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Life saver

Posted by Smokey Stover on June 29, 2006

In Reply to: Life saver posted by SteveR on June 29, 2006

: "Life saver" -- the ring that hangs on ships for throwing overboard in case someone falls in the water, not the candy. I thought it would be a simple matter to find out how old that term is, but so far I've had surprisingly little luck.

It is not such a simple matter. In general, lexicographers prefer to think of life-savers as either lifeguards or ring-shaped candies. To find the flotation device you can look up life-greserver or life-buoy. (Spell as one word, as two words, or with a hyphen.) I'm giving you what the OED offers under life preserver.

"2. A life-buoy, life-belt, or other contrivance used in saving life at sea.
1804 Naval Chron. XII. 189 The plan of the 'Life Preserver' here mentioned is borrowed from that of Commissary Bosquet. 1825 HOOD Ode to Mr. Dymoke, Nor would even the best of his earthly inventions, 'Life preservers', have floated him out of this gore. 1850 SCORESBY Cheever's Whalem. Adv. ii. 18 Taking..a life-preserver, I ventured into one of the little canoes."

Perhaps you can find out more about Mr. Dymoke. It may not be easy, as there were so many of them.