FLOGGING A DEAD HORSE ORIGIN
Tuesday February 24th, 2009
HORSES FOR COURSES
No it’s not a form of macabre animal abuse! Indeed it has nothing to do with real horses whatsoever. It’s just a rare nautical term that actually makes possibly more sense in its literal translation than its true origin.
Sailors were paid a month’s wages in advance before setting sail. This was usually to clear outstanding debts run up whilst ashore. The first month at sea was called ‘dead horse time’ (?). Flogging was slang for working hard at sea. So they would feel that they were working for nothing. At the end of the first month it was traditional to haul the effigy of a horse up the mast and set fire to it. They would then hurl the burning stallion into the sea to commemorate the end of the month of flogging the dead horse. They then presumably reached first port, went ashore got bladdered and it all started again. More burning horse effigies and so on. Fun times.
PS The Harbourguides Crew are always flogging a dead horse!
Only joking of course.
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