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May 26, 2017

Strange But True!

Q. Ahoy, all you “logophiles” (word lovers) out there: Can you explain the nautical nature of “jettison,” “jury-rig,” “offing,” “pinchgut,” and “slush fund”?

A. “Jettison,” meaning to cast off something unwanted or burdensome, originally comes from throwing goods overboard to lighten a ship in distress (earliest documented use 1426), says Anu Garg on his “A.Word.A.Day” website. “On a sailing ship, a ‘jury-mast' is a temporary mast, rigged when the original is damaged or lost,” so to “jury-rig” is to fix temporarily using whatever is available. And something “in the offing” means “in the near future”; “in nautical use, ‘offing' is the part of the sea visible from the shore but beyond anchoring ground.”

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