Posted by Wesley on January 20, 2002
In Reply to: Swears like a sailor posted by James Briggs on January 20, 2002
: : Where did this originate from? We are having a discussion of what it means today. Does it relate to a Navy sailor as we know it or does it refer to pirates?
: In the UK the phrase is 'swears like a trooper'. There used to be a common similar phrase 'to billingsgate'. This refered to the strong swearing habits of the porters at Billingsgate fish market in London. Not all swore - my family worked there for years and some were, I hope, not guilty! Never-the-less, all porters were branded as swearers, just like all troopers and sailors.
And, too, sailors earned other stereotype aspects in which they have been characterized as "liberal", such as being liberal in wasting money. "He spends like a sailor" refers, I guess, to sailors on-leave, in port. Swearing and spending (wine, women, song) are ways to compensate for long hours and days or monotonous time aboardship.