Tuesday, July 14, 2015

How To Be A Sailor or Just Talk Like One

Here on Aunt Mildred's Porch, we do a lot of talking about crafting and cooking, but sometimes I just can't help teaching you a little something.

Today, I'd like to teach you 3 words so you too can be a sailor or at least just talk like one.

I think everyone is familiar with the term MAYDAY, which one says when one is sinking, in a plane falling from the sky or in some other dreadful situation where help is needed.  STAT.

I have known for a long time that the term mayday is actually from the French phrase m'aider which means help me.  I believe the entire request is pourriez-vous m'aider, meaning could you help me.  It's pronounced "mayday" thus the spelling in everyday sailor English.

You might have known all of that, but did you know the other two radio calls that sailors use?

One is securit√©.  No, not security.  Securit√©.  From the French, meaning security.  But pronounced SECURITAY.

Not so much a distress call, this term is often used when large vessels like ferries or big ships are entering or leaving port.  Over the radio one hears "SECURITAY SECURITAY SECURITAY" and everyone knows that they should prepare for a large ship going one way or the other.

This is the phrase that made me write this post.  We live pretty close to the ferry to Nantucket and many times, if the wind is blowing the right way, we hear the big whistle of it coming or going.  The other night we heard it and k-ster said it was coming (or going, I forget which) and when I asked how he knew the difference he said "because if it it's going (or coming, I forget which), they say SECURITAY SECURITAY SECURITAY over the radio 3 times."

I fell right off the couch.  K-ster is no speaker of French and to hear something come out of his mouth sounding French, but also sounding suspiciously like a character on Southpark is enough to make anyone wet their pants.

I didn't believe him, of course, because why would any sailor be using not just one but 2 French terms over the radio, so I asked my father, who spent his childhood around boats and a few years in the Coast Guard.  If anyone should know distress calls at sea, it should be him.

So, I casually went next door and said "oh, what do they say when a ship is entering (or leaving, I forget) a dock? "  There was a bit of a pause because I was on the deck and he was inside and I couldn't see his face.  K-ster was nowhere around, so I he didn't have any cuing.


I don't think I caught my breath for 5 minutes, I laughed so hard.  My father is even more ridiculous when trying to speak French and sounds even more suspiciously like a Southpark character.

NO WAY, I said.  There is NO WAY non French men are yelling SECURITAY over the radio like that.  Except maybe Eric Cartman.

So, this prompted an extensive google search by father and daughter which also revealed one more distress call.


Again from the FRENCH!  This from en panne, meaning broken down, which again, I knew by the sound of it but could not imagine this was really true. This is delivered in a very staccato method, like dots in Morse code.

Nowhere near as funny to hear my father say because it didn't sound too French, but amazing to me that 3 radio calls are of French origin.

So, the next time you're on a ferry coming or going, listen to the radio and see if you hear SECURITAY uttered 3 times.  And if you hear either of the other calls, I'd say get your life jacket on and pray.

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1 comment:

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