Jackspeak of the Royal Canadian Navy

Jackspeak: Certain words or terminology that are commonly used in the Canadian Navy.

The Canadian Navy has it's own terminology and slang that is still evolving to this day. Much of the language used is still derived from the Royal Navy, although as Canadians many local customs and slang have come about.

This list was compiled over the years and was finally published in 2014 as "Jackspeak of the Royal Canadian Navy (2015 edition)" In 2018, a completely revised 2nd edition will be released. The 2018 edition features expanded and revised definitions, many more example sentences, and over 400 new terms.

Index: 0-9 A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

"M" Terms

Machinery Control Room
The space from which the operation of the main propulsion are controlled.
Mae West
A Second World War personal flotation device used to keep people afloat in the water; named after the 1930s actress Mae West, well known for her large bosom.
Maggie (the)
HMCS MAGNIFICENT, and aircraft carrier that served in the Canadian navy in the post-war era.
Magnetic North
The direction towards the North Magnetic Pole.
Main Broadcast System
The one-way announcement system on a warship. Used for general announcements, and to transmit alarm signals such as the General Alarm.
Main Deck
The uppermost continuous deck extending from bow to stern.
Main Engines
The main propulsion system for a warship.
Mainbrace
One of the braces attached to the mainmast.
Mainguy Report
Admiral Rollo Mainguy's report on mutiny incidents in the post WWII years of the RCN.
Mainmast
The tallest mast on a ship.
Mainstay
The stay running from the top of the mainmast to the bottom of the foremast
Make a Hole!
The shout of a seaman that has a priority to use a ladder or a narrow passageway, and wishes for the current occupants to move aside quickly.
Make And Mend
Half day during working week that was originally set aside to repair and replace kit. Today it is used as an opportunity for recreation.
Make Fast
To tie off a line.
Makee-learnee
Pidgin English (Chinese origin) for someone who is a novice, but is learning on the job. Sometime referred to as "Mickey Learnee".
Makers
A shortened nickname for "Make and Mend", which is an afternoon off.
Making Way
When a vessel is moving under its own power.
Man Overboard
1. The situation when a person falls into the water.
2. The verbal alarm that is raised when a seaman has fallen overboard.
Mandraulic
Completing a heavy lifting job using muscles and brute force, rather than lifting equipment.
Maneuvering Board
A printed compass rose with polar coordinates that are used, together with parallel rulers and dividers, to solve problems of relative movement of ships, such as closest point of approach and intercept course calculation.
Manila
A reference to manila fibre rope which replaced hemp as the general type of rope in the navy. Manila hemp is a type of buff-colored fiber obtained from Musa textilis, a relative of the banana plant. Today, natural fibre cordage has been mostly replaced by cordage made from synthetic fibre, such as nylon.
Manking
Complaining in a repetitive manner.
Manning Ship
In a ceremonial display, all hands appear in a line on deck or aloft and grasp the guardrails. Originally, in the days of sail, the crew grasped the rigging. The reasoning behind this tradition was to show that guns were not manned and no small arms were carried. In the USN is it referred to as "Manning the Rails".
MARCOM
Maritime Command.
Mark
1. A designation system for military hardware, eg. "Mark 46 Torpedo".
2. A spoken word which denotes a specific moment in time, eg. "'Bearing 280, Mark!" means that the bearing was 280 degrees at exactly the time when the word "Mark" was spoke.
Mark 1 Eyeball
Simply, a visual inspection using one of the best instruments known to man.
MARLANT
Maritime Forces Atlantic. The east coast formation of the Canadian Navy.
Marlin Spike
A metal spike or part of the Seaman's knife used to open up the lay of a rope for splicing. Older sailors would often refer to the ideal sailor as "having every finger a marlin spike".
Marline
A loosely twisted, two-line light cordage used especially for seizing and as a covering for wire rope. Its most common variant is tarred marline.
MARPAC
Maritime Forces Pacific. The west coast formation of the Canadian Navy.
Marry
Clutching two parallel lines together in your hands and pressing them together, using the friction between the lines to hold them fast. When the ship's berthing hawsers are doubled-up, the second hawser is "married" to the first while a seaman takes turns on the bollard.
Marry the Gunner's Daughter
An old naval expression meaning to be laid over a gun and receive a thrashing.
MARS Officer
Short for Maritime Surface. Responsible for navigating and fighting the ship.
Mast Stepping Ceremony
An event which occurs towards the end of a ship's construction, and involves the placing of coins underneath the mast of a ship. Today, the coins are normally welded beneath the radar mast. Done to propitiate the gods and bring good luck.
Master
The captain of a commercial vessel.
Master Seaman
This appointment is unique to the Canadian Navy, and was created to accommodate the unified rank structure of the Canadian Armed Forces. It is equivalent to Master Corporal in the Canadian Army and Air Force. The rank insignia of a Master Seaman is two chevrons surmounted by a maple leaf. Sometimes referred to as "Master Killick" or "Master Jack".
Master-At-Arms
A non-commissioned officer responsible for discipline on a naval ship. Standing between the officers and the crew, and commonly known in the RN as "the Buffer". In the RCN this position has been replaced by the Ship's Coxswain.
Masthead
The very top of the mast.
Matelot
A sailor, in the French language. English speaking sailors also use this term to describe an ordinary sailor. The term "Matey" was originally derived from this term.
Matey
A civilian dockyard worker.
Mayday
A distress call via radio. Derived from the French "m'aidez" which means "help me".
MCDV
Maritime Coastal Defence Vessel.
Meathead
A member of the Canadian Forces Military Police.
Medevac
The urgent evacuation of a patient in circumstances where they need medical assistance ashore.
Merchantman
Any non-naval passenger or cargo-carrying vessel, including cargo ships, tankers, and passenger ships.
Merge
The point at which two radar contacts join and become one.
Meridian
An imaginary line joining the Earth's poles. The prime meridian is the meridian that passes through Greenwich, England and represents zero longitude.
Mess
1. An eating place aboard ship.
2. A club where a group of sailors socialize, including imbibing in alcoholic beverages, either onboard ship or ashore.
Mess Mom
The senior hand of a mess, responsible for the cleanliness and good order of the mess.
Mess Traps
Food utensils.
Messdeck
An area where a group of sailors live together.
Messdeck Justice
Informal punishment meted out by mess-mates, usually for petty theft or slovenly living.
Messenger
When preparing a tow, the messenger is a length of light line which can be cast, propelled or floated considerably further than the towline, and which can be used to transfer the towline to the tow. Often made of polypropylene line, which floats.
Metacenter
The midway point between a vessel's center of buoyancy when upright and her center of buoyancy when tilted.
MFRC
Military Family Resource Centre.
Mick
Short for a hammock. The last ships to have micks in the RCN were the Tribal class destroyers decommissioned in the early 1960s.
Midrats
Food served at midnight, for middle watch standers. The dregs are often scooped up by the first watch before they go to their racks.
Mids/Middle
The middle watch, and least favorite of all, since it runs from midnight until 0400.
Midshipman
1. During the 17th century, a naval rating for an experienced seaman.
2. From the 18th century, a naval commissioned officer candidate.
3. From the 1790s, an apprentice naval officer.
4. From the 19th century, an officer cadet at a naval academy. 5. In contemporary RCN usage, the term is sometimes used for a second year Naval Cadet.
Military Tattoo
A military performance of music or a display of armed forces in general. The term comes from the early 17th century Dutch phrase "doe den tap toe" ("turn off the tap"), a signal sounded by drummers or trumpeters to instruct innkeepers near military garrisons to stop serving beer and for soldiers to return to their barracks. The tattoo was originally solely made up of military music, but has now evolved into more elaborate shows involving theatrics and musical performances.
Mind your P's and Q's
In the days of sail when sailors were paid a pittance, seamen drank their ale in taverns whose keepers were willing to extend credit until payday. Since many salts were illiterate, keepers kept a tally of pints and quarts consumed by each sailor on a chalkboard behind the bar. Next to each person's name, a mark was made under "P" for pint or "Q" for quart whenever a seaman ordered another draught. Also, on payday, each seaman was liable for each mark next to his name, so he was forced to "mind his P's and Q's" or he would get into financial trouble. To ensure an accurate count by unscrupulous keepers, sailors had to keep their wits and remain somewhat sober. Sobriety usually ensured good behavior, hence the meaning of "mind your P's and Q's".
Miss HMCS _____ Contest
An impromptu beauty contest held on HMC ships. Oddly enough, even in the days when the entire ship's company consisted of men there were usually enough bikinis and evening gowns onboard to properly outfit the contestants.
MND
Minister of National Defence.
Moaning and dripping
Complaining.
Mob
The Canadian Forces. eg. "Is he still in the Mob?" Somewhat reminiscent of the same use of the term to refer to the mafia.
MOBEX
Man Overboard Exercise
MOC
Military Occupational Code. An organizational code that describes a sailor's role, or job.
Mod
Modification to a piece of ship's equipment.
Molar Mangler
The Dentist.
Molly
Scullery worker. Also see "Scullery Slut".
Monkey Fist
The complex knot surrounding (sometimes taking the place of) the weight on the end of a heaving line.
Monkey on a Stick
Any foreign food that is ingested by sailors on a port visit. More so, if the item is actually served on a stick.
Monkey's Island
A raised part of a ships bridge around the compass binnacle.
Moose Milk
A tasty beverage created by mixing dark rum and ice cream in a large punch bowl or pail. There are several differing recipes containing other ingredients such as Kahlua liqueur, vodka, Tia Maria, milk or egg nog, but the main ingredients remain as dark rum and ice cream. A Moose milk party is often referred to as "Moosers".
Morale patch *New
An embroidered patch worn on the Naval work uniform. The patch is custom-made to represent the ship or unit, or to point out a specific deployment.
Morning soup *New
Hot soup served on workdays at morning stand-easy, which normally takes place at 1000 in HMC ships. The ship's cooks often prepare the dish using leftover what-nots making it a cost-effective treat. This is a tradition passed down from ship to ship as a popular idea that contributes to the welfare of the ships company.
Morse Code
A method of transmitting text information through a language of long and short tones. At one time, morse code was the main method of communication between naval ships and the shore.
Mouse
To secure a hook by winding a line around a hook, so that the gap in the hook is closed off.
MRU
"Much regrets unable", a negative response to the invitation "RPC". The opposite of "WMP", which stands for "With much pleasure".
Muppet
A sailor with poor aptitude and competence.
Muscle Boatswain
1. Someone who enjoys body-building and weight-lifting.
2. Physical fitness training staff.
Mushroom (Feel like a)
How a sailor complains that they are kept in the dark and fed shit.
Mustang
An officer commissioned from the ranks.
Mustang Suit
A full body waterproof neoprene suit used for small boat operations in foul weather.
Muster
1. The formal inspection of issued equipment which is been laid out in any manner is a kit muster.
2. An order to group together at a location, as in the pipe "All hands muster on the quarterdeck".
Muster by the Open List
This is a muster of the entire ship's company, wherein each member reports name, rank and duties on board. This practice originated in the Royal Navy, to counteract the practice of some ship's pursers of having non-existent people on the ship's rolls (and thereby pocketing the pay and benefits of these non-people).
My Party
A sailor's best gal... or man for that matter.

If you have any input to this list, please feel free to get involved. Submit your feedback through our contact form

Buy the Book!
Jackspeak of the Royal Canadian Navy
Buy the Book!