Of course there is more to last week’s vocabulary story. Even as I was trying to figure out how “scuttle” suddenly found itself tripping off my tongue, there was a little something else poking at the side of my brain: scuttlebutt.
Here is what both Wikipedia and my dictionary have to say:
Scuttlebutt in slang usage meaning rumor or gossip, deriving from the nautical term for the cask used to serve water (or, later, a water fountain).
The term corresponds to the colloquial concept of a water cooler in an office setting, which at times becomes the focus of congregation and casual discussion. Water for immediate consumption on a sailing ship was conventionally stored in a “scuttled butt,” a butt (cask) which had been scuttled by making a hole in it so the water could be withdrawn. Since sailors exchanged gossip when they gathered at the scuttlebutt for a drink of water, scuttlebutt became Navy slang for gossip or rumours.
How does this one little word that should really never have been a word in the first place take up so much space? And how did sailors get famous for cussing when they were running around saying words like scuttlebutt? Language is so wacky.
Navy slang, people. A scuttled butt. You can’t make this stuff up.
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