Nautical Term/Phrase Wednesday: Chock-A-Block

Image from Kalense Kid at Flickr and available by Creative Commons

Items packed so tightly together as to prevent movement.

A chock is typically a wooden wedge used to secure moving objects on deck and in the hold.  A block and tackle is the pulley system used to hoist the rigging.  However, the phrase appears to stem from when the no more free rope exists and the block jam tightly together.

The phrase describes what occurs the system is raised to its fullest extent – when there is no more rope free and the blocks jam tightly together. Frederick Chamier’s novel The Life of a Sailor, 1832 includes this figurative use of the term:

“Here my lads is another messmate…” – What, another!” roared a ruddy-faced midshipman of about eighteen. “He must stow himself away, for we are chock-a-block here.”

Thanks goest to Gary Martin for doing all the leg work here.  Gary’s website Phrase Finder is likely to provide much more fodder for posts.

Dr. M (1605 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, created to facilitate research to address fundamental questions in evolutionary science. He has conducted deep-sea research for 11 years and published over 40 papers in the area. He has participated in dozens of expeditions taking him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses mainly on marine systems and particularly the biology of body size, biodiversity, and energy flow. He focuses often on deep-sea systems as a natural test of the consequences of energy limitation on biological systems. He is the author and chief editor of Deep-Sea News, a popular deep-sea themed blog, rated the number one ocean blog on the web and winner of numerous awards. Craig’s popular writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.





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