Do Aubrey & Maturin affect how you speak?

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Do Aubrey & Maturin affect how you speak?

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març 1, 2007, 6:34 am

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març 2, 2007, 5:47 pm

I've occasionally found myself wishing someone the joy of their victory/success. I've also referred to something being "the lesser of two weevils." (The second one's easier to get away with without drawing a curious glance.)

març 2, 2007, 10:23 pm

Of course! "Wittles is up" is now the standard "come and get it" phrase in our house.

Wishing someone joy is such a great phrase -- I wish it were still current today.

març 5, 2007, 11:49 am

My boss started referring to meeting times etc . as "at 2 bells" meaning 2 O'Clock, after a couple of times I just had to correct him!

I used the term "wipe their eye for them" once and had to explain myself.

març 5, 2007, 12:38 pm

I once used the expression "Are you equal to the task?" in a forum, but since I am in Germany I rarely get the opportunity to slip in Aubreyanisms into my conversations.
Oh, and "wishing someone joy of something" is now my standard congratulatory phrase (mostly written, rarely spoken).

març 6, 2007, 7:33 am

"Can I trouble you for the salt sir?" comes in handy

març 6, 2007, 1:28 pm

I introduced a friend to the Aubrey-Maturin novels years ago, and she's become fond of offering me Aubrey's quotation of Nelson's advice: "Never mind manoeuvres, just go straight at 'em." And we both tend to use the phrase "all ahoo."

maig 23, 2007, 6:42 am

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maig 26, 2007, 9:24 am

I had already used 'dear' before I started reading the books, but it's become more pronounced than before. Of course, anything which goes wrong has now become 'debauched' or 'by the lee'. I should use 'wish you joy!' more often. My most frequent phase may be 'to be sure'.

And, whenever any of the cadre of us who've read the books makes a bad pun, we always say that Jack would be proud.

maig 26, 2007, 10:01 am

Time out of mind:

You got me interested in the origin of "time out of mind," since I've read only one of the Aubrey & Maturin books, but have known the phrase for as long as I can remember. Searching on the web, I found that the phrase was recorded in the British Parliament Rolls in 1432.

It is almost identical in meaning to another phrase “from time immemorial.” . . . By the time Edmund Burke was writing, in 1782, the phrase had pretty well become a cliché.

juny 8, 2007, 2:33 am

I dearly would love to raise my glass at dinner and say, "A glass of wine with you, sir." But I have the feeling only men got to say that - I don't remember a woman character doing it. And also, as with perodicticus' in >1 perodicticus:, "The bottle stands by you, sir."

The other day I caught myself thinking "that's the sorrow and the pity of it" which I remember Brigid Maturin saying at one point. Having quite a bit of Boston Irish blood, I'm very receptive to Stephen's expressions and speech patterns. They sound very familiar to me, even with with my grandmother and greataunts dead for a good 30 years (God rest their souls!).

juny 8, 2007, 2:34 pm

I just caught myself, a few days back, using the expression "I'll be with you presently." I don't think that this is contemporary English, or is it...?

juny 8, 2007, 2:46 pm


Maybe in England?

After a dose of Shakespeare, I want to say "I come anon." :-)

14newyorkmichele Primer missatge
juny 8, 2007, 5:55 pm

I have actually said "The bottle is by you, sir." And inwardly, my oaths have become a bit more colorful.

Editat: juny 9, 2007, 12:43 am

Which I would never let any mere reptile of an author debauch the way I speak. Never in life. Let whoever said otherwise be struck down with the marthambles.

There, that should wipe their eyes.

juny 9, 2007, 2:25 am

>12 GirlFromIpanema: "Presently" meaning "soon, in a moment" survives in Boston - my mother often says it, and I use it myself, despite 15 years absence from New England.

juny 13, 2007, 11:33 pm

re: #15

You are to be commended, sir, at making such a strong, nay, bold statement. I am certain you are not to be trifled with, by any means.

Editat: juny 20, 2007, 9:09 am

I would have said no except the other day I found myself asking someone if she was "bespoke" when asking fo a meeting.

juny 19, 2007, 2:44 am

> 18 And how did that suit her?

juny 20, 2007, 9:16 am

> 19 She didn't miss a beat. The lady in question happened to have been born in Ireland and seemed to know exactly what I meant. My fear was that she thought I was making fun of her. Does anyone know if "bespoke" is still used in Ireland?

juny 20, 2007, 11:35 am

>Does anyone know if "bespoke" is still used in Ireland?

If you Google with "bespoke" you get thousands of hits for software, tailoring, etc., (bespoke = "made to the client's individual specification") but I didn't see any in the first hundred or so using "bespoke" in the O'Brian sense of "spoken for".

juny 20, 2007, 12:06 pm

I'm Irish and I'm sorry to say I've never heard it used in the O'Brian sense. Other O'Brian-isms, such as his use of the word 'faith" at the end of a sentence, are still in use but in decline. "Faith and Begorrah" - shorthand for outmoded stage-irishry, frowned upon in the new, forward-looking Hibernia.

juny 20, 2007, 6:37 pm

RE: bespoke. Could it just be an archaic use that O'Brian (God rest his soul!) employed? Anyone have the unabridged OED handy?

Editat: juny 21, 2007, 2:27 pm

I just looked it up on Wiktionary and finally arrived at a definition of: to be engaged, as to be married. Considering the lady in question also happened to be a Nun, I might have some explaining to do. (yikes)

Resolved: From now on the only author whose prose I will incorporate into my own speech will be David Mamet.

juny 21, 2007, 3:12 pm

>24 kjrjr7811:

I think you're reading it a bit too narrowly. I'd say "engaged" in the more general sense that you have made a promise to do something for someone: it could mean engaged to be married, but it could also mean that you have an arrangement to meet someone, or they have reserved a dance with you, or whatever.

The Shorter OED has examples up to the early 20th century of things like bespeaking a taxi.

"Bespoke" in the modern business sense apparently originates in the mid-18th century, and has obviously killed off more general use of the verb. In Aubrey's time both uses would have been current.

(This is interesting -- I'll have a look in the full OED if I get time at work.)

Editat: juny 21, 2007, 4:22 pm

>25 thorold:

Indeed it could, but the "as in to be married" came from wiktionary. Its not my inference. Of course, no one would hold wiktionary up as the final word on anything. I hope you are right.

When I was in graduate school, my History of the English Language Prof passed arround a book club ad that had a 2 volume copy of the OED for something like 30 bucks. He suggested we should all buy it. I thought 30 bucks! No way, I don't have that kind of money. I could kick myself for not buying it then.

juny 21, 2007, 11:27 pm

> 25 Well when you're a grad student and your income is nickels and dimes, 30 bucks is a lot of nickels.

The OED online subscription is $295 for an annual or $29.95 per month. I think to buy the CDs or the print version is about a thousand. But I crave those 20 volumes sitting on their very own bookshelf. I did spring $1500 for a leatherbound Ency. Brit. some 15 years ago (the better part of an annual bonus) and have never regretted it, but for some reason I just can't bring myself to fork over for the OED, despite my improved finances.

On a more O'Brianish note, I have a reprint of an 1811 dictionary of British slang, should we need to press it into service. (Don't you love how navy idioms have survived in our vernacular?)

juny 22, 2007, 2:18 am

"God between us and evil!"

juny 22, 2007, 2:54 am

OK, bespeak (v.), sense 5 from the OED -- I think what we're talking about is the obsolete sense 5c:

5. To speak for; to arrange for, engage beforehand; to ‘order’ (goods).

1583 STANYHURST Aeneis II. (Arb.) 68 Theare doe lye great kingdooms..bespoken For the. 1602 Return fr. Parnass. III. v. (Arb.) 46 A lodging bespoken for Newgate. 1688 in Ellis Orig. Lett. II. 367. IV. 143 The six thousand pair of Shoes which he bispoke at Exeter. 1709 STEELE Tatler No. 16 2 She bespoke the Play of Alexander the Great, to be acted by the Company of Strollers. 1712 ARBUTHNOT John Bull (1755) 2 His tradesmen..waited upon him to ..bespeak his custom. 1793 SMEATON Edystone L. §255 A new set of chains was bespoke. 1839 DE QUINCEY Murder Wks. IV. 43 You may have..bespoken a murder.

b. To stipulate or ask for (a favour or the like).

1677 Quest. conc. Oath of Alleg. 11, I must humbly bespeak your pardon. 1786 T. JEFFERSON Writ. (1859) II. 69, I bespeak, beforehand, a right to indulge my natural incredulity. 1818 COBBETT Pol. Reg. XXXIII. 54 With the view..of bespeaking a friendly reception for himself. 1846 GROTE Greece II. xxiv. 572 Whose patience I have to bespeak.

c. To request or engage (a person) to do (something). Obs.

1590 SHAKES. Com. Err. V. i. 233 Then fairely I bespoke the Officer To go in person with me to my house. 1667 PEPYS Diary (1877) V. 35 Who I feared did come to bespeak me to be Godfather to his son. 1670 WALTON Lives IV. 293, I must..bespeak the Reader to prepare for an almost incredible story. 1764 SMELLIE Midwif. III. 80, I was attend a woman in her first child.

juny 22, 2007, 8:55 am

> 29 My God! I love this forum!

juny 22, 2007, 4:25 pm

I'm Irish. I while I would use the term "bespoke" to refer to a tailored suit, I can think of two friends of mine (admittedly men in their 80s) who have used "bespoke" to refer to my engagement to their grand-niece/daughter.

juny 23, 2007, 6:10 am

Aquest missatge ha estat suprimit pel seu autor.

juny 24, 2007, 6:51 am

That they are.

juny 25, 2007, 1:36 am

Slightly off thread, but ... as I about to iron a heavy white tablecloth tonight for a dinner party on Tuesday, I could think only of Sir Joseph Banks' housekeeper who prided herself on her tablecloths that never had a wrinkle or a fold in them when on the table. So I set the ironing board up next to the table so I could keep the cloth spread out on it as I worked. Nary a wrinkle or fold is harder to achieve than one would think.

With whom else could I share that moment? ;-)

jul. 1, 2007, 4:50 pm

Where is everyone?

What about "there's not a moment to lose!" which was the bane of Stephen's onboard existence?

Once or twice I've almost used the formula "Allow me to name ..." when making an introduction but chickened out. Back in the day "the quality" were a lot more persnickety about who was introduced to them.

36caroleriley Primer missatge
set. 9, 2007, 11:05 pm

I'm new here, so I hope no-one minds me resurrecting an old topic.

It is a while since I reread the books and I find that the expressions fade out over time, but the two that linger on are "there's not a moment to lose" and "Jesus, Mary and Joseph!"

I was passing a second-hand shop today and saw a faded clock with the words "Old pirates never die, they just drift away from the shore" but I know that drifting IN to the shore is far worse!

set. 10, 2007, 6:43 pm

>36 caroleriley: "Jesus, Mary and Joseph" is alive and well among Irish-Americans. It's my mother's favorite lead-in to a rant. As teens, friends would report parental wrath with "I got a JMJ." Whenever my (Missouri) husband tries to imitate my (Boston) mother he starts off with a JMJ. Of course, he never gets the accent right.

set. 22, 2007, 12:31 pm

Not yet, because I speak mostly German, except at University. But I'm about to move to England and we'll see about it then. I have to admit that I've been tempted to say "Will you answer for that?" more than once. And I'm almost sure that I will use the expressions "all ahoo" and "the creature" sooner or later. (I've also closed a letter to my English university with "I remain", but at least I resisted the temptation to add "your most obedient humble servant"!)

set. 22, 2007, 8:39 pm

I have called various miscreants "wicked dogs" or "miserable creatures" which I'm sure comes from Stephen.

> 38 Yes, I forgot about "all ahoo" which is MOST useful.

oct. 10, 2007, 11:10 pm

I think these things silently more than work them into daily conversation, except once in a while with some fellow Aubrey/Maturin fans.

"Question and answer is not a civilized form of conversation" I almost inserted, once.

41snowpea Primer missatge
Editat: oct. 17, 2007, 4:12 pm

Oh yes! I just had to join the group when I found this thread via google, whilst searching for a definition of "all ahoo" or just plain "ahoo". The OED does not even have it!

So obviously, "all ahoo" is used regularly in my household. I think I could get away with "allow me to name..." because I work in a rather formal academic environment, but I don't quite have the courage to do it. I've wished joy to people, but only verbally to my husband and fellow Aubrey-Maturin fan... never had the guts to say it out loud to others.

oct. 18, 2007, 1:39 pm

Last night I pointed out to my husband that he had pushed back the tablecloth and it was all ahoo. No A-M fan, he, but the meaning is unmistakable.

43Bookful Primer missatge
nov. 7, 2007, 5:49 am

I love "the creature" but more than what Stephen says, I love the things he doesn't.

nov. 17, 2007, 12:15 am

'All ahoo' and 'which it is' are staples of my speech now, simply because both expressions tickle me. My co-workers take it as a part of my admitted eccentricity. I also say 'the creature!' quite often and have most of my life because I heard my Co. Kerry-born grandmother use it so often growing up.

I don't recall off-hand which volume it was in, but there was a passage wherein Sophie and Diana (?) are described as going to their meal like 'a pair of ogresses' which sent me into gales of laughter and still inspires snuffles and snorts when I think of it.

It's my considered opinion that the reading and re-reading of Mr. O'Brian's wonder series has improved my conversation and writing at leas ten-fold; reading his elegantly crafted language is inspirational!

nov. 20, 2007, 10:23 am

The verb "to answer," in the sense "to do well for the purpose," is very useful, and has become part of my vocabulary. (I find it answers admirably.)

And I actually heard someone -- not, to my knowledge, an O'Brian fan -- use the "which it is" construction a couple of years ago, to my great delight. I thought it had died out!

nov. 20, 2007, 2:56 pm

As a non-native speaker I just could not find out: what does "all ahoo" really mean?

nov. 21, 2007, 1:10 am

All ahoo means to be in disarray, or in more casual modern English, to be a mess.

maig 23, 2008, 10:16 pm

"Letting the cat out of the bag" is something that I say, and other Americans say, without most of them knowing the meaning at all.

The cat is the whip for flogging a seaman, and the bag is a red bag in which it was kept prior to the flogging. Readers in this group don't need that explanation, of course.

I am annoyed when I see "Tow the line" in print, when the writer should know that it is "Toe the line."

maig 25, 2008, 6:27 am

I picked up A sea of words in a secondhand bookshop yesterday - obviously I've only dipped into it so far, but it looks like a useful resource for baffled first time readers. Not much use beyond that, though: it doesn't give much detail and, quite incredibly, it doesn't give sources for any of the individual definitions, so there's no way to establish which the compilers found in the OED or a Georgian nautical dictionary, and which they made up from the context. It doesn't even give references to places where PO'B uses the terms. It does have "bespoke" in it, but not "ahoo".

maig 25, 2008, 3:18 pm

> 49 Which edition do you have? The 3rd edition is current. I wasn't too disturbed by lack of sources, as long as I could get the gist of what was going on in the story. I believe, however, that the editors encourage suggestions for future entries.

There is also Harbors and High Seas, which is an imperfect guide to the geography of the series. I thought it was a bit light on maps, and could have been more inclusive and detailed, but 'twill serve. The 3rd (current) edition covers only through The Commodore. Buy it used.

maig 26, 2008, 1:44 am

Those who get excited about etymology rather doubt this explanation. Have a look at

It wouldn't be the first time that the Navy has been unfairly saddled with the origin of a phrase, eg "a square meal" doesn't refer to the shape of the plate.


Editat: maig 26, 2008, 1:06 pm

>50 stringcat3:

Ah - hadn't thought about that. Despite looking suspiciously unused, it seems to be the first (1995), so it also won't be likely to cover anything beyond The Commodore.

set. 22, 2008, 1:10 pm

Why, just the other day as I was helping my 91 year-old grandmother down the front porch steps to the waiting minivan, I coaxed her along with exhortations of "handsomely, now"; quite instinctively.

Without a doubt I never would have used such verbage before entering the world of POB.

gen. 13, 2009, 11:53 pm

I wish you all the joy of this evening, this discussion answers quite handsomely. When I lived on the coast, my closest friend was a short somewhat disshelved gent with his outfits all ahoo and wearing the latest meal about his shirt, when first I met Maturin in print I fell out with laughter, thank you Mr. O'Brian for that memory and many more.

feb. 21, 2009, 2:05 am

The forest near my house regularly rings out with cries of 'Ware riot, you vile cur!'. (Alas, training issues with Springer pup).

feb. 22, 2009, 11:42 pm

Being from Texas, I knew exactly what they said, (inquiries as to location) also works on children.

Editat: feb. 23, 2009, 9:04 am

Being, personality wise, not too dissimilar from Maturin, I have tended to be influenced more by his sayings.

I have recently taken to use the valuable term 'in parentheses' in my rare ventures into longer verbal speech-making.

Editat: jul. 22, 2009, 8:16 am

I try to find a chance to say "You have debauched my sloth!" at least once a year. Can be tough, though.

Which it seems to work best in bars, when a friend has been brought by the lee.

des. 23, 2010, 8:16 pm

Many of the members of my Eighteenth-Century re-enactment group affect the sort of speech mentioned here.

Your Most Humble & Obdt., etc., etc.

des. 24, 2010, 7:22 am

To all the officers and ships company of the HMS Surprise LT Group, "A glass of wine with you".

Merry Christmas and a Happy, Safe, and Prosperous New Year.

"A willing foe, and plenty of sea-room." H. Nelson.

des. 24, 2010, 8:36 am

...but go easy on the spotted dog and drowned baby lest it lead to corpulence, fetid breath and the need for a purgative.

des. 28, 2010, 3:48 pm

My dears, I wish you joy for the new year.

gen. 3, 2011, 6:04 pm

Sweethearts and wives: may they never meet.

des. 6, 2011, 7:12 pm

Here's a challenge. Use a favorite O'Brian expression in an everyday situation. Examples:
"Your cousin is a man of inferior parts."
"That cove needs a shove in the eye with a dried stick."
"These shoppers are as thick as penny whores around a barrack's gate."
"Bloody hell fire! I have been practiced upon! Proceed at your peril."
"Your gift is beyond my desserts."
"Clap the stopper on that mutter."
"Do not excite a resentment I cannot govern."
"You speak handsomely, sir. I must crave your name."
"I must say, your brother is not overburdened with principles."
"Pray entertain yourself. I must retire to the seat of ease."

I've made a glossary of them.

Editat: des. 6, 2011, 7:18 pm

I wish you joy on your victory, sir.

Editat: des. 31, 2011, 10:53 am

>48 davidt8:

. . . and "anchors away" instead of "anchors aweigh."

gen. 2, 2012, 2:43 am

"My home office is all ahoo."
"The ancient Egyptians were like Jack Aubrey's crews--they took a harmless delight in being fine."

I made these comments while setting up slides for lectures--and some of my students laughed as they recognized the source.

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