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Ship shape and Bristol Fashion

Posted by James Briggs on May 20, 2005

In Reply to: Ship shape and Bristol Fashion posted by Word Camel on May 20, 2005

: : The phrase "Ship shape and Bristol Fashion" has now been termed as politically incorrect as it apparently refers to slavery. A Bristol Historian disagrees and states it is about the good order of the ships which docked or built at Bristol. Any ideas?

: I don't, though there are several nautical language buffs here who may have some idea. I'm actually curious about hw has deemed this term politically incorrect. Where did you learn about this? Do you mind sharing?

As a resident of Bristol I know that there's nothing PC incorrect about this saying. Its origin is as follows:
"Ship-shape and Bristol fashion means that everything is neat and tidy. This saying comes from two aspects of the old Bristol docks in the days before the Floating Harbour was established in the 1830s. Bristol had, and still has, one of the largest differences of water level between ebb and flood in the World, something like 10 metres. At low tide ships in the harbour, if not really properly constructed and laden, would either break their backs or their cargoes would shift. Because of this, Bristol ships were always first class in these respects, hence the saying. The Floating Harbour was constructed by Brunel in order to overcome the tide problem."

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