Monday, January 9, 2012


Who would have thought that I, a teetotaler, would be mixing drinks? Two of my clients have a cocktail every day.

One day, one of the clients, a retired military man, said, "The sun is over the yardarm." Of course, I didn't know what that meant but as I knew it was time to prepare the cocktails, I guessed it had something to do with it. My client explained the phrase was a naval term which meant it was the time of day for the sailors were allowed to have a drink. He said, "Ask your husband, he's an old Navy man; he'll know what it means." Of course, Gerald knew as did all the other military people whom I quizzed.

On "Sunday Morning", on New Year's Day, the host, Charles Osgood, in introducing a segment about hangovers, used the phrase and I just felt so sophisticated knowing the meaning.

My biggest faux pas: one day I neglected to add water to a drink! However, in three months, it's only happened once!

Instead of "When life gives you lemons..", I say "When life gives you pearl onions, make a martini!"

From World Wide Words:

Do you know the meaning and origin of the phrase "when the sun has crossed over the yardarm?"

That’s the usual meaning among landlubbers, though I’ve heard of some who tend to use it for the early evening, after-work period from about 5pm onwards. It turns up in various forms, of which the sun’s over the yardarm is probably the most common, but one also sees not till the sun’s over the yardarm as an injunction, or perhaps a warning.

The yardarms on a sailing ship are the horizontal timbers or spars mounted on the masts, from which the square sails are hung. (The word yard here is from an old Germanic word for a pointed stick, the source also of our unit of measurement.) At certain times of year it will seem from the deck that the sun has risen far enough up the sky that it is above the topmost yardarm. In summer in the north Atlantic, where the phrase seems to have originated, this would have been at about 11am. This was by custom and rule the time of the first rum issue of the day to officers and men (the officers had their tots neat, the men’s diluted). It seems that officers in sailing ships adopted a custom, even when on shore, of waiting until this time before taking their first alcoholic drink of the day.

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