SHIVER MY TIMBERS ORIGIN
Wednesday March 17th, 2010
SHIVER ME TIMBERS
The phrase made famous by Robert Louis Stevenson’s iconic Long John Silver has a somewhat muddied history. Used as an oath or an expression of annoyance or surprise ‘shiver my timbers’ has nonetheless been accepted into modern language despite making little sense.
Shiver was often used of old as meaning to break into pieces, particularly in nautical circles, so this is by far the most acceptable origin. Certainly a ships timbers falling apart would be the cause of much annoyance and surprise therefore the phrase may well have therefore been used as part of a oath as in “(or) shiver my timbers.” Regardless of whether it is a literary invention or a bona fide piece of slang we think it should be revived.