|HMS Victory in 2008. |
Photo by Andrea Byrnes
First-rate, second-rate and third-rate
Today if we call something first rate we mean that it is at the top of its class, something really rather special, whereas something third rate is really rather poor. Originally, these were terms associated with different types of Royal Navy ships of the line that were built in the 16th century at the Deptford Royal Docks, Rotherhithe and elsewhere in Britain. First-rate ships, which had three decks and around 100 canons, were almost prohibitively expensive to build and maintain, and only a few were in service at any one time. The HMS Victory, which in preserved in Portsmouth, is the only surviving First-rate ship of the line. First-rate ships were only built at the Royal docks but third-rate ships could be built at lesser shipyards, including some of those around Rotherhithe. Each class of ship had its own benefits and a third-rate was not considered to be inferior to a first-rate, so the modern usage of the term has altered the original sense of the rating system.
Nick name given to grain porters in the docks and convicts in the early 1900s. They wrapped the sacking rags around feet and legs to protect themselves against the sharp grain residues. It has passed into the modern vernacular as a somewhat insulting term applied to individuals who are considered to be generally useless or unpleasant.
|Free Trade Wharf. Photograph by Adrian Pingston|
Money for old rope
Rope which had deteriorated to the point where it could no longer be used as rope was sold to prisons and workhouses where it was dismantled into its original fibres. This product was known as "oakum" and was used to seal the gaps in ship decks. The payment for the redundant rope became known as "money for old rope".
Flotsam and Jetsam
Two separate terms for things that were found floating on the sea or river surface in the 16th and 17th Centuries. Today, the words are used together to indicate that something (or someone) is worthless. In the past, flotsam referred to items that were released by the action of the sea itself or were accidentally released into the water (like the remains of a sunken ship), and jetsam referred to items that were deliberately thrown overboard from ships.