Monday, June 20, 2016

The Etymology of "The Devil To Pay"

Happy Monday, you lovely coves.

I thought I'd share an interesting passage from The Mauritius Command, which is the fourth book in the Aubrey-Maturin series that I'm making my way through.

One of the enjoyable things in reading these books is learning the etymology of so many figures of speech that have their origins in sailing. Here's one I came across last night:

"Stephen involuntarily brought them back by asking the significance of the devil, among those that followed the sea, as in the devil to pay, a phrase he had often heard, particularly of late - was it a form of propitiation, a Manichaean remnant, so understandable (though erroneous) upon the unbridled elements?
     'Why the devil, do you see,' said Jack, 'is the seam between the deck planking and the timbers, and we call it the devil, because it is the devil for the caulkers to come at: in full we say, the devil to pay and no pitch hot; and what we mean is, that there is something hell-fire difficult to be done - must be done - and nothing to do it with. It is a figure.
     'A very elegant figure, too.'"

Pretty cool.

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