Chapter III. THE SPOUTER-INN
f. Of stationary objects: Scattered or arranged irregularly. Of a road, tract of country: Winding irregularly, having an irregular outline. Of a house, town, etc.: Built irregularly and uncompactly.
2. Panel-work of oak or other wood, used to line the walls of an apartment.
squitchy, a. rare.
This word is one of the things I remember most clearly from my high school pseudo-reading of Moby-Dick. I always assumed Melville made it up, but there it is in the OED. Of course, he still might have made it up – their only quotation for “squitchy” is this sentence. The only other use I can find is in another work by Melville, a short piece from a couple years later: Cock-a-Doodle-Doo! Or, The Crowing of the Noble Cock Beneventano (1853), where, incidentally, it appears in close proximity to “hypos.” I get the impression that Melville liked to fill out his voice with words that felt contemporary and low, and those sorts of words have dated oddly – it’s hard to tell whether “squitchy” sounded whimsical, as it does now, or just earthy. If a present-day writer used the word “shitty,” I’d know that all he was going for was a lazy vernacular feel, whereas 150 years from now my research would probably tell me that he was being incredibly coarse. So who knows how silly the word “squitchy” sounded back when he wrote it? All I know is, it’s silly now.
distracted, ppl. a.
4. Much confused or troubled in mind; having, or showing, great mental disturbance or perplexity.
5. Deranged in mind; out of one’s wits; crazed, mad, insane. Now rare in literal sense, exc. in such expressions as ‘like one distracted’.
6. intr. Of a vessel: To fill with water and sink, go to the bottom.
3. Of a ship: To roll to and fro (on the waves).
with a vast handle
I am confused about this description. A scythe does not cut a segment in the grass that is itself shaped like a scythe. Is he describing a weapon shaped like a scythe, with a long straight handle and a curved blade? Or is he describing a spear with a long curved handle (what good would that be?). He seems to be describing both the blade and the handle as curved. I can’t picture this thing.
Cape of Blanco
Well, this either means off the coast of Oregon or Mauritania. I have to assume it’s Mauritania, if only because that seems to have been part of the typical whaling voyage, whereas I don’t get the impression they ever ended up in the north Pacific. I expect as the book progresses I’ll get much more certain of this sort of thing.
3. a. Naut. The after part of the orlop deck of a man-of-war; forming ordinarily the quarters for the junior officers, and in action devoted to the reception and care of the wounded.
which necessitates looking up
1. A platform covering the hold of a ship and forming the lowest deck, esp. in a ship of more than three decks. Also orlop deck.
I assume this means anchored by one corner, but since real ships don’t exactly have corners and it doesn’t clearly mean anything about the inn itself, I’m not confident. My best guess is that this is just meant to describe the way that the building is shaking so much that it seems as though it is only fixed in one corner. I don’t really know. Help.
2. intr. = GOBBLE
He probably also wants some coloration borrowed from the other sense of “goggling,” too. It’s lively alliteration and probably not meant to indicate anything too clear. But I thought it was worth mentioning this, which seems to be the primary meaning, no? Or does he just mean that the glasses don’t sit flat on the bar?
footpad. Obs. exc. Hist.
A highwayman who robs on foot.
In New Bedford? Unclear to me whether this is 12 cents, 5 cents, or something else. 5 cents would seem reasonable based on context but I can’t find a reference source to confirm this for me. Well, Horace Mann says it was 16⅔ cents. But that seems like a lot for a glass wherefrom you could also buy only a penny’s-worth. Help.
Alternate spelling for “gulp.”
Alternate spelling for “scrimshander,” which is apparently an alternate for “scrimshaw,” though OED would have it that the scrimshander is the man who does the scrimshaw.
avast, phr. Naut.
Hold! stop! stay! cease!
For etymology, OED gives “[prob. a worn-down form of Du. hou’vast, houd vast, hold fast]”
3. spec. A long wooden bench, usually with arms and a high back (often extending to the ground), and having a locker or box under the seat. Cf. LANGSETTLE.
b. A bench or seat in a boat.
1. A sheet in which a corpse is wrapped for burial; a shroud.
2. A mass of solidified drippings of grease clinging to the side of a candle, resembling a sheet folded in creases, and regarded in popular superstition as an omen of death or calamity.
fain, a and adv.
2. Const. to with inf. Glad under the circumstances; glad or content to take a certain course in default of opportunity for anything better, or as the lesser of two evils.
b. This passes gradually into the sense: Necessitated, obliged.
monkey jacket, n.
1. A short close-fitting jacket, esp. as worn by sailors.
And under etymology: “According to E. C. Brewer Dict. Phrase & Fable (1870) s.v., the jacket is so called because it has ‘no more tail than a monkey, or, more strictly speaking, an ape’.”
A heavy over-coat worn by coachmen on the box, or by those riding outside a coach.
Fraught with dire effects; dreadful, terrible.
1. The popular name of various delphinoid cetaceans, having a high falcate dorsal fin and a blunt rounded head, and remarkable for the spouting and blowing which accompanies their movements.
Basically, either a killer whale or the Risso’s Dolphin.
1. Naut. a. The part of the sea visible from the shore that is the most distant, or beyond anchorage.
b. A position at a distance from a shore; distance from a shore. Also in extended use. Freq. in to make (or gain, secure, etc.) an offing.
2. In extended and fig. use. in the offing: nearby, at hand; imminent; likely to happen in the near future.
It’s not clear to me where or how he “seed her reported,” but the gist is that this morning the Grampus was known to be on its way in to shore. Was it that it was sighted in the literal “offing” or just reported as being forthcoming on the day’s schedule in some sense? And in either case, reported by whom? Why would he have “seed” it rather than heard it? This guy isn’t watching the horizon himself, right?
In any case, meaning 1.b. isn’t relevant here, but I’m including it anyway because it comes up later in this same chapter, when Ishmael makes a “good offing” towards sleep.
Not in OED! My online sources indicate that it is essentially the same as a “greatcoat,” which OED just has as
A large heavy overcoat; a top-coat.
but the illustrations in the link above pretty much cleared this up already.
6. a. A long woollen scarf worn round the throat as a protection from cold.
Not a word! Melville nonetheless uses it in White-Jacket, but there more literally to mean
darned, ppl. a.
1. Mended by darning.
I guess here he must mean that the scarves are so old as to have stitching on them where they’ve been mended. That makes perfect and rather obvious sense now that I’ve thought it out, but it didn’t at first.
bears from Labrador
Well, there are bears in Labrador. And it’s cold there. Does this have further meaning?
3. A course, or general line of direction, that a ship has taken, or is to take.
2. A brimming cup or goblet.
3. Inflammation of a mucous membrane; usually restricted to that of the nose, throat, and bronchial tubes, causing increased flow of mucus, and often attended with sneezing, cough, and fever; constituting a common ‘cold’.
1. Naut. The windward side (of a vessel, etc.).
2. The side (e.g. of a building, a tree) that is most exposed to injury from weather.
An insulated mass of floating ice; an island-like ice-field; an extensive iceberg.
3. Notorious, manifest, downright, thorough-paced, unmitigated.
toper Now chiefly literary.
One who topes or drinks a great deal; a hard drinker; a drunkard.
A partner in a business who takes no share in the actual working of it.
This is potentially misleading since Ishmael is currently keeping his eye out for his literal sleeping-partner. Is the echo significant? I can’t see how it would be, but I also can’t see Melville being unaware of it.
1. Hydraulic Engin. A water-tight enclosure used for obtaining a dry foundation for bridges, piers, etc.; usually constructed of two rows of piles with clay packed between them, extending above high-water mark; the water being pumped out so as to leave the enclosure dry.
b. Also a water-tight structure fixed to a ship’s side, for making repairs below the water-line.
Presumably the Alleghenies in what is now West Virginia.
his linen or woollen
If he’s talking about the sheets as he would seem to be, why would he attribute their degree of fineness to the harpooneer? Maybe he’s not, just their degree of tidiness.
B. as adv. = PLAGUILY. Usually indicating a degree of some quality that troubles one by its excess; but sometimes humorous, or merely forcibly intensive. colloq.
1. The small soft feathers from the breast of the eider duck.
A state of mental abstraction or musing: ‘gloomy meditations’ (J.); ‘serious reverie, thoughtful absent-mindedness’ (Webster); now esp. an idle or purposeless reverie.
Etymology: [app. originally from BROWN in sense of ‘gloomy’; but this sense has been to a great extent forgotten.]
steal a march
Gain an advantage over. Apparently: by doing something before the other can.
1. b. fig. Gloomy, serious. See BROWN STUDY.
A confused group; a medley, mixture, hotchpotch.
Mt. Hekla, volcano in Iceland, which erupted after 60 years of dormancy in 1845.
Not a literal or OED-endorsed use of any meaning of whittle, but I’m comfortable working out a figurative meaning on context.
2. To withdraw, retract, or revoke (something said or written).
8. a. dial. To use strong language; to swear.
That’s my best guess, but it doesn’t work as well as I’d like. Anyone have a better suggestion?
2. pl. ‘The two parts which constitute the large triangular tail of the whale’ (Adm. Smyth). to turn or peak the flukes: of a whale, to go under; hence transf. (Naut. slang) to go to bed, ‘turn in’.
3. slang. a. A light of any kind; a candle, a lantern.
vum, v. U.S. colloq.
intr. To vow, swear.
Seems to be sort of like the British “I say!”
A board used to close up a fireplace in summer, a chimney board.
Presumably, luggage for carrying stuff from place to place while on shore, as opposed to the heavier sea-chest used for all storage on board the ship. I’m completely making this up, and I’m not sure that what I’m saying makes sense – can’t find it in a reference. Help.
1. Something that hampers, or prevents freedom of movement; a shackle. Obs.
2. Naut. Things which form a necessary part of the equipment of a vessel, but are in the way at certain times.
6. colloq. To swallow hastily and without chewing, swallow whole or with a single effort, gulp down.
A material for covering and closing superficial wounds, consisting of linen, silk, or other textile fabric, or of plastic, spread with an adhesive substance; a general name for COURT-PLASTER, LEAD-plaster, DIACHYLON-plaster, etc.
6. a. A small party, collection, or assembly (of people, animals, or things); a detachment; a group, a lot, a set; a drove, a flock, a herd. Now Eng. regional and U.S. colloq.
A coarse jacket with a hood, worn in the Levant. Also slang, a rough great-coat.
1. a. A thick coat or outer garment worn in very inclement weather.
a. A game in which ten pins or ‘men’ are set up to be bowled at; cf. NINEPINS; spec. (orig. U.S.) a game so played, also called in England ‘American bowls’. Also, the pins with which this game is played; in sing. tenpin, one of these.
2. Arch. Each of the side posts of a doorway, window, or chimney-piece, upon which rests the lintel; a cheek; esp., in popular use, (pl.) the stone sides or cheeks of a fire-place.
4. a. To entreat (a person) by something for which he has a strong regard; to appeal solemnly or earnestly to; to beseech, implore.
I feel pretty confident about redirecting this one to
savvy, v. slang.
trans. To know; to understand, comprehend. Freq. used in the interrogative (= ‘do you understand?’) following an explanation to a foreigner or to one considered slow-witted. Also absol.
Etymology: [Orig. Negro-Eng. and Pigeon-Eng., after Sp. sabe usted you know: see also SABE v.]
sabe, v. slang (orig. U.S.).
Spellings: Also sabee