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'round the (American) horn

Posted by Bob on November 09, 2001

In Reply to: Re: Spitting into the wind posted by R. Berg on November 08, 2001

: : : : : Anyone know where the expression "around the horn" comes from.

: : : : I have heard the expression used to mean "go a great distance."

: : : : AROUND THE HORN - "In the days of the tall ships any sailor who had sailed around Cape Horn was entitled to spit to windward; otherwise, it was a serious infraction of nautical rules of conduct. Thus, the permissible practice of spitting to windward was called 'round the horn.' Cape Horn isn't so named because it is shaped like a horn. Captain Schouten, the Dutch navigator who first rounded it in 1616, named it after Hoorn, his birthplace in northern Holland." From the "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997).

: : : Cape Horn is the southernmost point of South America. "Rounding the horn" might also have been used to mean "going a great distance" because sailing around S. Amer. meant a long voyage.

: : : Spitting to windward sounds like a foolish practice even when permitted. Not everything that's legal is advisable.

: : You don't tug on Superman's cape
: : You don't spit into the wind
: : You don't pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger
: : And you don't mess around with Jim

: : (You Don't Mess Around with Jim. As sung by Jim Croce.)

: : If a person spits windward, is he (women don't spit) spitting into the wind or with the wind? Sailors?

: My ex-USN husband has confirmed that spitting to windward means spitting against the wind. (He also kindly explained to me what spitting is.) So I imagine that sailors who had received the honor Mr. Hendrickson describes were easily recognized by the stains on their shirts.

There is also, by the way, a baseball "'round the horn," referring to a 5-4-3 double play. (Now that's going leave our UK friends scratching their heads....)