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What does blow the man down mean?

DigiTrad:
BLOW THE MAN DOWN
BLOW THE MAN DOWN (2)
BLOW THE MAN DOWN (3)
BLOW THE MAN DOWN (4)
BLOW THE MAN DOWN (5)
BLOW THE MAN DOWN (6)


Related threads:
Lyr Req: Blow the Man Down (Phil Beer) (14)
Lyr Add: Blow the Man Down, Pacific NW version (8)
(origins) Origins: Blow the Man Down (22)
Lyr Req: blow the man down (22)


15 Jan 99 - 05:11 PM
Barry Finn 15 Jan 99 - 06:33 PM
catspaw49 15 Jan 99 - 08:33 PM
gargoyle 16 Jan 99 - 12:24 AM
Lesley N. 16 Jan 99 - 01:19 AM
Garry 16 Jan 99 - 09:34 PM
GUEST,juliakarena@yahoo.com 02 Nov 03 - 10:47 PM
open mike 02 Nov 03 - 11:50 PM
Skipper Jack 03 Nov 03 - 08:12 AM
reggie miles 03 Nov 03 - 08:37 AM
Amos 03 Nov 03 - 08:39 AM
Schantieman 03 Nov 03 - 12:06 PM
treaties1 03 Nov 03 - 12:14 PM
McGrath of Harlow 03 Nov 03 - 12:58 PM
Barry Finn 05 Nov 03 - 04:19 PM
GUEST,Gjpsy 15 May 07 - 01:46 AM
Mo the caller 15 May 07 - 01:57 AM
Jim Lad 15 May 07 - 03:26 AM
Jim Lad 15 May 07 - 03:29 AM
Big Al Whittle 15 May 07 - 07:58 AM
Charley Noble 15 May 07 - 08:16 AM
Barry Finn 15 May 07 - 09:03 AM
Amos 15 May 07 - 09:55 AM
Jim Lad 15 May 07 - 10:32 AM
Schantieman 15 May 07 - 01:25 PM
Jim Lad 15 May 07 - 01:31 PM
Jim Lad 15 May 07 - 01:34 PM
Jim Lad 15 May 07 - 01:35 PM
Schantieman 15 May 07 - 01:51 PM
Amos 15 May 07 - 01:57 PM
Jim Lad 15 May 07 - 01:59 PM
Jim Lad 15 May 07 - 02:19 PM
Greg B 15 May 07 - 03:37 PM
Jim Lad 15 May 07 - 03:44 PM
Amos 15 May 07 - 03:49 PM
Charley Noble 15 May 07 - 06:26 PM
Greg B 15 May 07 - 07:10 PM
GUEST 15 May 07 - 07:21 PM
Jim Lad 15 May 07 - 09:37 PM
Amos 15 May 07 - 09:47 PM
Jim Lad 15 May 07 - 09:54 PM
Barry Finn 16 May 07 - 01:49 AM
Jim Lad 16 May 07 - 02:37 AM
Liz the Squeak 16 May 07 - 03:44 AM
Liz the Squeak 16 May 07 - 03:45 AM
Jim Lad 18 May 07 - 06:40 PM
Jim Lad 18 May 07 - 06:55 PM
Big Al Whittle 18 May 07 - 07:21 PM
Charley Noble 19 May 07 - 12:34 PM
Jim Lad 19 May 07 - 01:01 PM
Barry Finn 20 May 07 - 08:14 AM
Jim Lad 20 May 07 - 11:14 AM
Jim Lad 20 May 07 - 12:16 PM
JennyO 20 May 07 - 12:31 PM
Jim Lad 20 May 07 - 12:50 PM
Jim Lad 20 May 07 - 04:10 PM
Barry Finn 20 May 07 - 06:02 PM
Tootler 20 May 07 - 07:03 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 20 May 07 - 08:04 PM
Jim Lad 20 May 07 - 08:07 PM
Charley Noble 20 May 07 - 09:06 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 20 May 07 - 09:54 PM
Jim Lad 20 May 07 - 10:56 PM
Jim Lad 20 May 07 - 11:07 PM
Schantieman 21 May 07 - 05:48 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 21 May 07 - 01:47 PM
Charley Noble 21 May 07 - 02:25 PM
Greg B 21 May 07 - 02:38 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 21 May 07 - 02:44 PM
Jim Lad 21 May 07 - 03:33 PM
GUEST,Chicken Charlie 21 May 07 - 04:10 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 21 May 07 - 05:39 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 21 May 07 - 05:39 PM
GUEST 21 May 07 - 06:54 PM
Barry Finn 21 May 07 - 07:02 PM
Charley Noble 21 May 07 - 09:12 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 21 May 07 - 09:21 PM
Jim Lad 21 May 07 - 09:27 PM
GUEST 21 May 07 - 09:47 PM
Jim Lad 21 May 07 - 10:28 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 21 May 07 - 11:38 PM
Jim Lad 21 May 07 - 11:53 PM
mg 22 May 07 - 12:29 AM
Waddon Pete 22 May 07 - 03:56 AM
Charley Noble 22 May 07 - 08:57 AM
Tootler 22 May 07 - 09:11 AM
Waddon Pete 22 May 07 - 09:21 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 22 May 07 - 12:58 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 22 May 07 - 02:03 PM
JWB 22 May 07 - 02:15 PM
Jim Lad 22 May 07 - 03:22 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 22 May 07 - 05:32 PM
Charley Noble 22 May 07 - 08:47 PM
Charley Noble 23 May 07 - 08:47 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 23 May 07 - 12:48 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 23 May 07 - 12:51 PM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 23 May 07 - 12:53 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 23 May 07 - 01:00 PM
JennyO 23 May 07 - 01:25 PM
JennyO 23 May 07 - 01:25 PM
Charley Noble 23 May 07 - 01:58 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 23 May 07 - 02:12 PM
Barry Finn 23 May 07 - 03:05 PM
Jim Lad 23 May 07 - 03:21 PM
Waddon Pete 23 May 07 - 04:17 PM
GUEST,guest - musikman189 31 May 07 - 01:31 PM
GUEST,musikman189 31 May 07 - 01:55 PM
Greg B 31 May 07 - 04:01 PM
GUEST,ShantiMan49 10 Jun 07 - 10:05 AM
bubblyrat 11 Jun 07 - 07:45 AM
Waddon Pete 11 Jun 07 - 10:44 AM
GUEST,ShantiMan49 11 Jun 07 - 11:00 AM
Charley Noble 11 Jun 07 - 11:50 AM
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Subject: What does blow the man down mean?
From:
Date: 15 Jan 99 - 05:11 PM

My almost 2 year old daughter keeps asking me what "blow the man down" means. Can you help?


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Barry Finn
Date: 15 Jan 99 - 06:33 PM

Knock down someone with your fists. For sailors in the golden age of sail that was one way to make your way up the ladder, seamanship would've been anotherway. The tougher the sailor, on a packet, the better able to keep other towing the line. That's really "toe on the line", make a Jack stand in bare feet with his toes alined with a deck plank & keep him there for how ever long with his toes always on that line. Barry


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: catspaw49
Date: 15 Jan 99 - 08:33 PM

Ask Bill Clinton. I think that's what has happened to him. catspaw


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: gargoyle
Date: 16 Jan 99 - 12:24 AM

Barry thanks for the eruditon

> I always took the meaning to be talk - hot air - blowhard - full of wind - a braggart - talltale - yarnspinner - liar and believed it to come from long hours of storytelling spent in the time off duty.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Lesley N.
Date: 16 Jan 99 - 01:19 AM

A bit more to what Barry wrote: "Blow" refers to knocking a man down with fist, belaying pin or capstan bar. Chief Mates in Western Ocean ships were known as "blowers", second mates as "strikers" and third mates as "greasers".

A tough life to say the least.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Garry
Date: 16 Jan 99 - 09:34 PM

Check out a book called "Shanties From The Seven Seas" by Stan Hugill Publisher Routledge and Kegan Paul. It explains it all. Lesly N is pretty close


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: GUEST,juliakarena@yahoo.com
Date: 02 Nov 03 - 10:47 PM

I read, in an American folksong book, that the sailors made up and sang this song as a way of coping with the unending abuse from the captains that was endured because many of the sailors were kidnapped by being knocked out, and they woke up out at sea and had to be made or forced to work. This happened because they couldn't get enough people when the reputation of the bosses got around as being so mean. They used pretty girls to lure men near the docks, as some of the lyrics allude to.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: open mike
Date: 02 Nov 03 - 11:50 PM

many of the sailors were kidnapped by being knocked out,
and they woke up out at sea and had to be made or forced to work...
...lure men near the docks...
this practice of enticing men to become sailors,
or even kidnapping them (often if they were too
drunk to know or care is waht i have heard)
is called being Shang Hied


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Skipper Jack
Date: 03 Nov 03 - 08:12 AM

Then you had the landlord of a quayside pub, in the pay of the ship owner or captain, who used to "spike" the drinks of the unwary customer, who was then dragged away and on board by some of the ship's crew.. One such was Mickey Finn!

It is well illustrated in the song, "Larry Marr (The Five Gallon Jar)"


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: reggie miles
Date: 03 Nov 03 - 08:37 AM

Skipper, was Mickey Finn the spiked drink? Is that where the expression comes from to slip someone a Mickey?


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Amos
Date: 03 Nov 03 - 08:39 AM

Shanghai, after the Chinese port. Mickey Finn was the tavernkeeper. Possibly apocryphal.

A


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Schantieman
Date: 03 Nov 03 - 12:06 PM

..and of course, anyone called Finn in the Navy is known as Micky!

Hugill's Shanties from the Seven Seas is packed full of shanties, variations, explanations and background, as well as some of Stan's excellent drawings. Indispensible for anyone wanting to learn about them. Less well known is his Sea Shanties, a smaller volume with a lot more explanation and thirty or so songs, some of which don't appear in the 'bible'. It also contains a number of photos of the barque Pamir in which Stan served.

Steve


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: treaties1
Date: 03 Nov 03 - 12:14 PM

Thanks for the information everyone and thread creep, Hi Barry from Theresa and thanks again for the Yangtse river song


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 03 Nov 03 - 12:58 PM

And the other Stan Hugill book to get hold of is "Sailortown", a sort of gazetteer of all the sailortowns round the world in their heyday. Street maps of places like New Orleans and Liverpool back in the 1880s and so forth.

It give the context for the songs in the other books. As he points out, while people on shore wrote sea-songs about the sea, sailors normally made their shanties about having a good time (or a bad time) in the bars and the bawdy houses ashore.

Though there were some shore poets who got it right - in his preface to "Sailortown", Stan Hugill cites C.Fox Smith, as someone who "gives us in two lines the outlook of the windbag man":

"An Christ", says Dan, "for a night in port, an' a Dago fiddler's tunr,
An' just one whiff of the drinks again, in a Callao saloon."


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Barry Finn
Date: 05 Nov 03 - 04:19 PM

Hi Theresa,

The pleasure was mine, thank you. Hearing/singing/meeting you was quite the thrill for me.

Micky Finn was born & raised in Boston. He's my father though I don't think he was old enough be the same Micky talked about here. He did tell me that in order to get him to behave properly, his parents would threaten him by telling him they were gonna put him on one of those windjammers that come into the harbor. He kept up with his rowdy behavior & used to go down to the docks hoping that he'd get shipped out.

Micky Finn's was also a large ('Army & Navy'type) chain of stores in this area, don't know if they were big any where else. Now that I've
carried this thread creep to far, sorry, I was just taken the Micky out of me.

Barry


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: GUEST,Gjpsy
Date: 15 May 07 - 01:46 AM

Hi, A little off topic here... Have any of you been to a Rennaisance Faire and heard the Wenches or Rogues singing "Roll Your Leg Over"? It's sung to the tune of "Blow the Man Down" and is quite cute and witty... Many of them create their own verses to keep the song going... Most of the verses can be interpretted as suggestive or in any way possible... One such verse is "If all the young laddies were curves in the road, I'd hug them all tightly when on them I rode." This would be sung by a Wench, the Rogues also have their own rendition of verses just as suggestive or interpretive... When they get rolling with the song it can become hilarious and competitive as they keep trying to outdo one another for the best and more daring verses... lol   All in all, if you get the opportunity to hear the Wenches and Rogues singing and playing along it's a lot of fun... for all... Patrons as well as Participants... Hope you have fun at Faire...


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Mo the caller
Date: 15 May 07 - 01:57 AM

'Stan Hugill cites C.Fox Smith, as someone who "gives us in two lines the outlook of the windbag man":'

Go on then - someone has to ask - what's a 'windbag man'.
I thought I knew what a windbag was, but it doesn't fit the context.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Jim Lad
Date: 15 May 07 - 03:26 AM

"Blow the man down" refers to the communication system on board the older vessels. Basically a tube that ran from up on deck to "Down" below. The skipper would first blow down the pipe for attention and then bellow out his instructions to the unfortunate subordinate below.
"Blow the man down" = "Call him up"

Now I know that some of you will think, I'm pulling your legs but if you hang around long enough, I'm sure their are a number of old salts in Mudcat who will explain this one better than I.

Ahoy!
Jim


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Jim Lad
Date: 15 May 07 - 03:29 AM

...I'm sure there are ...
can't beleive i done thaT.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 15 May 07 - 07:58 AM

I suppose if you blew the man up, that would imply some sort of explosive device.
Whereas if you blow him down, like you say Jim that could mean he was coming off his watch - albeit a bit cream crackered.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 15 May 07 - 08:16 AM

Mo-

"Windbag man" is old sailor slang for sailors who shipped out on deep-sea sailing ships (sometimes referred to as "windjammers"), rather than steamers. With a good wind, the sails would fill (if properly braced) much like a bag.

Oh, and the lines by C. Fox Smith above are from her poem "Lee Fore Brace" and after correcting for a typo should read:


"An Christ," says Dan, "for a night in port, an' a Dago fiddler's tune,
An' just one whiff of the drinks again, in a Callao saloon."

Alan Fitzsimmonds has adapted this poem for singing, as recorded by Danny McLeod et al.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Barry Finn
Date: 15 May 07 - 09:03 AM

"Blow the man down" refers to the communication system on board the older vessels"

"Blow the man down" = "Call him up"

Can you site any references to these Jim?

First time I've ever heard of it used in that sense Jim. All written reports refering to "Blow a man Down" I've read or heard of has been to knock one down with your fists. Even some of the collected songs sing it as "Knock a man down". In the BWI's there are collected versions of the same called "Kick Him Along", the song's also been known as "knock A Man Down". I have seen the types of tube you're talking about on vessels of a later age but not on ones from the great age of sail, not that there weren't any, I've also seen them on Navy vessels used for the bousun's whistle but again of a later age.

From the British West Indies:

I hit him a lick & I fetch him a kick
    And a yea, yea, blow the man down
Blow the man down in de hole below
    'Low me some time to blow the man down

Blow the man down & a hit de man down
    And a yea, yea, blow de the man down

From 'Songs of the Sea', Hugill p.76
"'To blow" means to strike, (see Lesley N's post above) the chief
mate of Blackballers being called 'Blower' & the 2nd mate the 'Striker'"

From 'Roll & Go', Colcord, p10:
"It should be noted that in those days, "blow" meant "knock"

From 'Shantymen & Shantyboys', Doerflinger, p.17:
"It is said that packet sailors called the 2nd & 3rd mates the "blowers & strikers"-the 2 terms meant the same thing".

From 'Sea Songs & Shanties', Whall, p.69:
"'Blow" in those days was equivalent to "knock". The 3rd mate in those days was endearingly termed the 3rd "blower & striker", the 2nd mate being the "greaser"'.

I can't buy into that one Jim, sorry.

Barry


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Amos
Date: 15 May 07 - 09:55 AM

The use of speaking tubes developed in the early days of steam, IIRC, and considerable later than the expression "blow the man down". Until the advent of engines and engine rooms, the relay of orders was done on deck and upwards from there, mainly by bellowing word of mouth.

So I don't think "blow the man down" has its origins in a nautical version of "ring the lad up".

A


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Jim Lad
Date: 15 May 07 - 10:32 AM

Be patient: Those who do know of it will make their contributions in due course.
Trust me.
Jim


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Schantieman
Date: 15 May 07 - 01:25 PM

I think they already have, Jim.

Also:

They gave me six months in Liverpool Town
For knocking a policeman and blowing him down

Steve


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Jim Lad
Date: 15 May 07 - 01:31 PM

Oh, Pipe Down!


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Jim Lad
Date: 15 May 07 - 01:34 PM

Just Kidding!
pipe down
A boatswain's call denoting the completion of an all hands evolution, and that you can go below. This expression is also used to mean "Keep quiet."

Heh, heh!

I've come across this before on Mudcat.
Someone asks for a definition and one is so different from the rest that it gets completely rejected.
That's why it's called a "Popular" misconception.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Jim Lad
Date: 15 May 07 - 01:35 PM

I'll find it for you but will you believe me?


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Schantieman
Date: 15 May 07 - 01:51 PM

"Pipe down" is (or used to be) the last pipe of the day made at the start of silent hours (normally 2230 or 2300). The next one, except in an emergency, was "Call the hands" at 0600 or 0630 followed, I think, by "up hammocks".

Its meaning is, of course, 'shut up and go to sleep' and it's in this context that it's used as a general admonishment to shut up.

(The instrument, btw, is the boatswain's call; pipes are the signals made using it).

Steve


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Amos
Date: 15 May 07 - 01:57 PM

Jim Lad:

If you can find evidence that the use of speaking tubes predates the expression I'll be glad to consider your argument, but at present it seems improbable to me.

A


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Jim Lad
Date: 15 May 07 - 01:59 PM

Pipe Down: This originally nautical term was used as an officer's whistle sound denoting the completion of an above-deck work shift and thereby giving permission to go below. This expression is now used to mean "be quiet" or keep quiet".

Yes. It took about three minutes to come up with this similar definition.

All references I find to "Blow the man down" state that it means "To kill someone".

But they're wrong.
Cheers.
Jim

p.s. Those who really do know the answer are probably enjoying watching me flounder here!


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Jim Lad
Date: 15 May 07 - 02:19 PM

Where's Charley Noble? He'll either agree with you or know the right answer.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Greg B
Date: 15 May 07 - 03:37 PM

The expression predates steam and sailing ships, by and large
didn't have 'speaking tubes' because it wasn't necessary. Who
were you going to talk to in the cargo hold anyway?

Interesting hypotheses.

Absolute guano, but other than that, interesting.

If that doesn't convince you consider this: the songs (various
versions) refer to the Black Ball Line and the Flying Fish line.

Both pre-date steam, and the associated speaking-tubes used
to communicate with the guys in the engine room.

The song dates from the heavy-hauling required on packet
ships under sail.

So does the expression.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Jim Lad
Date: 15 May 07 - 03:44 PM

Oops! I see Charley's already been in here. I don't always read the names.
Greg: "The song dates from the heavy-hauling required on packet
ships under sail."
What does that mean?


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Amos
Date: 15 May 07 - 03:49 PM

I think it means what it says, Jim!


A


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 15 May 07 - 06:26 PM

Jim-

Yes, Charley Noble's been here and gone,
Left you here to sing your song!

Good luck on your search for enlightenment. LOL

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Greg B
Date: 15 May 07 - 07:10 PM

Regarding this horse--- He's dead, Jim.

Blow the Man Down, in its several versions, is a long
drag or halyard shanty dating at least from the age of
the clippers or no less old than the 'packet' trade
which was the last gasp of sail. These were large
vessels, and somewhat under-crewed. Raising tops'l
yards is a ton (literally) of work, and was accompanied
by songs like 'Blow the Man Down' which had two pulls
on each line of the chorus.

Such songs were useless on anything so lightly rigged
as coasters or even on the 'hybrid' steam/sail vessels.

Furthermore, virtually EVERY version of Blow the Man Down
(Hugill gives at least four) has tell-tale references to
both land and sea terms which CLEARLY DATE IT FROM THE
AGE OF THE SAILING PACKETS.

To claim that it has anything to do with steam, or speaking
tubes, etc., it to ignore historical references, oral tradition,
naval architecture, and is about as silly as claiming that
'Row Row Row Your Boat' was written to accompany the pulling
of the starting-rope on an Evinrude outboard.

And by the way, it's 'Too-Lye-Ay' not bloody 'Too-Rye-Ay.'


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: GUEST
Date: 15 May 07 - 07:21 PM

What it means is that the days before steam & engine rooms there was no nosie to rise above. When orders were called there was no need for sound systems or piping sound, you rose to the call of an order or you were already on deck manning the watch. As Greg said no need to pipe 'em up on deck from the cargo hold, a shout down a hatch, companionway, cowl vent, skylight was enough. At night most sailors even while asleep could tell from the sound of the sail or rigging, the movement or roll & pith of the ship or the shudder of the ship, rudder or soul if they were gonna be needed on deck. Those 6 senses more than anything else already had the ears to the mast & a weather eye open even from a deep sleep. You're talking about technology that was non existant at the time the term of phrase "blow the man down" was going out of popular use. This is not a case of the 'chicken or the egg', it's a matter of fact.

Let it go Jim


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Jim Lad
Date: 15 May 07 - 09:37 PM

Ah, God love yous!
Just one thing.
I never once mentioned "Steam".
After I'm dead and gone, some eejit will resurrect this thread and say I was right but you won't believe them.
"Flogging a dead horse." That's an old cavalry thing, right?


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Amos
Date: 15 May 07 - 09:47 PM

Jim:

You mentioned speaking tubes, I believe. In the time line of technologies, these have a certain point in time, later than that of the phrase being asked about.

A


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Jim Lad
Date: 15 May 07 - 09:54 PM

Thanks Amos. Just a wee clarification is all.
Cheers!
Jim


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Barry Finn
Date: 16 May 07 - 01:49 AM

Grasping at straws? Speaking of straw.

"Flogging a dead horse." That's an old cavalry thing, right?

Actually, no. The following is from "When A Loose Cannon Floggs A Dead Horse There's The Devil To Pay (yes that's a book title) by Olivia A Isil, p.38
"'Flogging a Dead Horse".... (an excercise in futility):
The band of variable calm in the Alantic Ocean-roughly in the area of the Canary Islands-is known as the horse latitudes. They take their name from the Spanish 'Golfo de las Yeguas (Gulf of Mares). It is thought that the Spanish name stems from a comparsion between the unpredictable nature ohf the high strung Arabian mare & the capricious nature of the wind in the area. In the days of sail, when a sailor signed up for the duration of a voyage, it was customary to pay him 1 month's advance-but sailor's money never lasted long in rollicking port towns. Once their advanced wages had been spent & the ship had put to sea, sailors felt as though that they were working for nothing. Because it took approximately 1 month to reach the horse latitudes frommost ports in England, sailors bega the tradition of calling that 1st month at sea the "dead horse month". To mark it's end, the crew celebrated by stuffing a canvas likness of a horse & marching it around the deck with great pomp & ceremony. The symbolic representation of the "dead horse" was then hauled aloft to the yardarm & cut adriftinto the sea, as the sailors chanted, "Old Man [Captain], your hose must die!" Admiral William Smyth suggested that flogging a dead animal into activity was an excercise in futility as trying to get a wholehearted work commitment out of the ship's company while they were working off the dead horse month."

The Great Plains Indians would flog their near dead mustangs as a last resort to to get them to rise again & get the last mile from their horse before it actually would drop dead underneath them. Not an Army practice.

No you didn't say steam Jim (don't hang your argument on that), but steam was the 1st type of power generally used in the chain of events leading towards the dimise of sail, to have said otherwise or a different fuel type would have put the era even further into the future, farther from the usage of the phrase "blow the man down".

Barry


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Jim Lad
Date: 16 May 07 - 02:37 AM

I was having fun with you, Barry. I honestly thought you'd catch that.
Thanks for the info just the same.
Cheers.
Jim


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 16 May 07 - 03:44 AM

I think you're all missing the important question... WHEN was 'Blow the man down' written?

It seems that 'speaking tube' is the landlubbers version whereas mariners, ancient or otherwise, called it the 'voice pipe'. Wikipediment has this (amongst other stuff) to say about voice pipes: "About 1780, one captain removed a canvass voice pipe installed by an imaginative midshipman saying he was sure the topmen would "use it for an improper purpose"[1]."

So... we have a documented early dating of 1780, about 20 years before the first commercial steam boat was built. HMS Belfast built in 1954 had voice pipes in it, so that's some 170 years of use.
Here's some more info... and this is about the Black Ball Line mentioned previously.

This seems to indicate that 'Blow the man down' comes from the early 1800's, 20 years before our documented dating of the voice pipe.

Any advance?

LTS


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 16 May 07 - 03:45 AM

When I say mentioned previously, I meant, mentioned on the previous link....

LTS


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Jim Lad
Date: 18 May 07 - 06:40 PM

In the 17th Century, speaking tubes were adapted to a very special sort of hearing problem by Puritan couples who were courting. Custom of the time required the two to sit across a table from each other, and speaking tubes were used to ensure the privacy of their conversations.
Now that's the sixteen hundreds.

http://www.hearingcenteronline.com/museum.shtml

Any bets that it goes back even further.
In addition to that this quote was missed by one of you who had quoted from the same page "Later designs of the voice pipe inserted a removable cork-mounted whistle, which could be sounded by blowing into the tube from the other end." Which is exactly what I was referring to. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speaking_tube#_note-gower

The Internet is a useful tool but if your desire is to become informed then you have to resist the temptation of cherry picking your information to fit any preconceived notions.
There's nothing personal in this. Just the quest for knowledge.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Jim Lad
Date: 18 May 07 - 06:55 PM

Search "Speaking Tubes, Romans" and you will find that although you have me outnumbered, to state that there were no speaking tubes when the song was written is to state that the song is pre-Roman.
Could be!

Then give some thought to the line, as it is used in the song. Does it really make sense in that context?
"Blow the man down" would certainly be a command bellowed out by a skipper seeking more hands up on deck and one which would be revered by all but "Kill the man"? It doesn't fit.
Sorry guys. This one, I win.
Cheers
Jim


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 18 May 07 - 07:21 PM

There a rumour that it pre-dates the repeats of Howards Way on UK Gold, but I reckon that's wild talk.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 19 May 07 - 12:34 PM

Jim-

I do love your speculation, which runs counter to my understanding of such lyrics. But maybe we can access a time machine and determine the validity of your hypothesis by direct observation.

I believe the common commands by the skipper or mates for rousing out more sailors for work on deck were:

All hands on deck!

All hands ahoy!

Get the fuck up here! (more contemporary)

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Jim Lad
Date: 19 May 07 - 01:01 PM

Charley: I can, if you like, take the time to research the song & post it, along with my interpretation. I would actually enjoy that.
I have done so, with other songs and have been ridiculed, by some, for my efforts while others were grateful.
However, that is not the point I wish to make, right now.
Let me put this to you and do correct me if I'm wrong.

I was/am of the understanding that the "Lyrics & Knowledge" threads were to benefit those seeking Words, Music, Origins & meanings of songs, among other things. On this particular thread, I offered an explanation which the other participants have apparently never heard.
Now, rather than give thought to a fresh idea, many of them chose to completely reject it.
The arguments were ridiculous and some of them, I have to say, quite funny. Parts of articles were quoted but not the parts which supported my theory.
And what does Barry Finn get from all of this?
Nothing more than a Swarming display by many and an answer which he could have found on "Talklikeapirate.com" or whatever the heck the site is called.

My point? When someone asks for a definition; offer what you have and treat other's offerings with some kind of dignity.

I'm not angry at any of this. It is what it is... "A music thread", it amuses me.
I am however, saddened by the fact that someone who was looking for some insight never really had the opportunity to benefit from his quest.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Barry Finn
Date: 20 May 07 - 08:14 AM

So far Jim I've found that many of the collectors of this song state that to "blow" is to hit, none to the contrary & none to support the voice tube connection that you suggested. Some of the versions, the content itself sing the same statement. When the voice tube came into being doesn't have baring on this unless you can site a source that supports you.

I did find the speaking/voice tube interesting though & enjoyed find out more about it.

Barry


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Jim Lad
Date: 20 May 07 - 11:14 AM

Barry Finn: You started this thread because you didn't know the answer and wanted it.
I know the answer and gave it.
Others came back and chose to debate the matter.
This is the second time that you have done so and rather impolitely, I might add.
Don't ask any more questions if you don't know how to accept the answer.
I, for one, have have lost all interest in helping you.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Jim Lad
Date: 20 May 07 - 12:16 PM

Here is the version of "Blow the Man Down" which so many of you seem determined to accept. When you begin to realize that it can't be right, (which shouldn't take any more than a minute) start looking for the real meaning.

Kill the Man

As I was a-walking down Paradise Street,
To me way-aye, kill the man!
A Liverpool bobby I chanced for to meet,
Give me some time to kill the man!

Says he, "You're a Blackballer by the cut of your hair;
To me way-aye, kill the man!
I know you're a Blackballer by the clothes that you wear.
Give me some time to kill the man!


Now in fairness to you, let's give the man a name & the phrase, some meter.

Kill Paddy Doyle

As I was a-walking down Paradise Street,
To me way-aye, kill Paddy Doyle!
A Liverpool bobby I chanced for to meet,
Give me some time kill Paddy Doyle!

Says he, "You're a Blackballer by the cut of your hair;
To me way-aye, kill Paddy Doyle!
I know you're a Blackballer by the clothes that you wear.
Give me some time kill Paddy Doyle!

Mull that over for a while. If it works for you, so be it.
If not, then put some thought into it and open your minds.

On another note: The next time any of you find yourselves asking for documentation or proof on any thread please say "I'm being really stupid here." three times and count to ten before typing.
Then don't type it.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: JennyO
Date: 20 May 07 - 12:31 PM

I was talking to John Warner (jack halyard) about this thread. He knows a lot of folklore - particularly about the sea. He is a shanty singer and songwriter who researches his material well. I'm afraid he comes down on the side of Barry Finn, Charley Noble and others. I'll see if I can get him to come and post. He is only an occasional Mudcatter.

Anyway, regardless of when the voice tube might have come into being - as Greg B said - there was simply no NEED for one on sailing ships in the period of time that the song dates from. It's an interesting idea, but flawed.

Jim, you seem so sure of your facts, and yet you have made a basic mistake when you say that Barry Finn started the thread and asked the question. Take another look and you will find that the thread was started by a GUEST in 1999, and Barry was in fact the first to give an answer. Doesn't exactly inspire confidence, I'm afraid.

Maybe it's time to retire gracefully.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Jim Lad
Date: 20 May 07 - 12:50 PM

My most sincere apologies to Barry Finn.
This thread was re-opened by "Blank" and Barry's was the first name to show up at the top of the page.
As for you're arguments.
Speaking Tubes are Ancient Egyptian in their origin and your suggestion that they were neither required nor used on board is only your opinion.
I am not the only one who knows this as the correct answer but I sincerely doubt, given the reactions here, that anyone else would dare go against the pack.

Once again.
My most sincere apologies to you, Barry Finn.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Jim Lad
Date: 20 May 07 - 04:10 PM

And some where, off on the distance, the fire of curiosity dwindled to a tiny flame, flickered and finally ...... died.

Charley: You were the only one to show any kind of interest in gaining knowledge or at least, investigating the possibility before rejecting the notion. Thank you. We'll do that time capsule one way or another. I'll bring the six-pack.
I'm outa here!
Cheers!
Jim


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Barry Finn
Date: 20 May 07 - 06:02 PM

Jim, thank you, apologies excepted, also have never called you stupid.
I, too checked out all the links reguarding the voice/speaking tube & went beyond that because I did find it quite interesting. Even thought when my mother (78 yrs young) needs to move & sell that the tubes may be something I want to use if & when she wants me to build her a new home. It wouuld probably work alond the lines & beside the new style flexable plumbing.

Jim as usual, I do find your input, maybe not always spot on but useful, enlightening & interesting.

Barry


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Tootler
Date: 20 May 07 - 07:03 PM

The next time any of you find yourselves asking for documentation or proof on any thread please say "I'm being really stupid here." three times and count to ten before typing.

I'm not entirely sure what you are getting at here.

If you put forward a theory that runs counter to that generally accepted, it is reasonable to ask for evidence to support your theory. Looking through the thread, it seems to me that those asking for documentary evidence are making a reasonable request. I agree that sometimes that request was not made in as courteous a manner as it might have been, but nevertheless the requests mostly struck me as reasonable.

Equally, of course if you are putting forward the generally accepted theory, you still need to provide evidence to support that theory. It is then up to each individual to decide who has provided the stronger evidence.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 20 May 07 - 08:04 PM

Whether or not God invented the speaking tube to call to his disciples is immaterial; was it in use on 19th c. sailing ships? Not just one ship, but in sufficient use for it to be known generally to crews?
Hugill and others speak of 'blowers' (see above) keeping the crew in line with blows- true, sometimes, on Black Ball, but does this have anything to do with 'blow the man down' in the chantey?
Terry, in his book, speaks of the chantey as one used with the halyards, and is satisfied with 'blow the man down' as equivalent to raising the top sails, giving no further explanation.

A couple of verses to give this post a salty flavor:

We went over the Bar on the thirteenth of May.
To me way-ay, blow the man down.
The Galloper jumped, and the gale came away.
Oh gimmie some time to blow the man down.

So we'll blow the man up, and we'll blow the man down.
Way-ay, blow the man down -
And we'll blow him away into Liverpool town.
Oh gimmie some time to blow the man down.

Now is that the sails talking?

Composed but not copyright by an unknown chantey man, the line coming into his head because the wind was blowing and the crew could make sail.
See Richard Runciman Terry, 1921, The Shanty Book, J. Curwin, London. (On line, Gutenberg)


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Jim Lad
Date: 20 May 07 - 08:07 PM

Tootler: We are on the Internet. I can't give you documented evidence of anything, on this medium. No-one can.
I have proof of my birth date, a driver's license, passport & all sorts of documents but I can give you none of these, here.
Furthermore, when dealing with Folk, Tradition & Ancient History, documentation, very often just does not exist.
I once posted the Origins of the tune to "The Dawning of the Day" as being Pre-Roman to which someone replied "I don't believe you. Do you have proof?" to which I replied "Sure! I also have the original 3 nails from the cross". I'm paraphrasing. It was a thoughtless response which to me, indicated an unwillingness to learn.
My source for that information is a good friend, a PHD, a University Prof. and a former Mudcatter who spends countless hours researching such things and gave me the answer, off the top of his head, using three languages.
And the answer he gave me was brushed aside with a "Where's the documentation?" from some eejit who probably hasn't opened a book in thirty years.
That was the very reason this fellow had given me for leaving Mudcat.
Take a look at the most recent "She Moved Through the Fair" thread for a similar example.

Now, if you go back up the page a little, you will see that I have done a fairly honest job of entertaining your theory with "Kill Paddy Doyle" Too good a job. I almost find it credible. Almost.

I have found several references, on the Internet which all give the same meaning to "Blow the Man Down" and they are all remarkably similar in their structure. Looks to me like one has copied from the other.
"Blow" as a noun and as a verb mean two different things and they are not interchangeable.
The same goes for "Bow" which has even more meanings. There are other examples but you get my drift.

I say that the "Kill the Man" interpretation makes no sense and ask that you give some thought to that rather than just trying to win a debate.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 20 May 07 - 09:06 PM

JIm-

The question you raise is on the edge of what most of us "shantymen wantebees" have learned from our years of reading nautical song literature, and even listening to such primary informants as Stan Hugill. It should not be unexpected if some of us, myself included, are skeptical of your hypothesis. However, we all should be more cordial in our "dismissal" of such a hypothesis. Q does a good job of reviewing some songs, accepting that speaking tubes were used even on a few sailing ships but were hardly the general case. It's really hard for me to believe that the term "blow the man down" didn't imply striking someone down given its use in so many shanties.

I'd never run across "Kill the Man" as a substitute for "Blow the Man down." But maybe I'm misinterpreting what you are saying. We need a couple of brews from the Mudcat tavern so that this question may be more amicably settled.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 20 May 07 - 09:54 PM

I would guess that any speaking tubes would have run from the captain's quarters to the galley.

The earliest reference to a speaking tube (modern sense) found in the Oxford English Dictionary is to one being used in a London restaurant in 1833. I wonder how easily a voice through a tube on shipboard would be heard when the ship is underway.

Make that a couple (or more) single malts and I just might believe either of the combatants here (heavyweights?) but I (flyweight) think both are wrong.

And they call the wind ...

Has anyone here a copy of James Runciman? Or Clarke Russell, "Sailors' Language" ?

A number of 19th c. books that might help.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Jim Lad
Date: 20 May 07 - 10:56 PM

"Mariah" from an old Native American legend which tells of a wind thar carried away all in its path.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Jim Lad
Date: 20 May 07 - 11:07 PM

There were speaking tubes in the larger homes during Roman times.
They would have been capped for privacy and draughts.
It is not difficult to imagine that whistles would have been installed during those times also since a voice would not be heard through the cap and that some clever chap may even have fashioned whistles into handles.
"Blow the man down" would have evolved just as "Ring him up" has. Another phrase which will probably die in 50 or more years.

Question: What is a non stick frying pan?
Answer: Prior to K-Tel it was every frying pan in the house. We've just forgotten how to season them.

The Folk Process, I think you call it.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Schantieman
Date: 21 May 07 - 05:48 AM

Hugill, the most authoritative source we have, was of the opinion that the phrase in question means to knock down with a blow, or words to that effect. I don't have the book in front of me now as I'm at work, but I can easily look it up when I get home and cite the reference - as can any other owner of a copy.

Steve


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 21 May 07 - 01:47 PM

Hugill, "Shanties and Sailors' Songs."
Hugill, "Shanties from the Seven Seas."
In neither does Hugill give the opinion "that the phrase in question means to knock down with a blow,...."
Hugill does mention the strikers and blowers as mates, but does not tie their actions to the chantey.

The true explanation of "blow the man down" is quite simple, and, once heard, is obvious.
On a Blackball packet, the bags of beans got wet in a gale. The mates agreed the beans must be eaten before they went completely rotten.
For two days the men ate nothing but beans. On the third day, their complaining bowels were painfully and noisily demanding relief. The captain ordered all hands to take a carminative, the ship headed into the wind, and shouted "Blow, bullies, blow."
This is the event that is celebrated by the chantey.

There is some discussion about whether the wind so generated was stong enough to "blow a man down," or did the sailors blow up the tale to regale their lady friends ashore.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 21 May 07 - 02:25 PM

Q-

For shame! LOL

Could that incident have inspired this miscellaneous verse to "Away Rio!"?

If we're becalmed that would be a great sin --
Away, Rio!
But we'll fill all our sails by just breaking wind --
We're bound for the Rio Grande!

I note that Hugill in SONGS OF THE SEA, © 1977, p. 76, states with regard to "Blow the Man Down":

"To blow" means to strike, the chief mate of Blackballers being called the "Blower" and the second mate the "Striker."

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Greg B
Date: 21 May 07 - 02:38 PM

I've traveled the wide world over, and many things I saw, but
a speaking-tube on a whaling ship I never saw before.

No, really. I've tromped all over vintage vessels, some restored,
some reconstructed, and some really awful. Now, on the powered
vessels (both steam and vintage internal-combustion) there
inevitably have been speaking tubes running from bridge to
engine room, and often a few other places (such as to the
wardroom or charthouse). This even has been the case on light-ships.

But never, no nay not once, have I ever seen such a thing on a
sailing vessel of any kind. From coasters to whalers to packet
ships, I've not seen hide nor hair of such a communications
device. Nor any sign that any such thing was ever there. Amongst
all that original hardware, from binnacles to bits and even
basins, nary a speaking tube in sight.

Now this is purely anecdotal, and lacking in 'documentary evidence.'

But it convinces me that 'Blow the Man Down' hadn't a thing to do
with such a acoustical contrivance.

It should be noted that the speaking tube was not the primary means
of communication twixt engine room and bridge--- that came via the
telegraph. The speaking-tube would have been resorted to when
that didn't work, and would have served as the conduit of choice
words, coaching, and exhortations, and excuses. Presumably it
would have functioned fairly well in the age of steam, which is
relatively silent save perhaps for the sounds made by the blowers
on the boilers, and a lot less well in the presence of internal
combustion engines.

As to other references to being blown down, I give you 'The Ebenezer'
verse one:

"I shipped on board the Ebenezer
Every day was scrub and grease her
Send us aloft to scrape her down
And if we growled they'd blow us down"

Other parts of the "Ebenezer" use language which implies
origins similar in time and place to 'Blow the Man Down.'

Context makes it pretty clear to me.

The watch below was called up with a clatter on the
scuttle and "take your hands from your cocks and pull on
your socks."


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 21 May 07 - 02:44 PM

Thanks for the reference, Charley. Don't have that volume yet.

I will stick with my explanation, however.

(Until I saw this, I thought a striker was a soccer player, and the blower was the referee... but it seems unlikely that their services would be called for aboard a packet)


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Jim Lad
Date: 21 May 07 - 03:33 PM

What an absolute delight to see people who know how to swivel their chairs around to the bookshelves wherein the truth may be found.
When I think back a few years to a time when encyclopedia salespeople were made redundant overnight by the birth of the home computer, this is truly refreshing.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: GUEST,Chicken Charlie
Date: 21 May 07 - 04:10 PM

I supposed by the age and length of this thread that there was no point in looking at it or adding my conviction that the phrase means for the boatswain to play on his whistle/pipe the signal for the crew to come down from the rigging.

All the stuff about voice pipes, murder, kidnapping, dead horses, who called whom stupid, renaissance faires, etc., coupled with testimony as to exactly how 19th century sailors acted, felt and thought--testimony gathered, no doubt, from seances--has restored my confidence in the ability of any human being to form an opinion on any subject, regardless of familiarity with said subject or lack thereof, and to stick to it in the face of all counter-argument.

Does anyone know of a site where a person can ask a question related to music and get an answer?

Chicken Charlie


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 21 May 07 - 05:39 PM

Chicken Charlie, your conviction is more convincing that the striker and speaker tube speculations. Of course mine is the most likely.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 21 May 07 - 05:39 PM

Musical, too.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: GUEST
Date: 21 May 07 - 06:54 PM

So, then, you would have us believe, then, that in the complaint
chantey "The Ebenezer" the phrase "If we growled they'd blow
us down" referred to the officers saying "Oh, so sorry lads
that you're not enjoying scraping down the masts while under
weigh, here's a whistle to bring you on down and send you
back comfortably into you berths."

As opposed to applying the business end of a belaying pin to
the noggin of the "growler."

Hmmmmm?


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Barry Finn
Date: 21 May 07 - 07:02 PM

CC, it was on naval vessels that pipes & whistles were mostly used, merchant vessels relied of voice commands.

Hi Greg, to back up your non sitings of voice/speaking tubes, I guess I'll add that I've only seen them on powered vessels & of all the many sailing vessels I've boarded never once hve I seen these but again, that doesn't mean there wasn't.

Barry


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 21 May 07 - 09:12 PM

Charley Chicken-

Aboard sailing naval vessels the bosun's pipe was the principal way that orders were issued to the crew. But that procedure has no connection with what happened on commercial sailing ships.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 21 May 07 - 09:21 PM

I wonder if the chantey was ever sung by a Blackball 'packet rat'? A couple of anecdotes, but no 19th c. record.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Jim Lad
Date: 21 May 07 - 09:27 PM

To Chicken Charlies point: I had surmised that blowing the whistle down the pipe would have been replaced with having whistles on the caps but had not given thought to calling a man down from the rigging. I think, his theory has some plausibility.

I also agree with him that we have become distracted by the "Speaking Tube" debate.

His was an observation from another angle and yet again I can see an opposing view being ridiculed to some degree.

Entertain his idea. It is a good one.

Cheers!
Jim


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: GUEST
Date: 21 May 07 - 09:47 PM

How about this one:

You see, there was this barrel down in the hold, with the
bung removed.

A young apprentice seaman was talking to an old AB and said,
"what do you do about sex aboard ship? Says the old AB, "Whall,
me, lad, down in the hold thars a barrel with no bung in in't..."

And thus begun the expression "blow the man down."

Did ye know that in fact there where sailing vessels with the
sails UNDER the water, to take advantage of the equatorial
currents?

OK, another lyrical citation (from the song itself, from this
site itself, but as given by Hugill):

Says I, ``Oh, no, sir, you do me great wrong,

(Way, hey, blow the man down)

I'm a Flying Fish sailor, just home from Hong Kong!''

(Give me some time, to blow the man down)

So I blew him right down, and I stove in his jaw;

(Way, hey, blow the man down)

Says he then, ``Young feller, you're breaking the law!''

(Give me some time...)

So six months I did, boys, in Liverpool town,

(Way, hey, blow the man down)

For kicking and punching and blowing him down

(Give me some time...)

Now:

If you still maintain that it had any fooking thing to do
with orders, pipes, speaking tubes or anything other than kicking
the crap out of some other poor sod, then you're a hopelessly
obtuse piece of pseudo-intellectual flotsam and not worth the
time to blow you down.

But do go on and claim that the policeman was in fact aloft
on the balconies of Liverpool and that the sailor in question
blew on his bosun's pipe (carried by all handy AB's on shore
leave) to pipe him down from his lofty architectural perch.

One of the nice things about maritime music is that, in general,
its students admit to 'yarning' when they are doing so and don't
attempt to gain honors by being full of crap.

In all seriousness, I would recommend that you take your theories
to the 'heads' and deposit them in the oaken bucket and thence
overboard where they'll do the most good.

And leave the rest of us who've taken years or decades to learn
this material and to discern its actual origins alone.

Or have another beer and piss yourself in the back of the crowd,
then wake up to sing 'The Old Dunn Cow' and drive the remaining
victims out to the parking lot after the rest of us have retired
to the YTB.

With all due respect.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Jim Lad
Date: 21 May 07 - 10:28 PM

I didn't read all of the last submission. Some thinly disguised swearing and yet another version of this song along with some trash talk by someone who doesn't have the decency to show her name, adds nothing to meaningful debate.

I came into this thread thinking that I knew the answer but hopefully with an open mind.
I cannot accept "Strike the Man" or "Kill the Man" or even "Knock the Man Down" as being the correct answer. Even the most generous use of poetic license will not make this work for me.

Chicken Charlies theory is the best yet and I am fairly convinced that he is correct.

If asked, in the future I will most definitely say that the phrase means for the boatswain to play on his whistle/pipe the signal for the crew to come down from the rigging.
It just makes the most sense and the man deserves credit for that.

No doubt, you will all agree.

Thank You, Chicken Charlie. (if that's your real name)


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 21 May 07 - 11:38 PM

This fragment from a man who sailed in the last years. Support for Chicken Charlie?

BLOW THE MAN DOWN
Wm. H. Smith MS; coll. 1880's-1890's

Blow me right up, and it's blow me right down,
To me wey-hey, blow the man down;
We'll blow him right up, and we'll blow him right down;
Give me some time to blow the man down.

p. 21, Edith Fowke, Ed., 1981, "Sea Songs and Ballads from Nineteenth Century Nova Scotia: The William H. Smith and Fenwick Hatt Manuscripts," Folklorica, NY and Boston.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Jim Lad
Date: 21 May 07 - 11:53 PM

As the politician would say.. "It does and it doesn't, if you know what I mean". I think it does.
Q: Your contributions to this thread have been as entertaining as they were, helpful.
Along with Charley, Barry, Liz and some others, you have convinced me that my theory was probably wrong. In addition to that, you changed the tone of the discussion to a point where others could feel more comfortable offering their opinions.
Hopefully, we will have the opportunity to do this with some other piece.
Cheers!
Jim


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: mg
Date: 22 May 07 - 12:29 AM

one thing in music..nothing has to make sense..in fact sometimes that is what makes a song neat..not knowing what it means. mg


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Waddon Pete
Date: 22 May 07 - 03:56 AM

Hello,

I approach this thread with temerity...so many good contributions! Yet I do have a sympathy with mg's post!

I didn't have to swivel my chair to the bookcase Jim...maybe move a couple of ornaments to get the book out...but Brewer's dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1870) gives a little more insight...

I'm not convinced by "blow the man down" as a phrase that anyone would use to describe thumping someone.

Brewer suggests....

blow...as the wind blows
blow sky high....give a good scolding
blow...to inform against a companion
blow...blow me...blow me down...an oath

I have always favoured the last definition myself.

Hope it helps!

Best wishes,

Peter


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 22 May 07 - 08:57 AM

Peter-

Brewer's interpretation might cover part of the range of shanties where "blow" is used but I don't think one can rule out the physical "blow."

And at this point, and it's er-lye in the morning, I wouldn't rule out that the big bruisin' shantyman might have been singing something such as:

I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow the man down!"

and that somehow our revered collectors did not accurately note what they were hearing.

Now you've all got me re-thinking this whole question. It's true that many of the shantymen who sang for collectors were well past their prime when they did so, and they may have dropped a word or two or slurred a key phrase. Hell, I've been known to do that after only a couple of ales.

Anyone want to pipe us to grog?

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Tootler
Date: 22 May 07 - 09:11 AM

Tootler: We are on the Internet. I can't give you documented evidence of anything, on this medium. No-one can.

That's a cop-out if ever I saw one. It is perfectly possible to list published sources which people can go and check if they wish, as someone did earlier with a reference to books by Stan Hugill, who is an accepted authority.

This is an informal forum and strict academic rigor is not looked for, but I suggest that a request for evidence should be treated seriously and not dismissed out of hand.

I am not arguing here about which theory is correct, but about demonstrating that your theory has a reasonable basis.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Waddon Pete
Date: 22 May 07 - 09:21 AM

Thanks Charley,

You bring the glasses and I'll bring the bottle!

Whereas "blow the man down" is a great phrase to sing, it seems a little "la de da" when spoken!

"I say, you chaps...blow that man down will you?"

I can't see our bruisin' shanty man speaking like that! More likely "Way hay and a smack in the gob!" However...that would be more difficult to rhyme...unlike down!

Fascinating!

Mind you ~ you can say anything in a song....!

BTW heard some-one say "Well blow me down!" today when told something they found surprising!

Best wishes,

Peter


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 22 May 07 - 12:58 PM

Searching the 19th c. reports of "Blow the Man Down." There are a few fragments. Nothing that relates the song to knocking a man down so far.
From P. A. Hutchison, 1906, collected on merchant ships, near the end of the 19th c.

I'll sing you a song, a good song of the sea,
To my ay, ay, blow the man down;
I trust that you'll join in the chorus with me,
Give me some time to blow the man down.

"Related to it" is "Blow, Boys, Blow," given in four verses:

Lyr. Add: BLOW, BOYS, BLOW!

Yankee ship came down the river,
Blow, boys, blow!
Her masts did bend, her sides did shiver,
Blow, my jolly boys, blow!

The sails were old, her timbers rotten,
Blow, boys, blow!
His charts the skipper had forgotten,
Blow, my jolly boys, blow!

Who do you think was skipper of her?
Blow, boys, blow!
"Old Preaching Sam," the noted scoffer,
Blow, my jolly boys, blow!

She sailed away for London city,
Blow, boys, blow!
Never got there, what a pity!
Blow, my jolly boys, blow!

This, in turn, Hutchison says, is "closely related" to:

Blow, boys, blow,
For Californy, O!
We're bound for Sacramento
To dig the yellow gold.

These seem to have originated in the 1850's.
He further relates them to:

Good-bye, my love, good-bye,
I cannot tell you why,
I'm off to Californy
To dig the yellow gold.

P. A. Hutchison, Mar. 1906, Jour. American Folklore, vol. 19, no. 72, pp. 16-28.

More later.


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Subject: Lyr, Add: Blow a Man Down
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 22 May 07 - 02:03 PM

"Well blow me down!"
As an oath, 18th c.

1867, Clark, "Seven Years of a Sailor's Life," : "Hallo, Charlie, blowed if I saw you before."

Lighter (Historical Dictionary of American Slang) accepted the 'knock-down' interpretation, but his earliest (1886) quotation is from an article that makes no comment about the meaning.
Jour. Amer. Folklore- "Blow the man down in the hold below."

Lyr. Add: BLOW A MAN DOWN
Hatfield, coll. 1886 'Ahkera'

O 'low me some time to blow a man down!
Too ma hay ho, blow a man down.
Blow the man down in the hold below,
O give me some time to blow a man down!

From starboard to larboard away we will go!
(Too ma hay ...)
From larboard to starboard away we will go!
(Give me ...)

O, hip, hip, hip, and away we will go!
(Too ma hay ...)
We'll rise and shine and ma-ake her go!
O Give me some time to blow a man down!

"Possibly the most widely used shanty. The melody was practically the same in all versions, which usually had much longer, and widely divergent texts."
"The working-crew consisted of eight strapping Jamaica Negroes." The crossing was from Pensacola to Nice, France, 84 days.
With score.
Hatfield, James Taft, "Some Nineteenth Century Shanties," Jour. American Folklore, 1946, vol. 59, no. 236, pp. 108-113.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: JWB
Date: 22 May 07 - 02:15 PM

So far I count four theories of the meaning of "blow" in the chantey:

1. Whistle in a voice tube on a ship
2. Strike a blow
3. Pipe hands down from aloft
4. Expel flatus as propulsion

Amazingly, no one over the years this thread has existed has theorized that it's a sexual term (Guest on 5/21/07 at 9:47 came close). Many chanteys had "dirty" verses, and I think we should add the theory that in Blow the Man Down, the B word refers to felatio. Horny sailors, nothing but other men around for months on end... Let's not be closed minded, here.

You know, if we really applied ourselves, I'm sure we could think up lots more theories. Don't hold back, 'Catters!

Jerry


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Jim Lad
Date: 22 May 07 - 03:22 PM

Q: "Blow the man down in the hold below." seems to support my theory. Before I decided to accept another, that is. You're really messing with my mind now!
Good one.
Jim


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 22 May 07 - 05:32 PM

Up above, mg made a very sensible comment. Of, course, we will all ignore it.

More early "Blow the Man Down" to come, if I can find the sources.
The Traditional Ballad Index doesn't list any verifiable 19th c. versions, but the compilers didn't have access to much older material.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 22 May 07 - 08:47 PM

When I'm more sober I'll post some excerpts from C. Fox Smith and Joanna Colcord. However, two White Russians after a hard day of rebuilding the front steps doesn't leave a whole lot of energy. Yes, I'm blowed for sure!

The "Blow, me bully boys, blow" of the Congo River shanty appears to me to be a different use of the term "blow." More to do with encouraging the ship to sail than bullying the crew.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 23 May 07 - 08:47 AM

It's er-lye in the mornin' and according to Joanna Colcord, SONGS OF AMERICAN SAILORMEN, © 1938, pp. 53-57, "Blow the Man Down" was primarily associated with the Atlantic Black Ball Line (not to be confused with the Australian Black Ball Line):

It should be noted that in those days, "blow" meant "knock."

C. Fox Smith has an extended discussion of "Blow the Man Down" in A BOOK OF SHANTIES, © 1927, p. 49, but no direct reference to the meaning of "blow." However, in one of the versions she includes of the shanty the meaning of the word is unambiguous:

So they gave me three months all in Liverpool town --
To me way-ay, blow the man down!
For fighting a p'leeceman and blowing him down --
Give me some time to blow the man down!

Incidently, there is more evidence in Colcord that she and C. Fox Smith were well aware of each other; they do have a record of correspondence in the Colcord archives. Colcord quotes large passages from Smith's SAILOR-TOWN DAYS with regard to background for "Blow the Man Down."

It's possible that the big East Indies ships of the early 19th century also used bosun's pipes for ordering the crews to work; they emulated the Royal Navy practices in many ways.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 23 May 07 - 12:48 PM

"It should be noted that in those days, "blow meant knock."

Wrong, there were many meanings attached to 'blow' by mid-19th c.

1. stolen goods- "He has bit the blow" means he has stolen the goods.
2. to smoke- How the swell funks his blower...
3. To blow the gab- to confess
4. To blow the groundsils- To lie with a woman (on the ground). A nautical usage.
A few of the many slang terms meaning 'to knock down':
( I'll lump your jolly nob for you- I'll give you a knock on the head.)
(To lace- to beat.)
(To floor- to knock down).
(And on 'knock,' some meanings already prevalent in 1785-
To knock- To have sexual intercourse with a woman.
A knock me down- strong ale or beer.

From the OED:
1. to blow- to be winded. From 1440 (in print)
2. To blow (the bellows) - to stir up passion. 1596
3. To blow- to sound (an instrument)- 16th c.
4. To blow- to scold or rant at. 1827
5. To blow- to drink to excess. 1500
6. To stroke, to hit. 16th c.
7. To bloom- to flower. 18th c.
8. A blow- A storm. 17th c.

In various nautical works-
To blow- to raise the sails
(As in this 19th c. version of "Blow the Man Down:"

So we'll blow the man up, and we'll blow the man down.
To me ...
And we'll blow him away into Liverpool Town.
Oh gimme ...

I'll post the rest of that chantey when I run down the reference again. Also see version 3 in the DT; a late one but echoes the meaning of an earlier one- I've got to get busy on these.

The Black Ball chantey or an early version is a 'boasting' song. The line as commonly spoken of was re-organized in 1835, and that is the one sung about.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 23 May 07 - 12:51 PM

The dictionary listings above the OED quotations are all from Francis Grose, 1785, his dictionary of cant and slang.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 23 May 07 - 12:53 PM

You simply asked the time and have now been told how to build a watch - with many mutually exclusive parts, no less.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 23 May 07 - 01:00 PM

Not a bad summary- (old watches once being a hobby of mine).


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: JennyO
Date: 23 May 07 - 01:25 PM

Well blow me down!


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: JennyO
Date: 23 May 07 - 01:25 PM

It's 100!


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 23 May 07 - 01:58 PM

Then there's:

Blow ye winds in the morning,
Blow ye winds, hi-ho!
Clear away the running gear
And blow, boys, blow!

Or:

Blow ye winds westerly,
Westerly blow;
We're bound for the Southard
So steady we go!

Most of these "blows" would appear to only refer to the power of the wind, if so inclined.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 23 May 07 - 02:12 PM

Lyr. Add: BLACKBALL LINE

In the Blackball Line I served my time,
Hurrah for the Blackball Line!
In the Black Ball Line I served my time,
Hurrah for the Blackball Line!

The Blackball ships are good and true,
Hurrah for the Blackball Line!
They are the ships for me and you,
Hurrah for the Blackball Line!

For once there was a Blackball ship,
Hurrah for the Blackball Line!
That fourteen knots an hour could clip,
Hurrah for the Blackball Line!

A boasting song. How much of the verse about strikers, etc., was the invention of boasting blackballers about their tightly run ships?

P. A. Hutchison, Mar. 1906, Jour. American Folklore, vol. 19, no. 72, pp. 16-28. Coll. late 19th c.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Barry Finn
Date: 23 May 07 - 03:05 PM

From "Sea Songs & Shanties" by Capt. Whall, p.69. This (Blow The Man Down) comes from the old Alantic sailing packet ships. "Blow" in those days was equivalent to "knock". The 3rd mate in tose ships was endearingly termed the third "blower and striker", the second mate being the "greaser".

"They gave me three months in Walton Jail
Way-ay, blow the man down
For booting and kicking and blowing him down
Give me some time to blow the man down"

Barry


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Jim Lad
Date: 23 May 07 - 03:21 PM

It's a very, very difficult thing, to abandon a preconceived notion even when that notion made no sense. Take your time.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Waddon Pete
Date: 23 May 07 - 04:17 PM

Well...blow me down!


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: GUEST,guest - musikman189
Date: 31 May 07 - 01:31 PM

I'm curious if anyone knows of chords being added to the chanty. I am interested in teaching part of the song to my children's singing group and they learn more quickly when I accompany with the guitar.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: GUEST,musikman189
Date: 31 May 07 - 01:55 PM

I was thinking about your debate and wondered if you had missed something. There is a tradition in song writing of taking a phrase and making it evolve throughout a song so that each time it's used it means something different. In more formal music traditions it is often done on purpose. In Modern country music Tim Mcgraw wrote a song with the title "Don't Take The Girl" In three verses that phrase means three completely different things....a little boy doesn't want his dad to take the neighbor girl fishing....same boy and girl on a date in later years the boy tells a mugger to take anything he wants but "Don't Take The Girl" and finally in the last verse he begs with deity "Don't Take The Girl" because she has just birthed their child and isn't doing well medically. Though most "SErious" musicians won't admit it their formall structures usually imitate and borrow from the folk and oral traditions around them. It wouldn't be terribly surprising if some of the verses were added by different people with their own interpretations of what they meant. Maybe even on purpose to mean something different.    Anyway it was just an idea.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Greg B
Date: 31 May 07 - 04:01 PM

musikman, Blow the Man down lends itself to a simple 3-chord
accompaniment.

Now which version of the song will ye be choosin' fer the
little bastards, then?

Sex, or violence?


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: GUEST,ShantiMan49
Date: 10 Jun 07 - 10:05 AM

Blow me! When youse jokers have finished yer puffin' and blowin' you could siddown and have a blow, then have a fully blown ding dong blow by blow blow fest until yer blown out and blown away. Get below!! But seriously though....Ar forget it....Blowhards avast! Marvellous Mudcat eh? From the sublime to....the invincibly ignorant?

Cheer'ly men, ready to go about?! Pax


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: bubblyrat
Date: 11 Jun 07 - 07:45 AM

What a splendid thread !! Thankyou all, for evoking those images of the great Duncan MacCrae, as Para Handy , nonchalantly leaning over the voice-pipe of the "Vital Spark " and asking, in his inimitable Highland lilt, " Wooed you be geefing me fool ahead, just now ? "
    Personally, I think that " Blow the man down" is a straightforward corruption. By the days of the great Tea Clippers, like the " Tie Pin", the " Thermocouple", the " Antenna " ( or was it " Aerial " ?) and of course , the "Sooty Shark " ( which is certainly sooty now ), the sailors had become bored with engraving pornographic images onto bits of whalebone,as started by a man called Grimshaw, and were casting around for something else with which to fill their idle hours.As it happens, at about that time, these great ships were carrying numbers of Chinamen in their crews, and someone hit on the idea of learning Chinese from them, so that the crew could converse, and ,indeed, make derogatory remarks of a personal and sensitive nature about the Captain and the Bosuns Mates, without being understood. All went well for a while, but inevitably ,the Masters and Mates got wind ( no comedians, please ) of this , and thus it soon became customary aboard the Clippers, whenever Chinese was heard being spoken, for the Bosun"s Mate to whip out his call, pipe the shrill, and bellow " BELAY THE MANDARIN ! ". Quod Erat Demonstrandum , eh ?? I mean, if that isn"t a plausible explanation, then what is ???


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Waddon Pete
Date: 11 Jun 07 - 10:44 AM

Thanks Bubblyrat....Sorted!


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: GUEST,ShantiMan49
Date: 11 Jun 07 - 11:00 AM

Perhaps the blowers are on strike (does that make them strikers?) or off watch...I live in Oz and watch, mostly with amusement, the antics of ye Poms and Yanks on 'Cat fora. The good is very good, the bad is ... never mind ... folk of goodwill can always agree to disagree.
I have always loved the singing of shanties...so simple, so much fun.
The meaning of things is also important, so one explores the literature, non? This thread started as a simple question of meaning for a child's enjoyment. In my experience children enjoy word play for its own sake; my own kids have highly developed sense of the ridiculous, formed largely from the shared frivolous manglement of language. They are also very musical well adjusted social beings...
So blow the man any way you want to I say.
Last word for Jim Lad though, as the main speaker for the nay. Your own words about pre-conceived notions condemn your opinion, my friend. The Shorter Oxford Dictionary doesn't list anything like the "pipe=up" dream meaning you contend, among many meanings, but does have: "Blow, a stroke; a violent application of the fist or of any instrument to any object."
Another meaning is embodied in the Biblical quotation,
"Cunninge bloweth, charitie edifieth."

Om Shanti


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 11 Jun 07 - 11:50 AM

Bubblyrat-

"BELAY THE MANDARIN!"

Thanks so much for your thoughtful contribution to our discourse. I'm fully satisfied now with your theory, although I suspect, in a half hour or more, I'll be hungry for more insight.

Now where did I store my back-up keyboard?

Cheerily,
Charley Noble, just back form the Mystic Sea Music Festival


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: GUEST,swamprat
Date: 18 May 11 - 10:24 PM

It could reference "portuguese man of war". They were greatly feared at one time. Blow the man down/ blow him out of the water. As in down to Davey Jones locker.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: GUEST,Diesel Calhoun
Date: 19 May 11 - 02:42 PM

As a sailor, I know that the worst thing that can happen underway is to be knocked down by a hard blow. You see when a sudden squall line appears, if you don;t reduce your sail asap the wind will suddenly blow your boat over sideways. Thus, I go with the knock or hit someone.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: GUEST,Derpy
Date: 16 Jan 14 - 12:13 AM

Hey, though the comments on here appear to be several years old, I would like to provide the correct answer to the question, for anyone else who happens upon this page as I did.

"Blow the man down" refers to taking down the main sail of a ship. It was a big job requiring several hands who all had to work in unison. The purpose of the song was to provide a rhythm to keep them in sync. Any song could be used and the words often changed. It was the rhythm that mattered.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 16 Jan 14 - 01:35 AM

I have been doing a bit of an overhaul on my notes/references to this song. A few points are of interest.

The totality of documented versions make it clear, I think, that "blow" meant "knock," "hit," etc., and the action would be done *by* a person. The "man" to whom the action was done may have been an actual person, however *I* believe it may have been metaphorical, where "man" stands for an item of cargo to be stowed in the hold.

There is not enough evidence, to my mind, to support the claim of some 20th c. casual writers that this chanty had a special significance for the Black Ball Line. There was indeed a version sung with a clever narrative about a Black Ball ship, but that's all. And whereas it's possible that for some people the word "blow" took on the idea of getting beat on by the ship's officers, it looks unlikely that that was the original sense. It's the workers singing who are giving the blows.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 16 Jan 14 - 03:51 AM

But if it is an instruction to someone to strike someone or something, rather than to an imagined & personified heavy wind, it would surely require a very powerful blow or strike to "Blow him right back to Liverpool town", but a particularly heavy breeze could, perhaps, poetic-fancifully & hyperbolically, do so? OTOH if it appears that the blow is to be struck by the whole crew acting in concert {whence, the vocative "bullies"}, then maybe by acting together they could hit him hard enough at that, to achieve a similar effect!

Mebbe....

~M~


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: GUEST
Date: 16 Jan 14 - 08:32 AM

It simply means to knock him on his ass.
They gave me 6 months in Liverpool town for kicking a punching and blowing him down..."


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Lighter
Date: 16 Jan 14 - 09:05 AM

But, Gibb, would the song really urge people to "knock" cargo into the hold? Since "knocking" things usually involves a stick or a fist, what kind of cargo would be light enough and/or rigid enough to be "knocked" into a hold so routinely that it would be immortalized in song?

Particularly when "man" makes perfect sense, and the chantey has nothing to with cargo, including stowing it.

And since working sailors could easily inmagine real people, like the bosun, captain, mate, and that moll's fancy man, that they'd just love to knock down. (And, in one version, "kick him around.")

"Blow the man down" means to knock somebody over with a gale-force blow.

But as I wind up saying all too often, people will read into words whatever they want. Perhaps a red stoplight really means "go," because red is an vivid, energizing, empowering color, while green means relax and think of springtime. ZZZZzzzzzzz.

You're ubndoubtedly right about the alleged connection between "Blow the Man Down" and the Black Ball Line being exaggerated. But skippers on rival lines might have discouraged use of the "Black Ball" version aboard their vessels.

Sure, the Black Ball version by definition must have been "especially associated with the Black Ball Line," but the number of other versions shows that "Blow the Man Down" in general was not.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 16 Jan 14 - 11:17 AM

As I said, the cargo metaphor is just one possibility. The more important point is that the singer(s) are doing the blowing/knocking. So, I accept the idea, Lighter, of the crew wanting to knock down a person — thereby rejecting the idea of the mates being "blowers and strikers" (part of the "This was really popular in the Black Ball Line" narrative). And I doubt something inanimate is blowing them down; it should be the men who are the agents.

There is enough evidence, to my mind, to suggest that this song did not originate over deepwater, and so I don't think there is any need to look for explanations in "sailor" stuff.

My suggestion of the cargo is inspired by thinking of the workers anthropomorphizing cotton bales and such. As in "Fire Marengo," which is all about cotton-stowing, but which talks of "screw him down and there he'll stay," etc. "Knock" is not necessarily a literally description! See, "knock" won't fit the image of cargo literally, but rather poetically.

It doesn't prove anything, but here is are couple verses to consider from Nevis:

I hit 'im a lick and I fetch 'im a kick
      And a yay yay, blow the man down
Blow the man down in the hold below
      'llow me some time to blow the man down

And I blow the man down and I hit the man down
Knock de man down in the hold below


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: meself
Date: 16 Jan 14 - 12:32 PM

' ... it would surely require a very powerful blow or strike to "Blow him right back to Liverpool town" ...' It would be a cinch for Popeye the Sailorman, with a bit of spinach in him.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: mayomick
Date: 17 Jan 14 - 01:06 PM

Popeye popularized the song for many people and also the phrase "blow me down with a feather" - an expression of shock. When they were hauling sail the sailors could have been responding with false shock to a yarn spun by the calls of the man who was leading the shanty about what happened to him while he was in Liverpool . Only a guess of course , but it could mean a lot of things including what Jim Lad said about voice tubes , which were around before steam . "About 1780, one captain removed a canvas voice pipe installed by an imaginative midshipman saying he was sure the topmen would "use it for an improper purpose".... wiki


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: mayomick
Date: 17 Jan 14 - 02:36 PM

Of course a shanty couldn't be sang by a bunch of tars through a voice pipe , so I do go along with what most people are saying about the probable meaning. I wouldn't be surprised if there was an older sail hauling shanty that it was based on - Heave ho haul that sail down , or something like that


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Mark Clark
Date: 17 Jan 14 - 02:44 PM

I think GUEST,Derpy (16 Jan 14 - 12:13 AM) gave us the correct answer above. It refers to striking (bringing down) the main-sail of a tall ship. In evidence, I offer the following reference found in Google Books:
The mention of the "chanty man" reminds me of those peculiarly nautical songs known as chanteys, which are now going out before the advancing use of steam instead of sail all over the Seven Seas. They were originally the songs the sailors sang when hauling up the anchor or pulling in some sheet, and they generally consisted of a recitative and air—the recitative sung by the chantyman alone, and the air, or chorus, joined in with infinite gusto by all the men. There is, for instance, the big main-sheet chantey, whereof the following is a verse:
The first was the whale, the king of the sea—
   Y'hay, y'ho, blow the man down!
He came up on deck singing "Helm hard a-lee,"
   Give us some time to blow the man down!
Then the chorus—
Blow the man down, bullies, blow the man down!
   Y'hay, y'ho, blow the man down—
He came up on deck singing "Helm hard a-lee,"
   Give us some time to blow the man down!

From Stories Of The Sea by G.H. Northcroft, found in Great Thoughts from Master Minds, A.W. Hall, 1908, p. 788


We are now so far removed from the era of the great sailing ships that we attempt to understand forgotten jargon in terms of our modern understanding. When we consider the purpose of such chanteys, GUEST,Derpy's post is really the only answer that makes sense. Northcroft's reference to Blow the Man Down as a "main-sheet chantey" would seem to support GUEST,Derpy's view directly from a time when the jargon was still current.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Lighter
Date: 18 Jan 14 - 09:40 AM

From William Brown Moloney, ex-seaman, in "Everybody's Magazine," 1915:

"Aye, first it's a fist and then it's a fall...
   When you are a sailor aboard a Black Ball...

"The meaning of the word 'blow,' as employed at that time, was to strike, to knock. ...

   "Oh, they gave me three months in Walton's black jail...
   For blowing and kicking that Bobby to kale.
   Oh, give us some time to blow the man down."


But perhaps Moloney's shipmates were really singing in code about raising sail or being hit with whale-spray or doing naughty things or playing the Big Bad Wolf or who knows what else. And they wouldn't let Moloney in on it.

Surely he wouldn't have understood either that "Santa Anna" was really a coded call for slave rebellion, as was suggested on another thread.

Of course, if by "means" we're referring not to communication but to any interpretation that could pop into somebody's head, then "blow the man down" means whatever one imagines it to mean. Humpty-Dumpty suggested this method, and people seem to like it.

In my opinion, most chantey singers didn't much think about what "nlow the man down" meant. If they did, the vast majority were thinking of winds and fists in varying proportions.

Which is good enough for me.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: GUEST,Me
Date: 25 Nov 14 - 11:48 AM

Old thread but....

If it refers to knocking someone down, why "Give me some time...."?

More likely, IMHO, to refer to earning enough dough to pay off the guy who advanced some pay so you could buy sea boots, etc.

Taking some time to knock someone down isn't a wise move in the art of fisticuffs.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 25 Nov 14 - 12:25 PM

"If it refers to knocking someone down, why 'Give me some time....'?" Because the song, sung by rough and rowdy men, was about bragging that you enjoy seeking guys to beat up for sport (and to rob them of boots and all). The context in a mention of the song in the _Strand_ magazine in 1904 was this sort of thing: "There's nothin' so good in a fight as.... I cut a policeman all to rags... once...." "Was that the time you done three months...?"

Give me some time as in, I hope we don't leave port soon, because I was hoping to beat up _two_ policemen this time and four Dutchmen too. No honest.

Probably earlier is the variant printed in 1879, 1883, 1892, 1894, 1895, 1902 with "This is the time to knock a man down."


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Amos
Date: 25 Nov 14 - 12:33 PM

It seems obvious that there is some elapsed time between the decision to knock down a mouthy deckhand and the execution of the idea in fact.

I am impressed, in reviewing this thread, at the sheer obstinacy of the countervailing notion that blowing meant calling someone up on a speaking device. I consider it wrong-headed in light of all the other references provided, but wonderfully adamantine in its wrong-headedness.

"Blow" of course also refers to wind, and possibly to dumping sail, but those are different contexts.

As for the old epithet, I first heard it as "Well, blow me down and call me shorty!", which supports the knock-down interpretation.

A


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: GUEST,Rahere
Date: 25 Nov 14 - 01:00 PM

Apart from anything else, there's bugger all to be gained from punishing a slacker while he's still out of it. Firstly, how did he manage to get so pissed? Sippers is sippers, but if you've managed to rack up so many, you're probably blagging something. Secondly, we're covering for you - at a price. Put him in the longboat - with the cover over, so no PO will spot you. Secondly, let his ignominy be known, so those he bullied get to see his straightener. You may get to have pulled it this time, but...give us some time to blow the man down. No need for Divisional Orders or worse, we'll sort this, and it bids fair to be memorable.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 25 Nov 14 - 02:11 PM

William Meloney ran away to sea in about 1890, and wrote "The Chanty-Man Sings" for _Everybody's Magazine_, 1915:

"The setting of most of the 'Blow The Man Down' chanties, both American and British, was Liverpool.... The meaning of the word 'blow,' as employed at that time, was to strike; to knock."


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: IamNoMan
Date: 25 Nov 14 - 10:50 PM

Derpy: '"Blow the man down" refers to taking down the main sail of a ship.'

As much as I would like to agree with Derpy, and even suggest the original words were or meant Strike the Main(sail)Down. It doesn't hold up to a sailor's scrutiny.. "Blow the Man Down" is a halyard shanty; the purpose of which is to raise sail. "Blow" is a shout which would achieve the greatest exertion at a single point in time. Qi or Ki in oriental parlance.

I believe Blowing the man down has two referents. The song originally was a forebitter, not a shanty at all. The original refers to Ratcliffe Road or in most versions Paradise Street. The first destination of most sailors in port, where as often as not the "Flash Packets" would relieve Jack Tar of his hard earned pay by fair means or foul, effectively striking the sailor down.

In a later period when the packet ships were competing with steam the harsh discipline exacted by officers in striking men down is doubtless the referent. The Black Ball Line being particularly noted for this type of behavior.

Interestingly some earlier posts in this thread refer to Mickey Finn. Mickey Finn was a legendary roustabout and riverboatman cited in "Davy Crockett's Almanack" published in the 1830s. Packetboat service started on the Erie Canal and western rivers around 1825. The one story I specifically recall about Mickey Finn is "Trimming a Darkies Heal", A particularly nasty bit of work about a very evil fellow.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 01:04 PM

"I believe Blowing the man down has two referents....
[T]he 'Flash Packets' would relieve Jack Tar of his hard earned pay by fair means or foul, effectively striking the sailor down.
In a later period... the harsh discipline exacted by officers in striking men down is doubtless the referent."

So in "I'm a Flying-Fish sailor.... You've robbed a poor Dutchman...," the sailor is who? An officer?


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: IamNoMan
Date: 26 Nov 14 - 04:15 PM

"So in "I'm a Flying-Fish sailor.... You've robbed a poor Dutchman...," the sailor is who? An officer?"


"And you've robbed some poor Dutchman of his clothes, boots and
all!''

This is exactly the what I suggested.


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Subject: RE: What does blow the man down mean?
From: Lighter
Date: 30 Nov 14 - 09:34 AM

I believe you mean "Mike Fink," not "Mickey Finn." Finn was a Chicago bartender before the First World War, who was indicted for drugging and robbing customers.


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