Shiver me timbers!

Posted by Bob on October 17, 1999

In Reply to: Shiver me timbers! posted by Will Don on October 16, 1999

: Exactly what does this mean??? There are many definitions of both shiver and timbers...including nautical definitions. But I can neither find nor figure out precisely what this term really means?!!? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

The phrase "Shiver my timbers" occurs three times in Stevenson's "Treasure Island" (We probably remember the 'shiver ME timbers' from the classic film version of the story. Arrrrrrr, Matey.) As an expression of astonishment by the pirate(s), it seems to mean "wasn't that surprising?" or "to my surprise." Just speculating now, but the timbers (beams) of a wooden sailing ship would be shivered (set to vibrating suddenly) by a cannonball attack. There's also an older meaning of shivered that's equivalent to splintered. Same explanation? Just guessing here... are there any old salts out there?