Tag Archive: military trivia

Military Trivia

(in this case, Naval) 
by Carl Kurfess 

Military Trivia

Make a pass 

Flirtatious advance. 

When naval ships-of-the-line were sizing each other up they would quite often make a side-on pass, each wishing to size up the opposition. When the expression came ashore, it was used as a tentative approach to a member of the opposite sex to gauge the likely outcome of closer engagement. 

(For you detail sensitive types, the two ships at left would actually appear to be Frigates, smaller than Ships of the line. Your friendly sailor editor) 

Military Trivia

Military Trivia

by Carl Kurfess 

Shavetail 

Inexperienced person. 

Mules have irksome and painful qualities, so those that ran the mule-trains of the mid-19th century American army would shave off the tail of any new mule as a warning to others that its behavior might be unpredictable. It was not long before the troops were using the term for any newcomer. By the time of the Spanish-American war of 1898, “Shavetail” had become specific to describe a newly commissioned lieutenant. 

Works cited: Donald, G., Wiest, A., & Shepherd, W. (2013). Sticklers, Sideburns and Bikinis: The military origins of everyday words and phrases. Bloomsbury Publishing.