Word Origins


In the 16th and 17th centuries, everything had to be transported by ship. It was also before the invention of commercial fertilizer, so large shipments of manure were common.

It was shipped dry, because in dry form it weighed a lot less than when wet. But once water (at sea) hit it, it not only became heavier, but the process of fermentation began again, creating methane gas as a by-product.  As the stuff was stored below decks in bundles you can see what could (and did) happen. Methane gas began to build up below decks and the first time someone came below at night with a lantern, BOOOOM!

Several ships were destroyed in this manner before it was determined just what was happening. After that, the bundles of manure were always stamped with the term "Ship High In Transit" on them which meant for the sailors to stow it high enough off the lower decks so that any water that came into the hold would not touch this volatile cargo and start the production of methane. Thus evolved the term "S.H.I.T," which has come down through the centuries and is in use to this very day. You probably did not know the true history of this word.(Contributed by shipmate Malcolm Willette, 63-66)

Conversely, shipmate Don Oviatt (YNSN '69) sends us a link to the Urban Legends website which goes into much detail to dispell this story. To tell you the truth, legend or not, I kind of liked the original.

Computer Bugs

The W.W.II Iowa class Battleships had an early developed "Aiken" relay computer system, on board, to help with it's MK 1 gun fire targeting. One day, during a malfunction, the problem was found. A moth got crushed between a relay switch. This is where the term "bug" in the computer came from. Cutting edge Navy! (Contributed by shipmate Gordon Yaghijan, 69-71

    And the rebuttal comes from Lynellen Perry, Computer Scientist, SAIC, who writes:
You have a great website for the various USS OKCity ships! However, this blurb here (above) is not accurate (close, but not quite). The real story follows: At Harvard one August night in 1945, U.S. Navy officer Grace Murray Hopper and her associates were working on the "granddaddy" of modern computers, the Mark I Aiken. "Things were going badly; there was something wrong in one of the circuits of the long glass-enclosed computer," she said. "Finally, someone located the trouble spot and, using ordinary tweezers, removed the problem, a two-inch moth. From then on, when anything went wrong with a computer, we said it had bugs in it." Hopper said that when the veracity of her story was questioned recently, "I referred them to my 1945 log book, now in the collection of Naval Surface Weapons Center, and they found the remains of that moth taped to the page in question."

For other versions of the story, check Maxmon and James Huggins

Giving The Bird

Before the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, the French, anticipating victory over the English, proposed to cut off the middle finger of all captured English soldiers. Without the middle finger it would be impossible to draw the renowned English longbow and therefore be incapable of fighting in the  future.

This famous weapon was made of the native English Yew tree, and the act of drawing the longbow was known as "plucking the yew" (or "pluck yew"). Much to the bewilderment of the French, the  English won a major upset and began  mocking the French by waving their middle fingers at the defeated French, saying, "See, we can still pluck yew! "PLUCK YEW!" Since 'pluck yew' is rather difficult to say, the difficult consonant cluster  at the beginning has gradually changed to a labiodentals fricative 'F' It is also because of the pheasant feathers on the arrows used with the longbow that the symbolic gesture is known as "giving the bird."

And yew thought yew knew  everything.(Contributed by shipmate Malcolm Willette, FT3 63-66).

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