On every ship around the world, just like any airplane that is expected to meet a global regulatory standard must follow the international aviation, or in my case maritime language of English. Crew will and do speak other languages especially with foreign guests, yet must be fully competent and capable of fluently communicate in English. This way, in the event of an emergency the ships crew are all speaking the same language.
English though, is actually a very “muddy” language as far as language goes. Ask anyone that is multilingual and English is not their first language they will tell you that English is one of the hardest languages to learn. My personal example, I am a born native english speaker from the west coast of Canada and yet I have travelled to Cardiff Wales and trying to order a hamburger at Burger King was laughingly impossible…
This happens because English is prone to adopt a lot of local slang or regional specific words. Did you see the size of that Lorry? or did you see the size of that truck? Just place it in the boot or just place it in the trunk.
So here they are, my TOP 10! words used in English by ships crew that are very commonly used onboard and perhaps never used back home.
- Babalu - Caribbean adaptation meaning “fool” or goof”. See also “Bomboclat” or “Bombarass”. What a babalu!
- Barko - Filipino expansion meaning “big ship” but commonly used by most crew onboard. You came from THAT barko?
- GI - Abbreviation for Gastrointestinal Disease or Gastroenteritis (germ born stomach bug). This is a very important topic for all crew as we work to prevent any GI issues onboard. Did you hear we had __ GI cases last night?
- Sign Off - The day a crew member leaves the ship at the completion of their rotation and go home for around 2 months of vacation. "Sign-on" being the day that a crew member joins the ship after vacation. When is your sign-off?
- Mamacita - Adapted from the Spanish meaning “babe”, however even as a male I have been called this merely as a term of endearment (honey or sweetheart). Oi mamacita! let's grab a coffee!
- Paisano - I spoke about this one before, meaning “person from the same country as you”. My paisano is signing on today.
- Pare - From Tagalog or filipino to mean “friend or mate”. Ask your pare, maybe he knows?
- Shirts/Stripes - Referring to ranking officers onboard. Yes, that is a new rule coming from the shirts/stripes.
- Mess - It still surprises me how many people do not know this one, the “Mess” is the crew cafeteria and often times ships will have 3 separate messes, a crew mess, staff mess and then an officers mess. OMG did you hear they have egg drop soup in the crew mess today!? let's go!
- Slop Chest - I have no idea where this term came from but it is the “Crew General Store”. It is open only to crew in a crew area and sells everything from snacks and sodas to bath and body products, tooth brushes and even shoe polish. I need to go to the slop chest later, I need nacho chips, iced tea and some ice cream.
Well, there you have it. My Top Ten behind the scenes ship english terms spoken by the crew.
I will also admit that my spoken english has actually morphed a lot over the last 4.5 years. I have by osmosis, adopted a lot more of the proper British vernacular as Canadian slang seems to have drifted further afield from her Majesty’s english. Is it “TOE-MOT-O”? or TOE-MATE-O”? or even, if I am really being literal “Tomato Sauce” (Ketchup). Another big one for me, I like my greens and enjoy Rocket… Nobody in North America knows what that means. In Canada or the US it is “Arugula”, for me though I have totally shifted to not even thinking about it and just saying “Rocket”, my poor local produce girl...
I wonder what you will notice on your next cruise? Let me know if you ave noticed other words that should have been included in the list by commenting below.