuff interests me. My family build a ferrocement yacht in our backyard – here’s the story


    • Libby
      May 09, 2016 @ 14:14:18

      Wow! Hubby and I both very interested and impressed. Ours is only 33ft. We are planning on taking it through the French canals this year. Will try to post a picture sometime. 🙂


      • Soul Gifts
        May 10, 2016 @ 00:46:53

        Would love to see it. If you look for Finnally in the Categories on my blog there’s other stories and pictures there too.

    • Libby
      May 11, 2016 @ 09:38:08

      I will probably post something about our trip through the canals and include picture/s then. Will look up your other Finnally posts when I have a moment or two.


      • Soul Gifts
        May 11, 2016 @ 11:19:33

        Looking forward to reading about your trip. Unfortunately for me, I get really seasick, so don’t go sailing 😦

      • Libby
        May 12, 2016 @ 09:18:43

        I suffer if it is really rough. These days we go sailing for fun and battling the elements isn’t fun any more. We pick our days carefully and stay in port if it looks likely to get bad. Sometimes we get caught out but we cope! Should be OK on the canals (after we have crossed the English Channel). 🙂

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