phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Shiver me timbers

Posted by ESC on April 22, 2004

In Reply to: Shiver me timbers posted by sara on April 22, 2004

: : what does this atypical pirates phrase "shiver me timbers" mean and when/where did it originate?

From the archives:

I can tell you that timber is: 2a c : a curving frame branching outward from the keel of a ship and bending upward in a vertical direction that is usually composed of several pieces united. And...shiver is 2 : to tremble in the wind as it strikes first one and then the other side (of a sail) transitive senses : to cause (a sail) to shiver by steering close to the wind. (Merriam-Webster online).

: Shiver me/my timber.I can't find any authority to agree, but I thought that this was another saying derived from sailing ships. It certainly seems firmly attached to pirates. I think the saying represents the shock of a large wave hitting a wooden ship broadside and causing the hull to shudder. In other words, it expresses shock or surprise.

Shiver My Timbers! ... (expletive denoting surprise or disbelief)
Presumably, this expression alludes to a ship's striking a rock or shoal so hard that her timbers shiver. The expression was first seen in 1834 in the novel _Jacob Faithfully_ by Frederick Marryat. In 1881, Robert Louis Stevenson found it to be the perfect exclamation for the irascible Long John Silver: "So! Shiver me timbers, here's Jim Hawkins!" This stereotypical expletive became extremely popular with writers of sea yarns and Hollywood swashbucklers.
From _When a Loose Cannon Flogs a Dead Horse There's the Devil to Pay: Seafaring Words in Everyday Speech_ by Olivia A. Isil