Issue: August 2005
Bottoms Up!

Bottoms Up! -By Robert McKenna, 112 pages, $15.95, Flat Hammock Press, Mystic, Conn.,  www.flathammockpress.com

 

In this small, nearly pocket-size book author Robert McKenna provides a compendium of nautical toasts, as well as a brief history of the sailor’s favorite pastime and the traditions associated with same. “The intent of this slim volume,” he writes, “is not to glorify the act of drinking, but to emphasize that every occasion we share with others can be made that much more special with a simple toast.” Hear! Hear!

     Not only does McKenna give us plenty of fodder for our future salutatory obligations, but he tells us where some of the pithy little gems come from-like this one from the Coast Guard: “You have to go out. You don’t have to come back.”

     And he tracks down some of the classics, like this popular quip from the early 1800s: “The wind that blows, the ship that goes and the lass that loves a sailor.”

     McKenna devotes a whole chapter to what he calls “Potable Quotables.” These are not toasts per se, but fun expressions nonetheless, like this one from Charles Shultz: “Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. It’s already tomorrow in Australia.” Or “I believe that this would be a good time for a beer!” from President Franklin D. Roosevelt on the repeal of Prohibition.

     And then there’s all sorts of lovely trivia: Who knew that “binge” was an old mariner’s term for rinsing out a cask? Someone who had cleaned out a cask of rum, say, was said to have gone on a binge. Or that the term “dead soldier” (for an empty bottle) was originally “dead marine” and is thought to have been coined by Britain’s William IV, who ordered the ship’s steward to remove the dead marines to make room for more bottles.

     The wit and wisdom in this slim volume packs as much punch as a mai tai-literally, says McKenna, “out of this world” in Tahitian.