More Nautical Words and Phrases “ Freeze the Balls off a Brass Monkey” To indicate to someone that it is ‘very cold’ A corruption of a 17 th century term “ to freeze the ball ‘of’ a Brass Monkey”. The Brass Monkey was a small brass cannon. In freezing temperatures the brass of the cannon and the iron of the cannon balls shrank at a differing rates, so making the cannon inoperable OR:-
Another Version : The Brass Monkey was used in fortifications ashore and not on ships at sea. It was 3 rings made of brass and joined to look like the face of a monkey. Round shot was piled on these so that the cold would effect the brass rather than the iron of the shot. If the shot shrank in the cold this would increase the gap between the inside of the barrel and the shot and so reduce the effectiveness of the hot gasses to propel the ball along the barrel. If it was that cold that the iron balls fell off the brass monkey. “It was cold enough to freeze the balls off a Brass Monkey”
“ Square Meals” The basic ‘plate’ in the Royal Navy was, a square wooden platter. This was the cheapest method to hold a man’s food ration. Hence the term “3 Square Meals a Day” The raised edge around the plate is known as a ‘fiddle’……………….
If you had so much food on your platter that it went over the edge. You were cheating, you were, “ ON The Fiddle” The men were issued a gallon of beer or half a pint of spirit, usually Rum, a day. Half, at around Midday the rest, in the evening. This may sound excessive, but it was safer than the putrid water. However……
In 1740, Admiral Vernon was so concerned that the daily spirit ration was driving the men mad, he ordered that the spirit must be mixed with 4 parts of water. The sailors referred to this drink as ‘GROG’ It took it’s name from the fact that Admiral Vernon’s nickname was “Old Grogram” because he always wore a waterproof jacket made from a material called ‘Grogram’. This was shortened to ‘grog’. The term is still in use today, if you have had to much to drink “you feel ‘groggy’”
“ Splice The Main Brace” Every man is to be given another issue of Rum Splicing or ‘replacing’ the Main Brace was a particularly hazardous task. The ‘braces’ are the ropes attached to the ends of the yardarms from which the sails were hung. They were needed to ‘brace’ or turn the yards in order to enable the sails to catch the wind. The longest and most important of these was attached to the lower yard on the Main Mast, hence the ‘Main Brace’.
From then on, any hard task well done or on a Royal occasion , such as a Birthday, Coronation or fleet Review. The King or Queen would signal to the Fleet. “ Splice The Main Brace” Ron Bannister HMS Victory Corps of Guides 1991 - 2003