Pre-dawn reading of Patrick O’Brian’s “The Far Side of the World*” (with marine hero, Master and Commander, Captain Jack Aubrey) delights but puzzles me with some splendid, strong, salty yet obscure phrases, like this running commentary to child midshipmen of a rare-used weighing with a voyol:
“Watch now. He makes it fast to the cable – he reeves the jeer-fall through it – the jeerfall is brought to its capstan, with the standing part belayed to the bitts. So you get a direct runner-purchase instead of a dead nip, do you understand?“
Well, no; I don’t understand a word of it. But I love the cadence of the patter, and romance of the lingo, all the same. The language of geology, with its 50,000 plus words and terms, must seem just as obscure to the lay reader. Especially pre-dawn.
* O’Brian, P., 1992 The Far Side of the World, The Aubrey/Maturin Series, publ. Norton and Co, New York, 406 pages’ first publ. William Collins and Sons, 1984.