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Skipper's daughters

Posted by Keith Rennie on December 09, 2004

"Skipper's daughters"

Today for the first time I came on this beautiful phrase "skipper's daughters", in Robert Louis Stevenson, ("The education of an engineer", Scribners 4 Nov 1888) later reproduced in Across the Plains, 1892.

On Scotland's north coast, at Wick: "It was a gray, harsh, easterly weather, the swell was pretty high, and out in the open there were "skipper's daughters," when I found myself at last on the diver's platform, twenty pounds of lead upon each foot . . ."

A few years later the CAnadian poet Bliss Carman used ~ evocatively in Ballads of Lost Haven: A Book of the Sea (Lines 55, 63, 111).

- Why the phrase? It clearly means something like whitecaps or white horses, but what's the connection? What does it signify? Is it because ~ portend a
storm, and like the ~ they spell danger, stay well away from them, sailor (cf. don't mess with the boss's daughter, don't dip your pen in company ink etc.)? Other interpretations?

- Where can I find the phrase identified or explained? (not in Brewer, 1898)

- Are there other notable examples of its use (esp. pre 1888)? Is it well known and I just missed it?

Thanks for your suggestions or contributions

- Keith