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My little the nautical terminology series has gotten an unusually high number of hits over the past few months.  Let's continue with the next few relating to wind during the days of sail.

One of the hazards faced in the days of sailing ships has been incorporated into English to describe someone who has been jolted by unpleasant news.  We say that a person has been "taken aback" when the person is at a momentary loss; unable to act or even to speak.

A danger faced by sailing ships was for a sudden shift in wind to come up (as from a sudden squall), blowing the sails back against the masts, putting the ship in grave danger of having the masts break off and rendering the ship totally helpless.  With the wind suddenly reversed, the ship lost speed and controllability.  The ship was taken aback.

Posted on Saturday, May 22, 2004 6:51 AM Day Job , & Etc. | Back to top

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