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To learn the ropes

Posted by Smokey Stover on July 01, 2005

In Reply to: To learn the ropes posted by j on June 30, 2005

: : Re the origin of "to learn the ropes": I've been told that seamen use only the word "lines"; only landlubbers in their ignorance use the word "ropes."
: : If that's true, then the phrase should be "to learn the lines." But it isn't.
: : How did the phrase become "to learn the ropes" instead of "to learn the lines"?

: What you have been told is not correct.

: British Mariners do actually use the word rope as well as line, they are interchangeable. Mooring ropes (used to hold a ship alongside a quay) are positioned to form headlines/ropes, breastlines and springlines

: Modern day Marine cadets still have to learn knots, plus "ropes and rigging" as part of their "Efficient Deck Hand" certificate whcih forms part of their qualification. This is still known as "Rope work"

: In some instances the word "line" is actually pronounced "lin" such as in the bowline knot which is pronounced "bo-lin"

Sometimes it's bo-lin and sometimes it's bo-line. I learned the knot and its pronunciation (bo-line, in that case) as a Boy Scout. Very good knot, but also a bit tricky. Its principal use, surprisingly, is not for tying up the bow. SS

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