Nautical Term/Phrase Wednesday: Shiver Me Timbers

From moominsean at Flickr and made available through Creative Commons

Again from Gary’s website,  Phrase Finder

An oath, expressing annoyance or surprise.

Robert Louis Stevenson used shiver my timbers several times in the original 1883 book, for example: “Well, he [Old Pew] is dead now and under hatches; but for two year before that, shiver my timbers, the man was starving!” The first appearance of the phrase in print is in Frederick Marryat’s Jacob Faithful, 1834: “I won’t thrash you Tom. Shiver my timbers if I do.”…
…One meaning of shiver, which is now largely forgotten, is ‘to break into pieces’. That meaning originated at least as early as the 14th century and is recorded in several Old English texts. …
…So, the sailor’s oath shiver my timbers, is synonymous with (if so and so happens then…) let my boat breaks into pieces. The question is whether any real sailor used the term or whether it was just a literary invention…

Dr. M (1618 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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One comment on “Nautical Term/Phrase Wednesday: Shiver Me Timbers
  1. An oath, expressing annoyance or surprise.

    How appropriate then that the Flickr photo you chose is of HMS Surprise in San Diego (I’m 99% certain)

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