Jackspeak of the Royal Canadian Navy

Front CoverOn a sailor’s first day in the Navy, they are plunged into a strange world where the walls are bulkheads and the floors are decks. Initially, the jargon can be confusing to newcomers, especially when it’s noticed that there is more than one term for a given situation. For example, a lazy person can be called a “skiver”, “skate” or be described as “swinging the lead”. A sailor might sleep in a “pit”, “cart” or “rack”, but only occasionally in a bunk.

As well, there are nuances that must be learned. You might call a shipmate a “winger” or refer to them as a fellow “hairy bag”, but you would never call their “party” a “nice piece of trim” or try to “cut their grass”. That would certainly lead to a “parting of brass rags”.

In some cases, the term has a variety of meanings, such as “Mess”, which can carry no less than three different meanings in a Canadian warship. Other terms are far more colourful. Up top on the bridge, you’ll find “Nelson’s Balls”; down in the mess you will find “Nelson’s Blood”. In the “galley”, a “stoker” might begin to “moan and drip” when they see “Newfie Steak” on the menu for the second time in a week.

The Canadian Navy’s unique language can be traced back to its Royal Navy roots. In fact, commonly used words such as “pusser”, and nicknames such as “Nobby” are directly derived from British Navy forefathers. Still, many other terms have been formed directly from use in the Canadian Navy such as “CDF” and “Navy Gravy”.

Hopefully, you haven’t grown weary of all this, because there’s much more! What’s the difference between “duff” and “no duff”. What about “no joy”, “no names, no pack drill”, “no room to swing a cat” and “No! No!”?

It’s all explained inside. “Pull up a bollard” and enjoy the colourful language of the RCN.

Jackspeak of the Royal Canadian Navy

3 comments on “Jackspeak of the Royal Canadian Navy

  • Elizabeth Mustard says:

    I heard a navy friend affectionately refer to his wife as, “The Old Boot”. What is the history and meaning of the term, “The Old Boot”?

    • It is used as an affectionate nickname for a person’s better half. It can have negative connotations, but when used lovingly it is more affectionate than negative. Derived from the thought that an “old boot” is comfortable and familiar.

      Not necessarily a “naval” term, however it is widely used by Canadian sailors.


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