Tuesday, September 26, 2017
Grammar

Land Lover or Landlubber? Sometimes, It Can Be Both!

When you’re writing about someone who prefers to avoid voyages on the sea, are you talking about a Land Lover or Landlubber?

My dad was in the Navy and, despite some experiences I suspect were less than pleasant during his service, he still loves sailing.

My mom did not grow up near the water and has little interest in the water.

I tend to side with my mom on this one. I do know how to swim, although I’d certainly be the last one to sign up for any kind of swim meet. I don’t necessarily mind a powerboat if it’s reasonable enough in size. I’m sure I could get used to a cruise ship (as long as there wasn’t too much sea motion).

But sailing requires that the boat lean uncomfortably toward tipping over, and that’s not a comfortable feeling for me.

So if you were to describe me and my mom, you might choose a word that you’ve likely heard in pirate movies.

But is that a land lover or landlubber?

A “land lover” seems like a perfectly logical choice for someone who prefers standing on dry land to sailing on the lake.

But “landlubber” is actually the correct choice. Lubber, according to the Online Etymological Dictionary, can be a verb or a noun.

The verb form, which appeared in the 1520s, means “to sail clumsily; to loaf about.” So we can already see that sailors who used the term toward their fellow seamen weren’t exactly being kind.

The noun form, though, is even older, having come into English from the mid-1300s, possibly of Scandinavian origin, for a “big, clumsy, stupid fellow who lives in idleness.” There are other guesses in the link about the word’s possible origin.

But since the 16th century, lubber is primarily a sailor’s word for people who aren’t experienced at sea or who are just inept at being on the sea. A landlubber, is someone who’s not a good sailor. I’m one, and I have no shame in admitting this fact.

Oddly enough, the earliest attested use referred to lazy moncks, who were called “abbey-lubbers.” I’ve never heard of that one before. But then as a landlubber, I wouldn’t have been expected to be on the open seas long enough to pick up that degree of the lingo.

I’m fine with that.

How about you: are you a landlubber or do you love spending time on the water?

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Patrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 26 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.