Posted by R. Berg on April 28, 2001
In Reply to: Loose Cannon posted by Bruce Kahl on April 27, 2001
: : I know the (current) meaning. Where did this phrase originate?
: I would think nautical.
: Picture an unsecured 200 lb lump of steel on wheels sliding around on the deck of a ship bouncing here, there and everywhere creating a mess and being so unpredictable as to its next position!
: That is a loose cannon!
My husband, who reads more naval history than I do, says that in the days of sailing ships cannons couldn't be bolted down because some movement had to be allowed, to accommodate the recoil after firing. They were tied with ropes. A rope might be tied incorrectly or might wear out. Cannons weighed as much as two tons or so; 200 pounds would approach the light end of the range. These days cannons are more firmly attached and the recoil is accommodated by a hydraulic mechanism.