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TOE THE LINE ORIGIN Tuesday February 16th, 2010

The space between the planks of a ship’s deck were packed with a material called oakum and sealed with tar creating long, straight lines roughly six inches apart. When the crew was asked to fall in they used the gaps as a marker with their toes touching the line. Also young crew members (ship’s boys or young officers) who were deemed in need of punishing for minor offences were made to stand with their toes touching the line, without talking or moving, for hours at a time in all weathers. Hence the term ‘toe the line’, meaning to do as one is told or behave as expected.

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