Nevil Shute Norway Foundation

Glossary 2008

This is a glossary of some of the terms to be found in Nevil Shute's books. It is by no means exhaustive, but attempts to cover the following areas:

This glossary is the fruit of hard work and research by the following Shutists, some of whom did an in-depth analysis of specific books: Johan P. Bakker, FC Cook (RATR), Adrian Crowe, David Dawson-Taylor, Mills & Nancy Dyer, Ken England (ATLA), David Fletcher-Rogers, David McLoughlin, Chris Phillips (WHTTC), and Dan Telfair.

The terms are spelled as they were written in the books; the meanings are written mostly in UK English, with UK English spellings. For less experienced Shutists I have also included the book title acronyms often used in the Web site and the Newsletter. For errors and omissions please send an email to Webmaster

A Back To Top
Term Part of speech Meaning Category Source
abo noun Aboriginal, coloured person. Now a pejorative term. Australian
ack-ack noun Anti-aircraft fire. It comes from the British telephone code for the letter "A", which was pronounced "ack" to make it easier to hear than "ay" over a bad telephone line. Thus, "anti-aircraft fire" is abbreviated to "AA", and pronounced "ack-ack". British
Admiral noun Royal Navy rank: responsible for one of the larger fleets. Other
Admiral of the Fleet noun Royal Navy rank: the most senior individual in the navy below the Sea Lords. Other
Aerlikon noun See Oerlikon. Aeronautical
aft adjective Towards the back of a boat/ship/aircraft. Nautical
aileron noun Hinged outer part of the trailing edge of an aircraft's wing that can be moved by the pilot using the control column to make the aircraft bank to the right or left. Making a controlled turn requires the correct use of ailerons and rudder. Aeronautical
air log noun See integrator. Aeronautical
ale noun Beer. British
Alice Springs noun Town near the geographic centre of Australia. Originally a telegraphic relay station on the Overland Telegraph Line. Named for Mrs. Alice Todd, wife of 19th century superintendent of South Australian Posts and Telegraphs. Known as "The Alice". Australian
AOC acronym An Old Captivity. Also Air Officer Commanding Other/Military
Archie noun First World War term used for anti-aircraft fire. It is believed to derive from a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps who, when attracting anti-aircraft fire, would, to steady his nerves, sing a number made famous by the British music-hall comedian George Robey: "Archibald, certainly not !" His squadron mates would greet him when he returned from a flight with "Archibald give you any trouble today?" Eventually "Archibald" became "Archie" and to the end of the war, German anti-aircraft fire was known as such. It was still in use at the beginning of the Second World War, but was soon replaced by ack-ack (British) and flak (British and U.S.). Aeronautical What Happened to the Corbetts
ATLA acronym A Town Like Alice/The Legacy Other
ATS noun See Auxiliary Territorial Service. Other
Auster noun A small British civilian aircraft. Aeronautical
Auxiliary Territorial Service noun The women's branch of the British Army during the Second World War. It was formed on 9 September 1938, initially as a women's voluntary service, and existed until 1 February 1949. All women in the Army joined the ATS except for nurses, who joined Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMS), and medical and dental officers, who were commissioned directly into the Army and held Army ranks. See its Wikipedia entry for more details. Other
AVRO noun A type of aircraft used for training and early commercial flying. The name comes from the name of the designer: A.V. Roe. Aeronautical

B Back To Top
Term Part of speech Meaning Category
baa phrase In Landfall, Boden greets an officer from HMS Rodney, by saying "Baa". The story goes like this. Once upon a time, when HMS Rodney was moored in Scapa Flow, a sailor finding no girls ashore resorted to a sheep. He was caught and duly punished but the word got about and thereafter whenever Rodney came into port sailors in other ships used to hail those in Rodney with "BAA" or "RAADDDNEEE" in a sheep-like tone. This continued as long as Rodney was in commission even after the war, and is perhaps the reason why no ship has born that name since. Maybe the Admiralty is waiting until all those who remember have slipped their cables. Nautical
back verb When the wind changes in an anti-clockwise direction with respect to the compass. See also veer. Nautical
back number phrase Something that is no longer viable or available. British
backstay noun A wire or rope that attaches the sides of a boat behind the mast to the mast head. Part of the rigging that keeps the mast vertical. Nautical
backward stagger noun An uncommon arrangement of aircraft design, where the top wing of a biplane is mounted more to the rear than the bottom wing. Aeronautical
bally adjective A mild swear-word, used in place of "bloody" by the more genteel (or an author, in times past, trying to avoid the censor's red pen). British
bank (v) verb To incline an aeroplane to the left or the right. For example, to bank to the left, you move the control column to the left. This hinges the left aileron (a moveable part of the wing surface) upwards and the right aileron downwards, so that the changed airflow pushes the left wing down and the other up. Combined with the use of the rudder, banking causes the plane to turn. Aeronautical
Bank of New South Wales noun Major Australian bank with branches in most large towns. Now called "Westpac". Australian
barrage noun Term used for the collective effect of a group of guns (artillery or anti-aircraft). British
basement noun The part of a house below ground level. British
bathing dresses noun Swimsuits, swimming costumes. British
battery noun Group of guns (artillery or anti-aircraft). Nautical
beam noun The breadth of a boat at its widest point. "Abeam", or "on the beam" means alongside the boat. Thus, "the buoy is just coming abeam" means that the boat is just passing the buoy, and "The land was half a mile on his beam" means that the boat was sailing parallel to the land, and half a mile away. Nautical
beam-ends, on her phrase Lying on her side, with one half of the boat underwater. Nautical
bear up phrase To turn a boat more closely to the wind - bearing off is the opposite. Nautical
beat (1) noun A course that requires you to sail into the wind. A dead beat requires you to sail directly into the wind (by beating/tacking), i.e. your destination is exactly upwind of your point of departure. Also called tacking. Nautical
beat (2) verb Sail into the wind. A sailing boat cannot sail directly into the wind. At best it can manage a course which is some 35° off the wind direction. Thus, the boat is sailed in a zig-zag pattern as it is sailed alternately from the port to the starboard tack (to the left and then to the right of the wind direction). Nautical
below adverb Downstream. Nautical
bend verb Tie a rope to another rope or to an anchor. Nautical
beriberi noun Vitamin B deficiency which may be caused by a diet of polished or old rice. Other
Bessoneau noun A canvas covered aircraft hangar. Aeronautical
bill of health noun A document required in the period of WHTTC when sailing internationally. It was granted by the authorities at the port of departure to indicate that no-one on the boat was sick with any notifiable disease when it sailed. Nautical
bin noun Arabic. Son of -. Other
binnacle noun Housing for the compass. Normally made of wood to avoid that the presence of metal influences the compass needle. Nautical
binti noun Arabic. Daughter of -. Other
bitts noun A vertical post, usually one of a pair, set on the deck of a ship and used to secure ropes or cables. Nautical
Blackburn Bluebird noun A small British civilian aircraft. Aeronautical
blind flying panel noun Instruments used when flying in bad weather. In NS's time, they helped the pilot determine how much the aircraft is flying off a straight and level course, by using gimbals to visualize an artificial horizon. In modern times radar and other electronic aids are used to show the position and attitude of the aircraft. Aeronautical
blipping noun A method of slowing early aircraft engines by intermittently turning off the ignition, because they didn't have variable speed control. Aeronautical
block noun A structure that contains one or more sheaves, or pulleys. Used in sets typically of two blocks with one or two wheels each and rope passing backwards and forwards around the wheels; the system thus created allows one man to lift an object much heavier than he could manage without the blocks. Nautical
blowed verb A very mild imprecation, probably closest to "damned". "Blowed if I know" means "I haven't any idea". "Well I'll be blowed" means "What a surprise!" or "How amazing", or even "Cool!". British
blower noun Slang term for a telephone or radio. British
blue cattle dog noun Cattle dog bred in Queensland with grey coat mottled with black. Also called "blue heeler" from its habit of nipping recalcitrant beasts above the hoof. Australian
boat, in the same phrase See in the same boat. British
bob noun Slang for a shilling - one twentieth of a pound sterling. A shilling contained twelve pence, and was worth 5 new pence in today's currency. This is why English children used to have to learn their twelve times tables, so that they could do arithmetic in pounds, shillings, and pence.

It has also been suggested that these non-metric units contributed to explain why such a small insignificant country tacked on to the west end of Europe should have achieved such an important world position in the 19th Century. When their merchants bought goods by weight in tons, hundredweights (20 to a ton), stones (8 to a hundredweight), pounds (14 to a stone), and ounces (16 to a pound), and paid for them in pounds sterling, shillings (20 to a pound), pence (12 to a shilling), and farthings (4 to a penny), not to speak of guineas (worth 21 shillings), and then worked out the total bill in their heads, without calculator or abacus, your average non-Englishman was left speechless, convinced that verily these people were Gods. It took a few years of colonisation to disabuse them of this belief.
bogey noun To shoot (a hole in golf) in one stroke over par. (At the time of writing "Pastoral" 1944, bogey referred to a hole played at par) Sportng (golf)
boiler suit noun British term for coveralls. British
Boley watchmaker's lathe noun A watchmaker's lathe generally describes a very small, high-precision lathe which is not usually equipped with the normal screw- or shaft-feed for the carriage. Since the parts to be made are generally very small, the only lateral feed provision is usually contained within the traversing carriage of the lathe. Watchmaker's lathes are also generally equipped with some form of precision collet chuck, rather than the more common 3- or 4-jaw chuck, which is generally too large and inaccurate for horological work. Some examples of the Boley product may be seen here. Other
bonza noun Australian slang. So obsolete as to be quaint. Very good, excellent. Australian
boom (1) noun Part of a boat's rigging - the horizontal wooden or metal pole that is attached at one end to the mast and which forms the baseline of the sail. Nautical
boom (2) noun A buoyed cable stretched across a harbour mouth or narrow passage, to prevent the entry and exit of boats. Nautical
boom (3) noun Upright sticks marking the line of a channel - used in quiet waters instead of channel buoys. Nautical
boong noun Possibly Australian Aboriginal origin. Aboriginal, coloured person. Now a pejorative term. Australian
Bovril noun A beef-flavoured paste that one mixed with hot water to make a warming, nourishing drink. Still sold. British
bow noun Front of a boat - also bows. Pronounced "ow", not "oh". Nautical
box and cox phrase Used in WHTTC to refer to the sharing of one aeroplane between more than one pilot. It originates from the naval habit of saving space by supplying only one bunk or hammock for two sailors who would be on different watches, and thus never need it at the same moment. From the title of a farce by J. M. Morton (1811-1891), in which two characters (Mr Box and Mr. Cox) unwittingly share an apartment, one by day, the other by night. British
brat noun A small child who is being a nuisance. Sometimes used to refer generically to all small children, in a slightly pejorative way. British
bridge, cross that phrase See cross that bridge. British
Brisbane noun Capital city of Queensland, in the south east corner of the state. Named for the sixth governor of New South Wales. Australian
Bronx noun A Bronx Cocktail is essentially a perfect martini with orange juice added. American
brought up verb Stopped. Nautical
BTBS acronym Beyond the Black Stump Other
bulkhead noun A transverse structure in a boat that maintains the hull shape and prevents the boat from collapsing under the water pressure. Nautical
bull noun See outer. British
bulwarks noun The outer parts of the deck. In larger boats the bulwarks would be a handrail or other superstructure preventing one from falling overboard. In a smaller boat they might consist of a partial handrail, say at the bows, plus the various parts of the rigging that are attached to the outermost part of the deck. Nautical
buoy noun Floating object, anchored to the bottom; used to mark channels, tie up boats, etc. Nautical
burgee noun A small flag flown at the masthead, sometimes decorated with a motif appropriate to the name of the boat, its port of origin, the yacht club its owner belongs to etc. It also has a practical purpose, to help determine wind direction. Nautical
burglary noun Theft. British
Burns Philp (Burns, Philp & Company Limited) noun Merchants and traders both in the western Pacific Ocean and in northern Queensland. Also known as "Bloody Pirates". Australian
Bush Brothers noun Travelling Anglican ministers in north and western Queensland. Active in the Townsville diocese, which would have included Willstown. Australian
button switch noun The ignition switch to "blip" the engine was usually a button on the control stick. Blipping created a fire hazard so was used only when necessary. Aeronautical

C Back To Top
Term Part of speech Meaning Category
C of A noun Certificate of Airworthiness - An annual maintenance inspection procedure on private aircraft. Aeronautical
cabin (aero.) noun The part of an aeroplane where the passengers or the cargo is carried. Aeronautical
cabin (naut.) noun The enclosed part of a small yacht, including the sleeping, cooking and dining areas. In a larger boat, the term is used to refer to any room used to sleep in (e.g. captain's cabin). Nautical
Cairns noun Small city on north coast of Queensland, about 1600 km (1000 miles) north of Brisbane. It has been a tourist jump-off for the Great Barrier Reef for decades. Australian
Canberra noun Political capital of Australia. Australian
canvas water-bag noun Prior to the arrival of plastic containers, the water-proofed canvas water-bag was used to transport water by hand. Nautical
Captain noun Royal Navy rank: responsible for a ship. Other
carried away verb phrase To be removed from a boat by the wind or sea (inanimate objects only). Nautical
castor oil noun Lubricating oil used in rotary aircraft engines. Aeronautical
cathode ray plug indicator noun Same as engine analyzer. A device which allows diagnosis of engine performance while in flight. Found on the last few generations of large propeller driven aircraft. Aeronautical
cats and dogs, raining phrase See raining cats and dogs. British
catt (the anchor) verb To catt the anchor is to lash it to the cathead, a stout piece of timber that projects from the ship's side. It is done to stop the anchor, which at this point has been raised and is hanging on its chain, from moving about with the movement of the ship. Some believe that the British slang expression "sling yer 'ook" (sling your hook), meaning "go away", refers to raising and catting your anchor, i.e. sailing away from wherever you are. Nautical
caulk verb Colloquially, to "caulk" is to have a nap; from the fact that a man who had had a nap on the hot deck could be identified by the pitch marks on his clothes. Nautical
CC gear noun A device to prevent a machine gun from hitting the blades of a propeller, as it fires through the propeller's path. Named for its inventors, Constantinesco and Colley. Aeronautical
cellon adjective A transparent synthetic resin, used frequently in the 1930s and 1940s for transparent aeroplane parts (cockpit cover, bomb-aimer's blister, gun turrets, etc.). Later replaced by Perspex or Plexiglas, which did not yellow with age. Aeronautical
chain locker noun The area under the foredeck where the anchor chain is stored when the anchor is not in use. Nautical
Chance light noun Portable self powered airfield light. Aeronautical
chartered accountant noun An officially qualified accountant, who has passed public exams to receive his or her "charter". British
chihike verb A reliable slang dictionary gives: "Various meanings, incl. a salutation, a noisy disturbance, jeering, banter, tease, and make fun of". I grew up thinking it just meant "making gentle fun of in a noisy way", and this seems to fit the NS contexts. We pronounced it "chai-aik"; the dictionary gives a variety of spellings and pronunciations. British
chocks noun Blocks, usually wood, placed around the wheels to prevent aircraft movement on the ground. Aeronautical
chunda verb Australian slang. Vomit. Australian
circuit noun A standardized path over the ground which an airplane takes when flying near a runway and preparing to land. Same as traffic pattern. Also any path over the ground returning to the same point. Aeronautical
circuits and bumps phrase Practicing repeated take-offs and landings. Same as "touch and goes". Aeronautical
cistern noun The plumbing in British houses of NS's period was not connected directly to the water mains for all purposes. A house would normally have a cold tap in the kitchen, and maybe another outside the house, that would contain drinkable water direct from the mains. All other cold taps in the house would be connected to a tank placed normally in the roof space, which would be maintained full by a ball-valve that regulated the entrance of water from the mains. A hot-water heater (boiler) would also be connected to the tank. Thus, water would issue by gravity alone from all hot taps and those cold taps not attached to the mains. This system was developed during a period when it was very difficult to maintain a regular mains pressure, and is still widely in use. The term cistern was used to refer both to the main cold-water tank, and to the smaller tank, with its own ball valve, that provided the water to flush the toilet. British
clamped down (weather) phrase The weather has become bad. Aeronautical
Clerget noun Make of aircraft rotary engine. Aeronautical
Cloncurry noun Town in North West Queensland. Once a copper mining area, now mostly engaged in supporting beef cattle industry of the surrounding semi-arid region. A stopover at one time on the Qantas airline route from Sydney to London. Still known as "The Curry". Australian
coal verb To take on solid fuel. Nautical
Cobb and Co. noun Australian coaching, transport and mail contracting company founded in 19th century by an American immigrant, Mr. Freeman Cobb and his brothers. Used an American type coach with longitudinal springs. Australian
cobber noun Australian slang. Quaintly obsolete. Equivalent to "mate" or the American "buddy". Australian
cockpit (aero.) noun The part of a fighter plane where the pilot sits. Aeronautical
cockpit (naut.) noun The rear part of a yacht from which it is steered. Nautical
colours, to come to the phrase To enlist. The "colours" means the flag of the regiment or other branch of the services. You might have heard of the "Trooping of the Colour", a ceremony in London where the flags of the regiment that will guard the Queen for the next year are marched (trooped) in front of the troops. It dates from a very real necessity in the days when armies were raised by forcing local farm-workers and the like into uniform to fight a battle. Parading the "colours" in front of them made sure they knew who they were fighting for! Nautical
Commander noun Royal Navy rank: despite the name, commands only very small ships. Normally the second-in-command of a naval vessel, responsible for navigation. Other
Commodore noun Royal Navy rank: responsible for a small fleet. Other
compass and log phrase Navigating by "dead reckoning", i.e. by steering a compass course calculated from a map (chart), taking into consideration current winds and currents, and measuring one's progress along the course by using a log. Nautical
compass variation noun A compass does not point due North, but to the North Magnetic Pole, which is, in 2008, at Lat 84.2°N, Long 124°W. Depending where you are in the world, you need to adjust any compass bearing by applying the local "variation". In the UK area in the 1930s the North Magnetic Pole was about 11°W of true North. Currently, the variation is less than 6°W, and is reducing each year, as the North Magnetic Pole is apparently moving towards the true North Pole at about 40kms per year (in actual fact it is moving laterally with respect to the true North Pole, but from the UK it seems to be moving towards it as it moves behind it). Nautical
Comper Swift noun A small British civilian aircraft. Aeronautical
consommé julienne noun A clear soup made of strained meat or vegetable stock, served hot with long thin strips of vegetables. British
Constellation noun Lockheed "Constellation" Four-engined, propeller-driven long range airliner of the 1940s and 1950s. Notable for a triple-rudder tail. Aeronautical
contact phrase Turning on the engine's ignition switch to start. Also the command to do so given by the person turning the propeller. (See swing the propeller ). Aeronautical
conveyance noun The British legal document that transfers the ownership of a house from one party to another. British
cop an outer phrase See outer. British
Corporation noun The generic title given to the services of local government. Although the word comes from the title "City Corporation", if some other body was responsible for a service, such as a County Council, that other body was also referred to as "the Corporation". British
counter noun The aft part of a ship above the water line and immediately in front of the stern itself. Nautical
cow, a fair phrase Obstinate, difficult, miserable. Australian
cowling noun The light weight structure enclosing an aircraft engine, made to smooth out airflow. Normally easily opened or removed. Aeronautical
crane noun A device you fix to the masthead to which the mast stays or shrouds are attached. For example, to make sure that the back stay is not fouled by the belly of the mailnsail, you could have a crane attached wjhich cantilevers the stay attachment in such a way that the sail doesn't touch it. Nautical
crook adjective Bad, ill. Australian
cross sea phrase When the wind and the current/tide are at (more-or-less) right angles to each other. Nautical
cross that (bridge or ditch) when we come to it phrase A potential or latent problem will be dealt with when it becomes a real problem, not before. British
CSIRO noun Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. Research groups funded by the Australian federal government. Australian
curling-irons noun Used for curling hair before the days of electric hair-curling tongs. The principle was the same in that you heated the curling-irons over an open fire and wrapped the hair around them so that it curled. British
cutter noun A very popular type of yacht with one mast, normally capable of being sailed by a crew of two. Nautical
CW branch noun The department (Commission and Warrant Branch) of the Admiralty Secretariat which dealt with officers' appointments. Royal Navy

D Back To Top
Term Part of speech Meaning Category
D.7 noun A high quality WWI German fighter aircraft, built by Fokker. Aeronautical
Dakota noun English name for the DC-3. A clever acronym composed from the letters DACoTA for D ouglas A ircraft Co. T ransport A ircraft. Aeronautical
Darwin noun City on the north west coast of the Northern Territory. Named for Charles Darwin, English naturalist. Stopover on the old Sydney - Brisbane - Cloncurry - Darwin - Singapore airline route. Australian
DC-3 noun Douglas DC3, also known as the "Gooney Bird" Twin-engined, all-metal transport aircraft introduced in the 1930s. Generally called "DC3" in Australia and the USA, Dakota in England. Aeronautical
DC6B noun One of the last large 4-engined propeller passenger aircraft. Aeronautical
dead beat noun See beat. Nautical
dekko noun British/Australian slang. More or less obsolete. Inspection, glance. It was orginally brought back to Britain by soldiers returning from duty in India: it comes from the Hindi dekhna, to see. British/Australian
dicey adjective Risky. British
dinghy noun A small rowing boat used to transfer between a moored boat and the shore or another boat. Normally towed behind the yacht or carried upside down on the cabin roof or the foredeck. In more luxury yachts, carried on derricks at the stern. Nautical
dinkie-die adjective Not quite obsolete Australian slang. Genuine, the truth. Australian
district nurse noun In England in the period before WWII, which was before the advent of the National Health Service, each locality was supplied with a district nurse who gave health advice, and visited known sick people who lived on their own, or who couldn't afford to pay for a private nurse, to ensure they were getting the proper care. British
ditch verb To come down in the sea; a plane that comes down on to the sea "ditches". Originally, the "Ditch" was the nickname for the English Channel, and ditching was what you did if you flew into it. But as more British aeroplanes came down it than in any other area of sea, the term came to be associated with coming down into any area of sea or ocean. British
ditch, cross that phrase synonym for cross that bridge. British
Dolphin noun The Sopwith 5F.1 Dolphin was a British fighter aircraft manufactured by the Sopwith Aviation Company. It was used by the Royal Flying Corps and its successor, the Royal Air Force, during the First World War. Aeronautical
dope (1) noun A type of paint often used on aircraft, which was, and still is called "dope". In particular for early aircraft, which were built as a wooden frame over which was stretched a material, such as canvas. Applying "dope" caused the canvas to shrink tight onto the frame. Aeronautical
dope (2) noun Slang for drugs. British
dope (3) verb To take drugs or to be under the influence of them. British
dourly (adv) adjective Silently ill-humoured; gloomy. British
Dragonfly, Dragon noun De Havilland light and medium aircraft used all over the world. In Australia, used mainly in Queensland and the Northern Territory, possibly assembled by Qantas at Longreach in the 1930s. Aeronautical
draw up verb To come to a halt. British
drawer, top, out of the phrase See top drawer. British
drawing pins noun Thumb tacks. British
drawing-room noun Room furnished with easy chairs and divans, sofas or settees where the family could sit and read, listen to the radio, play the piano or other musical instruments, entertain guests, etc. The name comes from "withdrawing room", a room in wealthier houses of the 19th century to where the women "withdrew" after dinner, leaving the men in the dining room to smoke cigars and drink brandy. By the time NS was writing, his heroes would no longer be observing these practices, but the name for the room had remained in use, albeit a little shortened. British
drummer noun A commercial traveller, a salesman. Slang
dual (take out the) noun Remove a second control stick to make more room in the cockpit. The second stick is used when an aircraft is used as a trainer, and both instructor and trainee pilot have interconnected control sticks. Aeronautical
dumb-bell noun Used in weight-training to strengthen the muscles of the arms. Consists of a short metal bar joining two weights. British
dunnage noun Personal baggage. Nautical

E Back To Top
Term Part of speech Meaning Category
ebbing tide phrase See tide. Nautical
Edo noun Aircraft manufacturer; named after the initials of its founder Earl Dodge Osborn. Aeronautical
eiderdown noun Bed covering stuffed with feathers (traditionally feathers from an eider duck's nest), duvet. British
elevator noun A moveable part of the tail. A main flight control used to raise and lower the nose. Aeronautical
ensign (flag) noun The flag flown at the rear of the boat or at its masthead to denote its country of registration. For British-registered boats, the ensign is a red, white or blue flag with the Union Jack in the upper, inner quadrant (the white ensign also has a red cross of St. George delimiting the quadrants). The white ensign is flown by all Royal Navy ships, the blue ensign by ships commanded by a Royal Navy Reserve captain and the red ensign by all other British registered ships, including yachts. Some British organisations have a special version of the appropriate ensign, with additional markings or symbols. Nautical
ensign (person) noun A junior officer on naval ship. Nautical
ETA acronym Estimated time of arrival. Aeronautical
even keel phrase Level. Nautical

F Back To Top
Term Part of speech Meaning Category
fair adjective A fair wind or tide is one that helps you on your way, a foul wind or tide is against you, and makes your passage much slower, or may at times actually prevent you from sailing. Nautical
falling tide phrase See tide. Nautical
fathom noun A measure of the depth of the sea, equivalent to 6 feet (1.83 metres). Nautical
finger trouble phrase British slang for doing something stupid. It stems from the vulgar phrase "get your finger out", which is said if someone is slow at doing something - the connotation is sexual! (you might also remember that in The Chequer Board, when Phil Morgan and the other prisoners wanted to convince the investigating British aircraft that the Japs had indeed left Rangoon, they painted "EXTRACT DIGIT" on the roof, as proof that this was not a Japanese ruse.) British
Flags noun Nautical nickname for the flag-lieutenant, an admiral's aide-de-camp. Nautical
flak noun Anti-aircraft fire. Although widely used by both British and American airmen, flak is actually the German nickname for anti-aircraft fire, from Fl(ieger)a(bwehr)k(anone), aircraft-defense gun. Aeronuatical
flaps noun Moveable panels on the rear of a wing used to aid in flying slowly. Aeronautical
flare-path noun For use at night, the edges of the runway would be marked by a double line of small fires. These were often just metal containers of oil which could be set alight when the aeroplanes needed to take-off or land. Aeronautical
flooding tide phrase See tide. Nautical
floor noun In Britain, as in most of Europe, you enter a house at the ground floor and go upstairs to the first floor, and then on to the second, etc. Thus, the last floor in a building is always called the n-1th floor, where n is the total number of floors. In the U.S., the floor at ground level is the first floor, and you go upstairs to the second and subsequent floors, so the highest floor is the nth floor. British
flowing tide phrase See tide. Nautical
flywheel noun Early engines were equipped with a heavy cogged flywheel attached to the engine's main crankshaft. You turned the flywheel using a cranked handle attached to a small cogged wheel that was meshed onto the flywheel. As the engine was trying to fire, the weight of the flywheel helped maintain the momentum that you had created by turning the cranked handle. Nautical
Fokker noun A Dutch aircraft manufacturer, named for the founder, Anthony Fokker. The company was forced to build aircraft for Germany in WWI, in particular the Fokker Triplane, flown by Baron von Richtoven, among others. Its aircraft did not play a major part in WW2, but the company survived into the post-war period, where it built commercial planes (in particular the Friendship) until bankruptcy in 1996. Fokker went into business with NS's Airspeed in 1935, a move that cost Airspeed some of the early Air Ministry rearmament contracts, because the recipients of such contracts had to sign the Official Secrets Act and could not have aliens on their boards. Aeronautical
folded the wings phrase Some light aircraft were built so that the wings could be folded easily on the ground. This was to facilitate storage. Aeronautical
forage cap noun Type of soft hat worn by officers in the RAF in this period (when not in combat). It could be folded down the centre-line, and thus had the approximate form of a flattened capital M when viewed from the front. Aeronautical
fore adjective Towards the front of a boat. Nautical
forecastle noun In a large ship, e.g. a merchant or navy ship, the front section of the superstructure, typically where the crew messes. In a small yacht, the area under the foredeck. Pronounced "foak'sul". Nautical
foresail noun A triangular sail smaller than the mainsail, and set forward of the mast in a small boat. Nautical
forestay noun A wire or rope that attaches the bows of a boat to the mast head. Part of the rigging that keeps the mast vertical. Nautical
foul adjective See fair. Nautical
Froth-Blower cuff links noun These are cuff-links worn by the "Ancient Order of Froth Blowers", a charitable organisation set up in 1924 by one Bert Temple to raise money for the children's charities of the surgeon Sir Alfred Fripp - mainly for hospital beds for poor children (the National Health service did not start until after WW2). Membership cost 5 shillings (25p today) for which you received a pair of blue cuff-links with the initials of the order, and the right to blow the froth off the beer of any other member (recognised by his cuff-links, obviously). Britishness and beer-drinking ("Lubrication in Moderation") was the significant activity of its members. It did not survive the death of the surgeon and founder in 1931. Famous members were Sir John Betjeman, Lord Peter Whimsey (Dorothy Sayers' titled detective) and ... possibly Nevil Shute Norway?
For more information, Wiki has a page:,
full tide phrase See tide. Nautical
fuselage noun The body of the airplane. Aeronautical
fusty adjective Damp, stale-smelling. British

G Back To Top
Term Part of speech Meaning Category
gaff noun Part of the rigging of a gaff-rigged boat. About two thirds up the mast there is a pole (the gaff) attached to the mast at one end, that was held out diagonally upwards by a rope from the top of the mast to the other end of the gaff. The sail was stretched between boom, mast and gaff. If you are a fan of Arthur Ransome's "Swallows and Amazons" you will no doubt remember that the two dinghies that the children sailed were gaff-rigged. Nautical
galère noun [Literally:Galley (Fr.)]A group of people having a marked common quality or relationship Other
galley noun Kitchen of a boat. Nautical
gawd noun London slang for "God". British
gear noun General term for a miscellaneous group of objects. Nautical
Ghan, the noun Railway service from Adelaide to Alice Springs. Named for Afghan camel drivers who carried supplies in central Australia during the later 19th and early 20th centuries. Australian
gimbals noun A mechanism that holds an object such as a lamp, allowing it to remain horizontal when the boat pitches or rolls.
gin noun A female Aborigine (a female indigenous person) Australian
gin and italian noun A not very expensive cocktail made from gin and sweet Italian vermouth. British
glass (naut.) noun Barometer. "The glass is falling" means that the barometer is showing that the barometric pressure is dropping. Nautical
Glauber's salt noun Sodium sulphate decahydrate. Purgative, cathartic. It is named after Johann Rudolf Glauber, who discovered it in the 17th century in Hungarian spring water. Other
going's good, while the phrase To do something "while the going's good" is to take advantage of the opportunity that some favourable situation is providing at that moment. British
goitre noun Enlarged thyroid gland resulting from iodine deficiency. British
good as gold phrase Being very good - almost exclusively applied to children or animals. British
Gosport patter noun A standardized verbal presentation of training information named after an early British flight school in Gosport, nerar Portsmouth. Normally said to explain something to someone while you are doing it, which is also known as "sitting next to Nelly". Aeronautical
Graviners noun Fire extinguishers built into aircraft engine housings. Aeronautical
grazier noun A pastoralist, who raises sheep or cattle on a station. Australian
grocer noun Shopkeeper selling all foodstuffs other than fresh meat, fish, fruit and vegetables. British
ground engineer noun An aircraft mechanic. Aeronautical
gum-boots noun Rubber boots (Wellingtons). Called so because rubber is obtained from a "gum tree". British
gunwale noun Top line of planking on a boat's sides. Pronounced "gun'l". Nautical

H Back To Top
Term Part of speech Meaning Category
half-a-crown noun Slang for a coin in use from 1526 to 1967, and worth one eighth of a pound sterling, or two shillings and sixpence in the pre-decimalised English currency. The decimalised value would be twelve and a half new pence. As you might guess, there was also a coin called a crown, worth one quarter of a pound sterling, in use in the same period. It would have been nice if the half-a-crown coin had been a crown coin sawn in half, but sadly it was just an ordinary coin shape. Both coins are still minted occasionally, but in their decimalised form, and for special occasions only. British
halliards, halyard noun The rope by which the sails are raised. Nautical
Handley Page noun A British bomber aircraft. Aeronautical
hard noun A concrete slope leading down into the water, and used for launching and recovering boats on trolleys. Nautical
hard chine adjective A type of small-boat hull, where the sides are at an angle from the bottom rather than being rounded. Hard chine hulls are more manoeuvrable than other types. Nautical
Harpic noun Harpic is the brand name of a toilet bowl cleaner launched in England in the 1920s and now marketed by Reckitt Benckiser. From the 1930s until comparatively recently, its slogan was "Cleans round the bend", the bend being the U-shaped trap behind the toilet bowl that prevents the bad air from the drains escaping into the bathroom. NS explained that he got the idea for Shak Lin's nickname from an RAF officer who was called Harpic because he was a bit crazy - "round the bend" being English slang for crazy or mad. See the June 2004 newsletter. British
hatch noun An opening in a horizontal surface, such as a deck. In a small yacht, the entrance to the cabin normally consists of a pair of half-height doors and a sliding hatch above them; you need to open them all to get into the cabin, and they are collectively knows as the hatch. Nautical
Hatry stuff phrase Improper business practices. The reference is to one Clarence Hatry, a British business tycoon of the 1920's, whose empire collapsed in 1928/29 when it was discovered that he had, in effect, "cooked the books" and created fictitious securities to provide collateral for new loans. Some analysts credit his failure with being the starting point of the Wall Street collapse of October 1929. A brief analysis of Hatry's demise may be found here. Other
head verb Go in the direction of something or somewhere (e.g. "Head East" means "Go towards the East". Nautical
heads noun The term for a toilet or washroom aboard a boat or ship. The reason that a ship's lavatory is called the "head" or "heads" comes from the days of the square-rigged sailing ships. When a member of the crew needed to relieve themselves they would go to a small cabin placed at the bows of the boat or ship, so that any smell went forwards (remember that the wind on a square- rigger came from behind). The cabin had a chute (no pun intended) to let the "debris" go straight overboard, and it was also good to have this at the bows, because any "debris" that remained smeared on the side of the ship would be washed off by the next big wave. This cabin is thought to have become known as the "head", either because it was near where the figurehead was or because it was the head of the ship - where the ship was heading. Nautical
headache, sick, as much use as phrase See sick headache. British
heaving-line noun A light line thrown (heaved) from one vessel to another, or between a vessel and the shore. The recipient catches the light line and hauls it in. the heaving line itself is attached to a heavier line, which is attached itself to a heavier line, and so on until the recipient, perhaps with the aid of a capstan or vehicle, hauls in a rope heavy enough to do the job in hand (mooring, towing, etc.). Nautical
heel verb When a boat leans over to one side under the pressure of the wind on the sails. Nautical
helm, at the phrase To steer a boat; in a small boat it also has the conceptual sense of being in control. Nautical
here's luck phrase Said before drinking an alcoholic drink, like "cheers", "bottoms-up", "chin-chin", etc. British
Hermannsburg, an abo called Albert at noun Albert Namitjira, aboriginal landscape artist from the Lutheran mission at Hermannsburg, west of Alice Springs. Painted in a semi-impressionistic style with an unusual pastel palette. Australian
higgledy piggledy adjective A mess, disorganised. British
high tide phrase See tide. Nautical
high water phrase See tide. Nautical
hog on to it phrase Hold on to it, keep it. British
hole in the top plane phrase On biplanes, a small wing section above the pilot is often left open to improve upward visibility. Aeronautical
holiday noun Equivalent to "vacation" in American English. British
hood (aero) noun Transparent cover for the cockpit of a fighter plane. Aeronautical
hoosier noun a nickname for a native or resident of Indiana. American
hounds noun Point of attachment of the shrouds or stays. Nautical
[The] House noun Christ Church college, Oxford University. British
Hudson noun A twin-engined aircraft used in WW2, built by Lockheed. Aeronautical

I Back To Top
Term Part of speech Meaning Category
in the same boat phrase Sharing the same problems. Strangely, the phrase is not used when people share the same good things! British
integrator noun A device that mechanically counts the revolutions of the input propeller that powers the airspeed indicator, and can thus approximately measure the distance travelled through the air. The instrument thus created is called an air log. Aeronautical
in irons phrase Of a boat. Lying head to the wind, and unable to turn either way. When a sailing boat, like a yacht or a dinghy, with fore-and-aft sails (not the square-rigged type) lies head to wind (pointing in the direction of the wind), the sails can be left to shiver in the wind and the boat drifts slowly stern-first with the pressure of the wind on its superstructure. The shape of the hull makes it stay pointing into the wind.
To get moving again you have to back the jib (i.e. pull the jib sheets to port or starboard) so that the jib offers some wind resistance and the wind pushes the bows of the boat sufficiently the other way that the wind can fill the main sail. You then let go of the backed jib and the boat can sail away. In a boat without a jib you have to push the mainsail boom out to one side by brute force, against the wind pressure; this time the stern of the boat moves away from the direction you are pushing the boom, until it reaches the point where you you can let go the boom and let the mainsail fill with the wind in the normal way. This is much harder. The expression comes from the use of the word "irons" to mean "shackles", i.e. rings fixed around a prisoner's legs and/or arms to keep the prisoner from moving. In the naval case, it is the boat that is the prisoner. To "throw the vessel into irons", which is a quote from "Pilotage", is to steer directly into the wind, so that the boat goes into irons and loses way - Shute's use of the verb "throw" indicates a violence in the intent, even if the result is fairly non-violent slowing-down to the eye of the observer.
island bridge noun A ship is navigated from its bridge. If the bridge has deck areas fore and aft of it, it is called an island bridge. An aircraft carrier has an island bridge, as did many merchant vessels prior to the container era. Nautical
ITW acronym In the Wet Other

J Back To Top
Term Part of speech Meaning Category
jammed everything forward phrase Quickly applied full power. Aeronautical
jetty noun A structure, such as a pier, that projects into a body of water, and from which people can board boats or other vessels. Nautical
jib noun A triangular sail smaller than the mainsail, the front edge of which is attached to the forestay. Nautical
Julia Creek noun North western Queensland town, a few hundred kilometres east of Cloncurry. Shute has it wrong, the railhead (terminus) had been at Mount Isa, well to the west since about 1928. Australian

K Back To Top
Term Part of speech Meaning Category
K acronym Ruined City/Kindling Other
kedge anchor noun Small, light anchor, normally attached to the stern of a boat to keep it lying in the same direction regardless of wind or tides. Nautical
kicking back phrase The engine suddenly going backwards when being starting by hand, because you did not achieve enough momentum when turning over the engine to get the piston in the firing cylinder to go past its highest point before the fuel ignites and pushes it back. Dangerous! Aeronautical
kitbag noun The more-or-less cylindrical bag in which a sailor or soldier carries his possessions. Nautical
Kruschens noun "Kruschen salts" was the name for a popular preparation used for indigestion, the principle component of which was magnesium sulphate. The name appears to have been most used in Britain and the Empire, although Kruschen salts are still sold today throughout the world under that name. It appears to have been a trade name for the preparation which then morphed into a generic name. A 1920's advertising slogan for the product - "That Kruschen(s) feeling!" - apparently made its way into the popular argot. Other
Kuala noun Malay. Town. Other

L Back To Top
Term Part of speech Meaning Category
L acronym Landfall: A Channel Story Other
L5 noun Stinson L5 Sentinel: The unarmed L-5, affectionately known as the "flying jeep", with its short field takeoff and landing capability, was used for reconnaissance, removing injured combatants from front line areas, delivering supplies to isolated units, laying communications wire, spotting enemy targets for attack aircraft, transporting personnel, rescuing personnel in remote areas and even as a light bomber. In Asia and the Pacific, L-5s remained in service with USAF units as late as 1955. See this very informative site. Aeronautical
laid up noun A boat is laid up for the winter by removing the sails and any other removable perishable fittings (tiller, rudder, etc.) and placing them in a dry storage place. Nautical
lashing noun Thin cord used to tie anything down. Nautical
launch, motor noun See motor-launch. Nautical
lavatory pan noun Name for the ceramic object that you sit on in the bathroom. "Toilet bowl" or "lavatory bowl" is also used. British
lavvy noun Slang for lavatory. British
lay a vessel to the wind phrase Start sailing into the wind. Nautical
lay the boat off verb To follow a course. Nautical
leeward adjective Away from the direction from where the wind is coming. Normally just "lee", but if you say the full word, you pronounce it "loo-werd" Nautical
Lem Putt noun A Hollywood comedy actor, Charles (Chic) Sale, wrote a story in 1928 to tell after dinner at the many Rotarian functions he attended. It's the quirky tale of Lem Putt, an odd but likeable carpenter who decides he needs to specialize in his trade. Instead of building houses or barns, he soon becomes the champion builder of outhouses, privies, and outside loos in his county. Entitled "The Specialist", it was published in 1929, originally just to prove his copyright, but it rapidly became a best-seller. British
LeRhones noun Make of aircraft rotary engine. Aeronautical
Liberator noun B-24, A 4-engined heavy bomber designed by Consolidated Aircraft, and used in WW2. Aeronautical
lie (a destination) verb To be in a position to set a course which, with the prevailing wind and tide, allow you to arrive at the destination without having to tack. Nautical
Lieutenant noun Royal Navy rank: a watch-keeping officer (in Britain it's pronounced "leftenant"). Other
Lieutenant Commander noun Royal Navy rank: responsible for a less important section on a large ship (in Britain it's pronounced "leftenant commander"). Other
LiLo noun Inflatable mattress, usually used for camping. This is one of those items where the same product from different manufacturers is known by the trade name used by the first or most successful of them. Pronounced "lie-low". British
local yard noun Place where boats are built and/or repaired. Nautical
locker noun Nautical equivalent of a cupboard. Nautical
log, patent noun A device trailed in the water behind a boat to determine its speed through the water. It consists of a spinner immersed in the water and attached by a line to a fixed indicator that counts the revolutions of the spinner to determine the distance travelled by the boat. Nautical
low tide phrase See tide. Nautical
low water phrase See tide. Nautical
low-wing monoplane noun An aeroplane in which the fuselage sits on top of the wings. The Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane are both low-wing monoplanes, and it was probably these planes to which Shute was referring, without naming a specific model. Aeronautical
LR acronym Lonely Road Other
luff noun The leading edge of a sail. Nautical
LVG noun A type of German aircraft in WWI, built by Luft-Verkehrs-Gesellschaft mbH. Aeronautical

M Back To Top
Term Part of speech Meaning Category
M acronym Marazan Other
magneto noun Device used on a small engine to create the high-voltage spark required by the spark plug. Nautical
Majlis noun An Arabic term meaning "a place of sitting" used to describe various types of special gatherings among common interest groups be it administrative, social or religious in countries with linguistic or cultural connections to Islamic countries. Arabian
main sheet noun Sheet of the mainsail. Nautical
mainsail noun The largest of the sails on a boat. In the sort of boats that NS writes about, its front edge is attached to the mast, and its bottom edge to the boom. Nautical
make fast phrase To tie-up a small boat to another, or to a quayside fitting, like a bollard or a ladder. Nautical
making water verb Water is coming into a boat, either because the waves are coming inboard, or because of some damage that the boat has suffered. Nautical
marline spike noun A metal cone-shaped tool usually made from iron or steel that is used for separating strands of rope or wire. Marline spikes typically have a knob on the wide end that can be used for pounding. Nautical
merry hell phrase Something bad, even terrible. British
mess (1) adjective Used of anything appertaining to the mess, e.g. mess-bill (a mess could have a bar where officers can buy themselves and each other drinks). Nautical
mess (2) noun The place where armed forces personnel of similar ranks met off-duty to eat and relax together, e.g. officer's mess. Nautical
mess (3) verb To socialize together, e.g. "The commissioned officers and the petty officers all mess together". Nautical
MET acronym Meteorology (weather) department. Aeronautical
meths noun Nickname for methylated spirit. British
methylated spirit noun Ethyl alcohol (ethanol, or grain alcohol) denatured with methanol, or other denaturant, e.g., benzene. Used either for cleaning or to power small cooking stoves. British
Midshipman noun Royal Navy rank: the lowest form of officer life - young and in training to be a sub-lieutenant. The midshipman rank is a curiosity; it is not a commissioned rank, and is normally occupied by a very young person, in times past as young as 12 years old, but it is an officer rank, and as such is senior to all non-commissioned ranks, including Boatswains, Coxswains and Chief Petty Officers, all of whom have vastly more experience. The name comes from where they were stationed - amidships. Other
mike noun loaf (as in loaf about, loiter) British
missus noun It was and is a working-class habit to refer to one's wife as "the Mrs", but it was and is always written "the missus". It is pronounced "miss-is". British
monkey's island noun The top of the pilot house in a ship. Nautical
monkey jacket noun Waist-length jacket tapering to a point at the back; worn by officers in the mess for formal dinners. British
monoplane, low-wing noun See low-wing monoplane Aeronautical
Monos noun Make of aircraft rotary engine. Aeronautical
mordant noun A chemical that serves to fix a dye on a substance, e.g. in photography Photographic
moor verb To tie up a boat. Nautical
mooring noun A place to tie up a boat. Nautical
Morse code noun Now largely forgotten, except by radio hams, Morse code was used in the early days of telegraphic transmission, and subsequently radio, when voice transmission could not be relied upon to give a clear reception. It consists of short (dit) and long (dah) pulses which are combined in different sequences to make letter and numbers. It was invented in the 1830s but has undergone significant changes, both in the transmission technique and the code itself. Amongst the more famous message patterns are "dit, dit, dit; dah, dah, dah; dit, dit, dit" which spelled out "SOS" or "Save Our Souls", and became a universal emergency call. Another was the BBC's playing, at the beginning of the news during the Second World War, the first 4 notes of Beethoven's 5th symphony, which gave "dit, dit, dit, dah", the code for the letter V, for victory. Nautical
Moth noun See Tiger Moth. Aeronautical
motor-launch noun Small motorized boat used to transfer people between ships and from ship to shore. Nautical
mouldy noun British naval slang for a torpedo. Hence a "mouldy" referred to a naval officer specialising in torpedoes e.g. Mouldy James in "Landfall" Nautical
MS acronym Most Secret Other
mud berth noun In tidal waters, a yacht can be moored at a mud berth, where the boat sits on the mud when the tide is out. Nautical
muffler noun Scarf (in Britain, no connection with the exhaust from a vehicle!). Nautical/British
mulligatawny noun A spicy meat and vegetable soup of Indian origin. A literal translation from the Tamil is "pepper water" ( Millagu is pepper and Thanni is water). British
mummer noun Affectionate upper-class slang for "mother". British
mutt noun An affectionate term for someone who has been a bit silly/stupid. Obsolete. British

N Back To Top
Term Part of speech Meaning Category
N (rank qualifier) noun Indicates a navigating officer responsible or partially responsible (depending on the rank) for navigation and communications. For example "Commander (N)" is an officer of the rank Commander who is responsible for navigation. Nautical
nappy noun Diaper! British
nearer the bull phrase See outer. British
never-never phrase Nickname for buying on credit, also known as hire purchase or payment by instalments. The term presumably comes from the feeling that you were never, never, going to get to the final instalment and actually take possession of what you had been paying for (up to the final payment it remained the legal property of the finance company). British
newsagent noun Seller of newspapers and magazines, as well as (normally) sweets (candy) and cigarettes. British
NH acronym No Highway Other
nine-inch wall noun In English construction most houses and the dividing walls between properties were brick-built. An English brick is and was 9" long by 4.5" wide by 2.25" high (approx. 22 cm x 11 cm x 6.5 cm). A "nine-inch wall" is made with two interlocking thicknesses of bricks, some bricks (headers) spanning the width of the wall and the rest (stretchers) being laid longwise. This phrase also implies sturdiness, as it was quite common to build garden walls, especially short, low ones, with one thickness of bricks plus the occasional buttress. British
nurse noun Apart from the normal meaning, in early 20C middle-class England "Nurse" was the nanny, a person employed to look after children. British

O Back To Top
Term Part of speech Meaning Category
O acronym Ordeal/What Happened to the Corbetts Other
oblige verb Apart from the normal meaning of this verb, "to oblige" was often used to dignify the relationship between employer and employee in domestic service; for a woman to say that "she obliged" for somebody avoided having to say that she was a servant, or was "in service". See also only to oblige. British
Oerlikon noun Very common 20 mm cannon, normally mounted on a naval vessel for anti-aircraft or anti-personnel work, or on early aircraft. First built by Reinhold Becker in Germany, in 1913, but subsequently made under license in various countries and now used all over the world (See Oerlikon definition at Wikipedia )
oil verb To take on diesel fuel. Nautical
oil spraying backwards phrase Normal in rotary engines, none of which had long exhaust pipes. Oil was consumed as the engine ran, and the exhaust always contained some unburned oil. Aeronautical
oilskin noun In the days before PVC and its relatives, water-proofing a garment could only be achieved by impregnating it with wax or, in this case, oil. Oilskins were uniformly used by sailors, both professional and amateur, until the arrival of waterproof plastic garments in the 1960's. Nautical
old boy phrase A friendly salutation between men, similar to "chum", mate", "old chap", "my dear fellow", "me old mucker", "chief". "Old boy" tended to be used between people who had been to a public school. British
old-fashioned look phrase A knowing look - old-fashioned in the sense of your elders being cleverer than you. British
only to oblige phrase To be helpful. British
oropesa float noun A device used in minesweeping, to keep the cutting sweep wire at a distance and out to one side of the minesweeper.(A usedul description is at Naval
OTB acronym On the Beach Other
outer noun The outer ring on an archery target, and by extension, the outer part of any target. To "cop an outer" is to hit the edge of a target. The centre of the target is called the "bull" or "bull's eye". Thus, "nearer the bull" means to be more accurate. British

P Back To Top
Term Part of speech Meaning Category
P acronym Pastoral Other
pageant noun A fly-in, or air show meet. Aeronautical
painter noun Light rope attached to the bows of a small boat (dinghy) used to tie the boat up to another boat, a buoy or a dock fitting. Nautical
palm noun Implement used instead of a thimble in the making and mending sails. It is formed of a piece of leather or canvas, on the middle of which is fixed a round plate of iron, about an inch in diameter, the surface of which is pierced with a number of small holes to catch the head of the sail-needle. The leather is formed so as to encircle the hand, and to button on the back thereof, while the iron remains in the palm; in this way the whole strength of the hand may be exerted to thrust the needle through the stiff, heavy canvas. Nautical
pancake verb To land without using the wheels in an emergency, either because the retractable undercarriage isn't working, or because you are landing on soft ground or water, into which the wheels would sink. Sometimes called a belly landing. Aeronautical
paraffin noun A light fuel used in portable stoves. Called kerosene in some parts of the world. British
patent log noun See log, patent. Nautical
Perspex adjective Clear plastic, used in windows, windshields, etc. Aeronautical
petrol noun Gasoline. British
Pfalz noun A German aircraft manufacturer in WWI, and hence the aircraft that the manufacturer built. Aeronautical
picketed down phrase Anchored to the ground with guy ropes. Aeroplanes kept out in the open were picketed down to stop them being blown away by strong winds. Aeronautical
pickle noun Plight. Thus, to "be in a pickle" is to be in a difficult situation. British
pinch verb Steal. Nautical
pitch verb When a boat tips regularly backward and forward, as it does when pointing towards the direction the waves are coming from. Nautical
pitot noun A measuring instrument consisting of a tube with an open end that is directed in opposition to the flow of a fluid and used to measure the velocity of fluid flow; in this context, air, to provide a measure of airspeed. Aeronautical
plane noun Term meaning the wing. A biplane has 2 wings, a triplane 3. Aeronautical
plug cock noun A main fuel cut-off valve. Aeronautical
plus fours noun Trousers (Brit) or pants (U.S.) that came down to just below the knee. They were worn with long socks so that the legs were completely covered. Particularly popular for game-shooting or golfing. British
pongo noun A mildly derogatory term (used mostly by the Royal Navy) for anyone in the Army. Military
port adjective The left-hand side of an aircraft or boat; the right-hand side is starboard. The terms are thought to have come from the very beginnings of sailing, when steering was achieved by using a steering board or oar which was placed on the right-hand side of the pointed stern of early boats. The port side is the side of the boat that you tied up to in port, and this had to be the side away from the steering oar so that the steering oar did not get in the way. Aeronautical
Post Office Hotel, Cloncurry noun Still exists and was still the best pub in town in 1969. Stands opposite the Post Office. The present building was erected in 1932. Shute conflates it and a Julia Creek hotel of a different name to be an imaginary Post Office Hotel in Julia Creek. Australian
potter about phrase Wander around doing very little. Can sometimes be used to refer to doing a series of small jobs, maybe not very efficiently. British
pound noun Monetary unit used in England. Before 1972 it comprised 20 shillings, each of which had 12 pence. Now decimalised to 100 new pence. British
powder compact noun Container for a ladies' face powder, including an applicator pad; compact because it was small enough to fit in even the smallest handbag. British
PP acronym Pied Piper Other
priest (1) noun British armored and tracked vehicle - like a tank, but used for some specialized purposes - perhaps minefield clearing. Nicknamed the "Priest" by the British due to its resembling a pulpit. British military
priest (2) noun A short club used by anglers to stun or kill a captured fish English
primus noun A small portable stove running on a light liquid fuel, such as paraffin. It is particularly efficacious because you use a small hand-pump to pressurise the fuel tank so that the fuel vaporises as it comes out of the burner and creates a much hotter flame. It gets its name from the original version marketed by a Swedish company. British
Proctor noun A small civilian British aircraft (NS owned one), built by Percival. Aeronautical
PT acronym Pilotage Other
public school noun In England, fee-paying schools are divided into two groups: the more prestigious are called "public schools" and the rest "private schools". Schools provided by the state are called "council schools" or "state schools". To be a public school boy implied the membership of a fairly exclusive group in what was, at that time, a very class-conscious society. Nearly all officers in all branches of the services were public school boys prior to the Second World War. Those who had attended public school spoke English with a particular accent that marked them out from those who attended other sorts of schools. Many of the public schools are very old; Nevil Shute's Shrewsbury School was founded by Edward VI in 1552! British
pullover noun A knitted sleeveless garment worn over a shirt, normally with a v-neck. British
pusher noun An arrangement where the propeller is to the rear and pushes the airplane. Fairly common in very early aircraft (used by Wilbur and Orville). Aeronautical

Q Back To Top
Term Part of speech Meaning Category
quarter noun The general direction on either side of a ship located 45° off the stern. Nautical
quarterdeck noun The stern area of a ship's upper deck. The quarter-deck is reserved as a promenade for the officers and (in passenger vessels) for the cabin passengers. Nautical
Queensland noun State in North East Australia, covering about one fifth the area of the continent. Capital city - Brisbane. Joe and Jean Harman's eventual home lay in Queensland, some distance south of the Gulf of Carpentaria and east by north of Cloncurry. Australian
quid noun Slang for the British monetary unit: a pound. British

R Back To Top
Term Part of speech Meaning Category
RAAF acronym Royal Australian Air Force Aeronautical
race noun In tidal waters, where a promontory sticks out from the land, a race forms at the point of the promontory, where the water is squeezed past the promontory and thus runs faster and rougher. Small boats can often be threatened by very rough water in a race if the tide and the wind are in opposite directions. Nautical
radiogram noun An early form of music centre, combining a record player, a radio and a pair of medium-sized speakers in one piece of furniture, with room also to store vinyl gramophone records. And if you don't know what vinyl records are ... look them up on Wikipedia ! But it was much bigger than a modern music centre. We had one that must have been getting on for 6 feet (nearly 2 metres) long, about 3 feet high (nearly 1 metre) and 2 feet deep (60 cms). A piece of furniture, often with room for a drinks cabinet as well as the vinyl record storage. British
RAF acronym Royal Air Force. Created from the Royal Flying Corps on 1st April 1918, and thus at first affectionately known the "Royal April Fools" (considering that the average life span of a pilot in the First World War at one point got as low as 11 days, this was perhaps a fairly accurate nickname). Other
raining cats and dogs phrase The story goes that in early thatched houses, the aforesaid domestic animals would nestle down in the thatch during the winter months, nicely warmed by the fire in the house below. However, when it came on to rain hard, the animals would leap for the ground and take cover in the house or under a cart. Thus, when it rains hard it is "raining cats and dogs". British
Rakats noun Are the prescribed movements and words followed by Muslims during worship. Religious
ranging cable noun A sufficient length of cable, drawn upon the deck before the anchor is cast loose, to let it sink to the bottom without any check (sometimes "range of cable"). Nautical
rank noun See BlueYonder for a comparative list of ranks and ratings of many armed forces Other
Ras noun A local fascist boss in Italy during the fascist period (1922 - 1943). The base of the Italian fascist movement was the Blackshirt foot soldiers, the "squadristi". These fascist squads were controlled by a local boss or "Ras" - curiously, this term comes from an Ethiopian term for a chieftain (Ethiopia was then an Italian colony). Every neighborhood, city, and province had a Ras who operated as a near independent power in his region. Thus, despite Fascist propaganda which loudly claimed a monolithic unity behind its Duce, Mussolini never had complete freedom of action and always had to take into account the wishes and rivalries of the fascist bosses.
The term is used in "Marazan". NS had family connections in Northern Italy and holidayed there when young (mentioned in the Photo Timeline). In "Marazan" and "So Disdained", both written before the totatalitarian nature of the fascist regime became so evident, NS describes fascism mostly favourably as an anti-communist force for law and order. The positive attitude towards fascism of the "Marazan" character Giovanni di Leglia, who is a member of the traditional ruling class, was typical in real life of many of his type, and was one of the reasons why Mussolini remained in power for so long.
rate-one turn (aka Standard-Rate Turn, Two-Minute Turn ) noun A manoeuvre where the airplane is turned at a certain fixed rate, often 3 degrees per second. Aeronautical
rating noun See rank. Other
RC acronym Ruined City/Kindling Other
Rear Admiral noun Royal Navy rank: responsible for a squadron. Other
reef verb To reduce the size of a sail when the wind is strong. In many small boats, the mainsail will have small ropes or canvas strips (called reef points) attached to it at various heights; the sail is lowered a certain amount and the reef points tied round the boom. Nautical
reef point noun See reef (v). Nautical
reefer noun Modification of the attachment of the boom that allows you to rotate the boom, winding the mainsail onto it, and thus reef the mainsail without having to use reef points. Nautical
rev counter noun A tachometer, counting revolutions. Aeronautical
RFAW acronym Requiem for a Wren/The Breaking Wave Other
RFC acronym See Royal Flying Corps. British
Rhys-Davids noun A minor character's name in WHTTC, but (and probably not by chance) also the name of one of Britain's greatest WW1 fighter pilots (Arthur Percival Foley Rhys Davids DSO, MC - 25 victories before his death in 1917). Aeronautical
rig verb To construct, set-up, or make something. Specifically to attach the mast, sails and rigging to a boat. Nautical
rigging (aero) noun The attachment of various airplane parts and control surfaces to each other. A matter of constant attention in older airplanes, if they are to fly correctly. Somewhat like the alignment of an automobile's wheels. Aeronautical
rigging, running (naut) noun The ropes or cables, and their attachments, which are used to raise and lower the sails. Nautical
rigging, standing (naut) noun The ropes or cables, and their attachments, which hold up the mast. Nautical
ringer noun Australian slang. 1. Experienced stockman in beef cattle industry. 2. Fastest shearer or sometimes best paid worker in sheep shearing shed. Australian
rising tide phrase See tide. Nautical
RNC acronym Royal Naval College (now Britannia Royal Naval College) English
Rockhampton noun Small city near the Queensland coast a few kilometres north of the Tropic of Capricorn. Named for rocks in the river which impeded navigation. Australian
roll verb When a boat tips regularly from side to side, as it does when lying parallel to waves (at right-angles to the direction the waves are coming from). Nautical
Rolls Eagles noun A type of British aircraft engine, made by Rolls Royce. Aeronautical
rotary engine noun A type of early aircraft engine in which the crankshaft was fixed and the engine and propeller revolved around it. It vibrated much less than a conventional engine, and did not need to carry the deadweight of a flywheel, as it, itself, acted as the flywheel. Common in WWI, but rapidly out of use thereafter, because as the developing technology allowed the construction of higher revving static engines, and consequently greater speed, the rotary engine at higher revs encountered too much air resistance to be efficient. Aeronautical
round off verb Stop descending just before touching the ground on landing.
( flaring in the US)
round the bend phrase Crazy, mad (see also Harpic ). Also, of course, the name of one of NS's books. British
Royal Flying Corps noun Predecessor to the Royal Air Force. Aeronautical
RTB acronym Round the Bend Other
rudder (aero) noun Hinged rear part of an aircraft's fin that can be moved by the pilot pressing on the rudder bar to make the aircraft turn to the right or left. Making a controlled turn requires the correct use of ailerons and rudder. Aeronautical
rudder (naut) noun Hinged part of a boat's keel that can be moved by the helmsman moving the helm or turning the wheel to make the boat turn to the right or left. Nautical
ruddy adjective Mild swear word, acceptable to use in front of women in the way that "bloody" was not. Often used in books prior to the mid-50s, because "bloody" might have earned the ire of the censors of moral rectitude of that period. British
ruddy picnic phrase "It's a ruddy picnic" was an ironic phrase to indicate that something was not going well, or was difficult. British
Rumpler noun A type of German aircraft in WWI. Aeronautical
run up verb Operate and check the engine, controls and systems of an aircraft, to ensure all are normal before take-off. Aeronautical
runner noun Adjustable backstay attached to the top of the mast. If you slacken the runner, the top of the mast moves slightly forward, changing the way the wind fills the sails; if you tighten it the mast moves slightly towards the stern. Nautical
running board noun On many cars built before the Second World War, there was a step on each side of the car, called a "running board", which stretched between the wheels and beneath the doors. In many films of the period, a policeman without transport would stop a passing car and stand on the running board, holding on through the windows, as the car sped off in pursuit of the crooks. British

S Back To Top
Term Part of speech Meaning Category
S acronym Seafarers Other
S.E.5 noun A British fighter aircraft used in WW1, built by the Royal Aircraft Factory. Aeronautical
sail-locker noun A part of a small boat, usually in the bows, used to store the sails. Nautical
saloon noun The dining and socializing part of the cabin of a boat. Nautical
saloon car noun A 2 or 4-door car/automobile capable of seating 4 or more people, a sedan in USA. British
Sanitas noun A type of disinfectant for toilets, rubbish bins, etc. It is produced by passing air through Russian oil of turpentine in contact with warm water. British
scot-free adjective Completely free from obligation, harm, or penalty. It is normally used to indicate that the aforesaid "freedom" came as a surprise or was the result of good fortune.

A scot is a Scandinavian word for tax or payment. It came to the UK as a form of redistributive taxation which was levied as early the 13th century as a form of municipal poor relief. The term is a contraction of "scot and lot". Scot was the tax and lot, or allotment, was the share given to the poor.

Scot as a term for tax has been used since then to mean many different types of tax. Whatever the tax, the phrase "scot free" just refers to not paying one's taxes.

No one likes paying tax and people have been getting off scot free since at least 1568, from when this reference comes - V. Skinner, in a translation of Montanus' Inquisition: "... Escape scotte free."
screw noun Salary, wages. "Are you on a good screw ?" in Shute's time meant "Are they paying you well ?". The Oxford English Dictionary contains more than 20 meanings for this noun (including "an unsound horse" !) but has no specific etymology for this, the 18th meaning, just noting its first recorded use in 1858. My guess is that it arose from one of the meanings of the verb "screw": to obtain something with difficulty ("In the end I managed to screw it out of him"). British
scunner noun To take a dislike to something, as in Requiem for a Wren, where Alan Duncan relates that after the injury that caused him to lose his legs "... he had a scunner against flying ...". Scunner is always used with the prepositions "to" or "against". It is a Scottish word that can be traced back at least to the 1300's and which probably comes from the verb "skurn", which means "flinch". Sadly, after all this time it now seems to be going out of use. British
SD acronym So Disdained/The Mysterious Aviator Other
sea cabin noun Small cabin near the bridge for a ship's captain or an admiral, used while at sea and more specifically when in action. The captain or admiral would also have a larger cabin or stateroom for formally receiving visitors, dining, etc. Nautical
secondary noun A meteorological term. Associated with a primary depression, secondary depressions follow the primary, can sometimes be deeper than the primary, with stronger winds, but are normally short-lived. Nautical
sedan noun A 2 or 4-door car/automobile capable of seating 4 or more people, a saloon in UK. The word derives from the Latin/Italian word for chair - "sede". American
semi-detached adjective One of a pair of houses joined to each other by one shared wall. The pair of houses would be surrounded by a small plot of land divided into a garden for each house. Semi-detached houses were the most common housing for young professional men, such as solicitors, doctors, teachers, engineers, etc. during the first half of the 20th century in Britain. British
senior wrangler noun At the University of Cambridge, a wrangler is a student who has completed the third year (called Part II) of the Mathematical Tripos with first-class honours.
The highest-scoring student is named the "senior wrangler"; the second highest-scoring student is the "second wrangler"; the third highest is the "third wrangler", and so on.
settee berth noun Nautical equivalent of a divan bed, i.e. a seat for 2 or more people that can be turned into a bed. Nautical
sextant noun Navigation instrument for determining the latitude of the observer. It allows you to measure the angle formed between the horizon and an observed object in the sky, such as the sun or a particular star. When you know the time and date of the observation you can determine at what latitude the object makes that precise angle, either by calculation, or by reference to lookup tables. The name comes from the scale on the instrument, which covers 60°, or one sixth of a circle ( sextans is Latin for "one sixth"). Nautical
shackle noun Device to attach two or more objects together; in the form of a U-shaped piece of metal closed with a bolt that passes through a hole at one end of the U and screws into a threaded hole at the other end. Nautical
sheave noun A grooved wheel set in a block. Nautical
sheer verb For a boat to move away form the land or another boat at a sharp angle. Nautical
sheet noun The rope that controls the angle that a sail makes to the boat; in the case of the mainsail it is attached to the boom, for jibs and other sails it is attached directly to the sail. If you slacken the sheet the unfastened end of the sail moves away from the boat; if you tighten the sheet the end of the sail moves towards the boat. Nautical
sheet home verb To pull the sheet in to its tightest position, used when beating or tacking. Nautical
Shire Clerk noun Chief municipal officer. An appointed position which requires formal qualifications. Australian
short drink noun A drink comprising mainly a spirit, such as whisky, gin, rum, vodka, brandy, etc. British
shroud noun A wire or (in former days) cord which is attached to the mast in a transverse direction (i.e. to the port and starboard bulwarks. Together with the stays, these keep the mast in an upright position and prevent it from bending too much with the wind pressure in the sails. Nautical
sick headache, as much use as phrase Useless. British
Sidcot suit noun It was named for its inventor, Sidney Cotton. Full-length, leather on the outside, fleecy-lined with the best Australian merino wool on the inside, it was much loved by World War I pilots and was also used in the second world war.
The suit was a necessity in the freezing skies above France and Belgium.
sideslip verb A flight manoeuvre to lose altitude quickly, where one wing of the airplane is lowered (using the ailerons), but without turning the rudder, so that the plane slips sideways and downwards without changing direction. By sideslipping alternately to left and right several times, a plane's altitude can be lowered significantly, without changing speed or direction. Aeronautical
sight, take a phrase See take a sight. Nautical
silver sand noun Fine sand, normally mixed with earth to make a suitable compost for seedlings. British
single seater noun Fighter aeroplane. Aeronautical
sissie noun Affectionate upper-class slang for "sister". British
slacken verb To let out a sheet. Nautical
slatternly adjective Used of a person to indicate poor quality clothing and lack of care about personal appearance. British
slipped the mooring phrase Left the mooring. Nautical
slipped their cable phrase Died. Nautical
slipstream noun Wind flowing backwards past the airplane. Made greater by moving faster or adding power. Aeronautical
SM acronym Stephen Morris Other
snack bar noun At the time that NS was writing, a bar in a public house (inn) where you can get something to eat with your drinks. The snack-bar was not as sophisticated as a restaurant; you ordered your food at the bar and ate it sitting at the bar or at the drinking tables. Nowadays, the snack bar is a sort of cheap restaurant, where you can get sandwiches and simple cooked meals (like hot dogs). British
snottie/snotty noun midshipman
In Royal Navy slang, midshipmen are sometimes referred to as "snotties", and a somewhat dubious legend states that the three buttons formerly on the jacket cuffs of the midshipman were placed there to prevent him wiping his nose on his sleeve. However, an identical story is told about the cuff-buttons of uniforms of many services in many countries.
solicitor noun Part of the English legal system. A solicitor knows about the more common laws, and about the laws in his/her specialist area, if applicable. He/she provides advice to members of the public and prepares legal documents for them, for example, wills and contracts for a house purchase. If a client is charged with a crime, the solicitor helps prepare the case for the defence, but in the time that NS was writing did not present the case in court. Instead, he would help his/her client find a Queen's counsellor (QC) to present the case. British
soppy adjective Silly, sentimental. British
Sopwith Camel noun A British fighter aircraft used in WW1, built by the Sopwith Aviation Company. It became somewhat obsolete, but was still being used in the last year of the war. Aeronautical
spar noun Generic name for any of the poles that form the solid parts of a boat's rigging (mast, boom, gaff, etc.). Nautical
speaking tube noun Early communications between cockpits used sound carried through flexible tubes, rather than electrical intercoms used today. Aeronautical
Sperrys noun Instruments used when flying in bad weather, named for their inventor, Dr, Elmer Sperry, who founded the Sperry Gyroscope Company, in 1910 (later to become Sperry Corporation, which was merged with others to form Unisys in 1986). They led to the development of the automatic pilot. Aeronautical
spoil the show phrase Make things difficult. British
spun-yarn noun A lightweight line made of several rope yarns loosely wound together, used for joining ropes together or making loops in ropes onboard ship. Nautical
SR acronym Slide Rule: The Autobiography of an Engineer (Non-Fiction) Other
stalling speed noun The speed at which an airplane no longer receives enough lift from the aerodynamic effect of the wings to stay in the air. Aeronautical
stand away verb To sail away from another boat. Nautical
starboard adjective The right-hand side of an aircraft or boat; the left-hand side is port. The terms are thought to have come from the very beginnings of sailing, when steering was achieved by using a steering board or oar which was placed on the right-hand side of the pointed stern of early boats. The port side is the side of the boat that you tied up to in port, and this had to be the side away from the steering oar so that the steering oar did not get in the way. Nautical
station noun Large pastoral property under one management, mostly devoted to sheep or cattle raising. Equivalent to the American "ranch" but often much larger in area. Australian
stay noun A wire or (in former days) cord which is attached to the mast in a lateral direction (i.e. either to the bows or the stern). Together with the shrouds, these keep the mast in an upright position and prevent it from bending too much with the wind pressure in the sails. Nautical
stern noun Back of a boat. Nautical
stern sheets noun The stern part of an open boat, usually furnished with seats for passengers. Nautical
stick noun The main cockpit flight control used in some aircraft, rather than a wheel. Aeronautical
stop verb To tie something temporarily. Nautical
stove-in adjective Broken inwards, like an egg that has been hit with a spoon. Nautical
stow away verb To put things away in their proper places. Mainly nautical use, but also sometimes used in an aeronautical connection. Nautical
stowaway noun A person who travels on a boat or aeroplane without paying, and without revealing him or herself to the crew of the same. Nautical
straight (adv) adverb Really, truly, I mean it. British
straight up (adv) adverb Same as "straight". British
struts noun Exterior pipe-like braces which add strength to a wing, common in light aircraft. In multi-winged aircraft they join the wings together. Aeronautical
Sub Lieutenant noun Royal Navy rank: a junior office who is not normally given sole watch-keeping responsibility for even a small ship (in Britain it's pronounced "sub-leftenant"). Other
suck verb In the context of a pump, short for "suck dry". Thus, "the pump sucked" means the "pump sucked dry", i.e. ceased to pump water because the inlet pipe was no longer under water. Nautical
supercharger noun A fan, forcing air into the combustion mechanism of an engine (rather than sucking in air as with a normally-aspirated engine). Normally driven off the crankshaft using gears or pulleys. Aeronautical
sweet noun A sugar-based confection - equates to "candy" in the U.S. British
swing verb In the context of pulling on ropes, to pull down, letting your body weight add to the power of your muscles. Nautical
swing compasses verb Adjusting a compass to make it accurate, particularly important in a metal ship, or a wooden ship with lots of metal fittings. Often the compass binnacle (housing) had lumps of iron in it to offset the magnetic field of the boat; the positioning and size of these lumps was determined by "swinging the compasses". Aeronautical
swing the propeller phrase Starting the engine by pulling the propeller by hand (see also contact ). Aeronautical
swinging table noun A table suspended from the cabin roof, so that it remains horizontal, whatever the boat does. Used to avoid food etc. falling off the table of a small boat when it is heeling to the wind or rolling in a rough sea. Nautical

T Back To Top
Term Part of speech Meaning Category
tack (1) noun The course you sail at an angle to the wind (less than 90 degrees) that allows you to move in the direction of the wind. When the wind is on the port side of the boat you are on the port tack, and when it is on the starboard side you are on the starboard tack. Nautical
tack (2) verb Same as "beat". Nautical
take a sight phrase Use a sextant to determine a boat's latitude. Nautical
tankard noun A beer glass. British
taped, got it phrase Under control (figurative). British
tarmac noun A road surfacing made of small stones set in tar. Most aerodromes at the beginning of World War Two in England had grass runways; the aeroplanes were usually dispersed (to reduce the risk from bombing attacks) around a concrete ring road, but the area around the administrative buildings would often be of tarmac, to provide a smooth hard-wearing surface where there was much more traffic. Aeronautical
tarpaulin noun Rubberised canvas sheet used to protect objects from the weather. A tarpaulin normally had eyelets sewn into it around the edges, to which ropes could be attached. British
TBW acronym The Breaking Wave Other
TCB acronym The Chequer Board Other
Territory, the noun The Northern Territory. Political division of Australia in the north central region. Does not have state status as the population is considered to be too small. Main towns are Darwin, Katherine and Alice Springs. Australian
TFC acronym The Far Country Other
TFTT acronym Trustee From the Toolroom Other
throttle noun Accelerator (gas pedal). British
throttle verb To decelerate (in this sense you are throttling, or squeezing, the fuel supply). British
throttle back verb To decelerate. British
throwing a vessel into irons phrase See in irons. Nautical
tick over verb What an engine does when it is running slowly or idling. Aeronautical
tide noun Tides are caused by the gravitational pull of the sun and the moon on the oceanic waters of the earth. In areas where the tidal water is funnelled (e.g. in an estuary), the tidal range between low and high tide (or low and high water) can be very significant (more than 10 metres). From high tide, the tide "goes out", "falls" or "ebbs" until low tide, at which point it starts "coming in", "rising", "flooding", or "flowing". Nautical
Tiger Moth noun A small British civilian aircraft, built by De Havilland. It was a two-seater (one behind the other) and was one of the most popular planes for learning to fly on. Aeronautical
tiller noun In a small boat, a piece of (normally) wood attached to the rudder, with which the rudder can be turned to the left or the right to steer the boat. Larger boats have a wheel, because the weight of the rudder and the pressure of the forces acting on it, are too great to allow it to be moved without a leverage system such as that supplied by the ship's wheel. Nautical
TL acronym A Town Like Alice/The Legacy Other
TMA acronym So Disdained/The Mysterious Aviator Other
toilet bowl noun See lavatory pan. British
tons register noun The size of a boat according to the volume of water that it displaces at normal loading. One ton register is equivalent to 2.832 cubic metres, or 2832 litres, or 748.14 US Gallons. Nautical
tons Thames noun The size of a boat according to the Thames Measurement Rule. This was fixed in 1854 as: Gross Tons = ((L-B) x 1.5B)/94. (L = length stempost to sternpost and B = maximum beam). Nautical
top drawer, out of the phrase Coming from an upper or upper-middle class family. British
topping lift noun Rope that supports the boom (from the mast) when the sail is lowered. It normally has a tackle arrangement that allows the height of the boom to be adjusted. Nautical
top-sides noun Side of a boat between the waterline and the deck. Nautical
Townsville noun City on the north east coast of Australia. Named for Captain Towns, 19th century pioneer. Eastern terminus of railway passing through Julia Creek. Australian
tradesman noun In the period prior to the Second World War, it was still quite common for the dairyman, butcher, baker and fishmonger, at least, to call at your house, with their wares in baskets, barrows or small vans. For groceries you would probably have to go to the shop/store, as the grocer would have too much choice to carry around with him, but the grocer's boy would deliver your purchases to you. In addition, there would be the periodic callers, such as the coalman, the chimney-sweep, the window-cleaner, the cats-meat man, the wine merchant, and the rag-and-bone man (collecting discarded and broken household goods). Quite a crowd! British
tram noun An electrically-powered vehicle running on rails set in the roadway, and taking its power from overhead lines; in the USA, streetcar or trolley. British
tramp noun Tramp steamer - a ship not making regular trips but taking cargo when and where it is available and to any port. British
TRATR acronym The Rainbow and the Rose Other
trawler (naval) noun A small naval vessel of about the size and shape of a fishing trawler, normally equipped at this time with one small gun, and often carrying out duties such as minesweeping, search and rescue, buoy replacement, etc. Nautical
trim verb To adjust the flight controls to maintain desired settings without further attention. For example, when fuel is used up from a tank in one part of the aircraft, the aircraft becomes lighter in that part, so the pilot has to adjust the trim so that with the stick (control column) dead centre the aircraft still flies straight and level. Aeronautical
Tuan noun Malay. Honorific. Other
tucker noun Australian slang. Food. Australian
Tungku noun Malay. Honorific. Also rendered as "Tunku". Australian

U Back To Top
Term Part of speech Meaning Category
under way verb Moving, in a boat, with either the sails, or the motor, or both. Nautical
undercarriage noun British term for landing gear. Aeronautical
utility noun Light truck adapted from a standard sedan. Known as a "pick-up" in the USA. Short for "utility coupe". Australian
Usterov Mcoterov  phrase from the Greek phrase  ὕστερον πρότερον an idea that the first key word refers to something that happens temporally later than the second key word i.e the first last and the last first. (used in the novel Pilotage). There was an actual Hysteron Proteron club and Nevil Shute was a member. Greek

V Back To Top
Term Part of speech Meaning Category
variation noun See compass variation. Aeronautical
veer verb When the wind changes in a clockwise direction with respect to the compass. See also back. Nautical
Vestey's meatworks, the remains of noun An abattoir in Darwin. Started in 1917 by Vestey Brothers, a British meat importer, it was developed with Australian government money to provide employment opportunities in Darwin, but was far too big for the amount of cattle available to serve it. It closed just two years later, became derelict, and was then converted into a reservoir. Several military units camped there during World War Two. The reservoir was subsequently converted into sports facilities for Darwin High School. Australian
Vice Admiral noun Royal Navy rank: responsible for one of the smaller fleets. Other
Viscount noun A large 4-engined turbo-prop passenger aircraft, built by Vickers Ltd., for which NS worked during the construction of the R100. Aeronautical
Volplane noun, verb A glider, or to glide down without engine power. Aeronautical
VTG noun Vinland the Good Other

W Back To Top
Term Part of speech Meaning Category
WAAC acronym Womens Auxiliary Army Corps Military
wardroom noun A room occupied as a mess room by the commissioned officers of a war vessel. Nautical
warp (1) noun Thick rope used between a boat and its anchor, another boat, a buoy, or a dock fitting such as a ring or bollard. Nautical
warp (2) verb To move a boat by pulling on a rope attached to a fixed object (e.g. an anchor). Nautical
washer noun Flat ring of metal, rubber, or some other material, used with a nut and bolt to help make a seal and avoid that the nut vibrates loose. British
wash stand noun Piece of bedroom furniture, used, in the days before houses were equipped with bathrooms, when washing one's self after rising. It would typically have an inset but removable basin, and be furnished with a jug or ewer of water (hopefully warmed!). By NS's time it was rarely used for its original purpose, but remained as a piece of useful furniture. British
water, making verb See making water. Nautical
water-bag noun See canvas water-bag. Nautical
weather adjective See windward. Nautical
weather gen noun Weather information. Aeronautical
wet, the noun The wet season in Northern Australia, which extends from about November to March. Notable for extreme humidity, torrential rain and cyclones. Australian
wheelbarrow tack noun A method of turning round a downwind marker in dinghy/yacht racing without gybing, by tacking in the opposite direction. Nautical
while the going's good phrase See going's good, while the. British
white horses noun Waves that break as a result of the wind. They leave streaks of foam on the water, which show the wind direction. Aeronautical
WHTTC acronym What Happened to the Corbetts/Ordeal Other
willies, it gives me phrase To be frightened or nervous of something. British
Willstown noun Fictional Queensland town improved by Jean Harman. Shute's description in ATLA identifies it as Burketown, named for Robert O'Hara Burke. Burke and the surveyor William John Wills led a failed and tragic expedition to cross the continent from Melbourne to the Gulf of Carpentaria, from which just one man survived. Australian
windsock noun A piece of canvas rather like a sock with a big hole in the toe, suspended from a pole and used to show wind direction and speed on an airfield. Aeronautical
windward adjective Towards the direction from where the wind is coming. Sometimes "weather". Nautical
wireless noun Radio. The absence of wires is a comparison with the telegraph system, and is not concerned with whether the wireless is powered by a battery or connected (by a wire/cable) to the electricity supply. British
wires noun Arresting wires - the spring-loaded wires that stretch from side to side of the deck of an aircraft carrier to catch the arresting hook attached to the rear underside of an aeroplane's undercarriage, and bring it to a halt. Aeronautical
wowsers noun Australian slang for puritanical people. Australian
wren noun In the context of a woman in the Navy, this is a slight twisting of the acronym WRNS - Women's Royal Navy Service. To refer to the service, people talked of "the wrens", so one person became a "wren". Nautical