Book Review: Three Sheets to the Wind

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From the casual sailor to the lover of linguistics, everyone is sure to find something to fascinate them in this entertaining little book. Three Sheets to the Wind unpacks the etymology of modern words and idioms derived from nautical terms. Part trivia, part reference and part history, Cynthia Barrett’s book is a delightful read, perfect for sourcing a new fun fact or two for your next cocktail party. Here are just a couple of the many words you might not have known came from the sailing world:

Skyscraper: The skyscraper was the highest sail on a tall ship. These small triangular sails were made of light cloth and only used in fair winds. Sky sails were set just below the skyscraper.

Filibuster: Filibusters were pirates off the coast of the Caribbean Spanish American territories. The word made its way into the English language from the Dutch “vrijbuiter,” and Spanish “filibustero.” This description of obstructive sea tactics is now applied to legislative maneuvering, most often senators speaking at length to delay or prevent a vote.

By Cynthia Barrett

Lyons Press, $15

This book is guaranteed to delight readers with the surprising nautical nuances of our language. 

October 2019

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