Jackspeak

Jackspeak: Certain words or terminology that is 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.

Please choose a letter from our 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

Pack It Up - The order to shut up, especially when given by a superior.

Paddlewheel Effect - A typical right-handed, or clockwise-rotating propeller, tends to rotate the stern to starboard when moving forwards. As well, the opposite occurs when going astern, as the stern tends to rotate to port. Also see "Propeller Walk".

Padeye - A mounted tie-down point on a deck. It's literally a pad welded to the deck with an eye on it.

PAFO - Public Affairs Officer. The officer that is designated to deal with the media.

Paid Off - To decommission a ship, or to terminate its career in. The term "paid off" is used in British Commonwealth contexts. Originated in the age-of-sail practice of ending an ship's commission and paying the crew their wages once the ship had completed its voyage.

Paint - Aside from the obvious meaning, it also means to detect or track an object with radar.

Paint Locker - The room or space where the ship's paint and painting supplies are stored. It is usually much larger than what is known as a "locker".

Painter - On a life raft, the painter is the line that is attached to the valve/mouth of CO2 cylinder. When a life raft is packed in the container the painter is left outside the container and is available to be pulled upon to quickly inflate the raft.

Panama Plate - A flat steel plate bolted across the top of an open fairlead to prevent a line from jumping out. It is especially useful in situations where the ship's lines are attached to a jetty that is above deck level, such as in a canal lock.

Panther - NATO codeword for a hostile nuclear submarine.

Panting - The pulsation in and out of the bow and stern plating as the ship alternately rises and plunges deep into the water. Also may occur on the outer bulkheads of a flooded compartment.

Paper Assholes - Gummed reinforcements that are used on hole-punched paper. Often used to repair pages that are falling out of manuals and publications.

Para Flare - A signal flare that includes a parachute, which allows for the flare to be illuminated for a much longer period of time. Short for "Parachute Flare".

Parallel of Latitude - An imaginary circle on the surface of the Earth parallel to the plane of the equator.

Parallel Ruler - A ruler with rollers which allows the user to make and/or determine parallel lines. It is used in chartwork, plotting and in relative velocity determination. Often made of brass. Also called a "Roller Ruler", but only by anyone that is not familiar with the ruler's actual purpose.

Paravane - A device towed by a minesweeper as part of the minesweeping rig. The paravane is a slotted wing-like apparatus that serves to pull the sweep wire out at an angle.

Parbuckle - A method of lifting a roughly cylindrical object such as a barrel. One end of a line is made fast above the object. Then a loop of line is lowered and passed around the object, which can now be raised more easily by hauling on the free end of rope.

Parrot - NATO codeword for an IFF transponder.

Part Brass Rags - Lose a friendship with a shipmate. From the days when cleaning materials were shared between sailors.

Part Ship - 1. Literally refers to a location on the ship, such as "Top Part Ship" 2. Can refer to an area of personal responsibility. ie. "I'd look after that, but it's not my part ship".

Passageway - Hallway of a ship.

Passing the Port - At a naval mess dinner, port is served just prior to the loyal toast. Before the toast is made, the port decanters are passed to all diners so they may pour themselves a serving of port. The tradition in a naval mess is for the port to be slid along the table from diner to diner, with the bottle of port never leaving the table as it is passed. Although, the port decanter is slid when passed, it may be lifted when it is poured. Incidentally, the port is always passed to the left.

Paybob - Slang term for the paymaster.

Paying - Filling a seam with caulking or pitch.

Paying off Pennant - A lengthy pennant flown on the masthead of a ship on the day it is "Paid Off". The pennant's length is calculated as one foot for every year of the ship's service. Some paying off pennants are so long they require helium balloons to be attached to keep the pennant from dragging in the water behind the ship.

Paymaster - The officer responsible for all money matters in RCN ships including the paying and provisioning of the crew, all stores, tools and spare parts.

PD - Professional Development.

Pea Coat - A mid-calf length heavy wool overcoat worn by US Sailors. The Pea Coat was originally made of "Pilot Cloth", a material similar to melton, and thus the garment was originally named a "P-Coat".

Peak - The narrow part of a vessel's bow, or the hold within it. ie. The forepeak.

Pear-Shaped - Referring to something that has gone awry. "The MOBEX went all pear-shaped after they couldn't get the boat motor flashed".

Pecker Checker - A navy doctor or a medical assistant.

Pee-Pee Slapped - To be admonished for a minor transgression.

Pegboard - A board that is kept on the brow of the ship that uses pegs to indicates whether an officer is onboard or ashore.

Pelican Hook - A quick-release shackle which can be knocked free with a hammer. Often used to secure the anchor cable, because it may be knocked free quickly.

Pelorus - A stanchion topped with a compass, used to shoot bearings to an object for navigation purposes. Incidentally, Pelorus was the name of Hannibal's navigator.

Penalty Box - The boundaries of a location that a warship must remain in order to remain on station at a certain point in the ocean. Also see "Racetrack".

Pendant Number - In modern language this is the hull number, painted on the side of a warship. Incidentally, during WWII most of the RCN ships did not show a pendant number, so as to cloak their identities from the enemy.

Pennant - A long, thin triangular flag flown on a warship. Different coloured pennants have different meanings.

PER - Personnel Evaluation Report. An annual personnel assessment.

PERI - Physical Education and Recreation Instructor. This acronym has been retired.

Personal Admin - A likely excuse to take an afternoon off or to leave the ship early.

Petty Officer - The rank of Petty Officer dates from the eighteenth century in the Royal Navy. It was not then a rank, but an appointment, made by individual ship's captains. The usual practice was for a captain to choose his Petty Officers from his best seaman. Usually, the master-at-arms, the armourer, the sail-maker and the ship's cook were all Petty Officers. The term itself is from French, "petit officier" meaning small or minor officer. The rank of Chief Petty Officer first appeared in the Royal Navy in 1853.

Phonetic Alphabet - The official method of spelling in NATO. The actual characters are used in the chapter titles of this book.

Pick - Another slang for the ship's anchor. eg. "at 1600 we drop the pick."

Picket Ship - A ship on sentry duty, or one placed in a position forward of the main force to warn against an enemy advance.

Piece of Piss - It's easy! No problem!

Pier Head Jump - Posting to a ship just prior to ship sailing. The term derives from the occasion when a sailor goes from a ship that just came alongside, and then joins another ship that is sailing immediately.

Pig Boats - Slang term for the Porte Class Gate Vessels that were used mainly for Naval Reserve training up until the 1990s.

Pig of the Port - A contest where sailors go out in a foreign port and attempt to locate the least attractive member of the opposite sex they can, and then bring them back to the ship to show their shipmates.

Pigeon - Member of the RCAF.

Pigtail - A historical item worn by a sailor. A long pigtail was a mark of long service as new recruits were shorn to remove lice.

Pilot - Usually the Navigating Officer. Otherwise, it could be a specially knowledgeable person qualified to navigate a vessel through difficult waters, ie.a harbour pilot.

PIM - Plan of intended movement. The intended charted course for a naval unit's movements.

Ping - To transmit on active sonar, or the sound or signal made by sonar.

Ping Bosn - A sonar operator.

Pintle - The pin or bolt on which a ship's rudder pivots.

Pipe - General information or a command issued over the ship's broadcast system. The term sometimes used for a boatswain's call, which is the pipe that is ften used to issue commands.

Pipe Down - An order meaning keep silence; a pipe down at sea means a free afternoon to catch up on lost sleep.

Pipe the Side - A salute performed with a Boatswain's Call when an honoured visitor or a Flag Officer comes aboard the ship. To be done properly it should be 12 seconds long, and is formed by a low note, then a four second high note, and closing with another low note. The transitions between low and high should be very smooth. To accomplish this, the sailor must take a very long deep breath prior to beginning; failure to do so will cause the pipe to be abruptly cut short. The side is also piped for Royalty, the Accused when entering a Court Martial and for the Officer of the Guard (When the Guard is formed up).

Piping Aboard - A ceremony where the arrival of a senior officer is signified by the playing of a boatswain's call.

Piping Hot - As meals are traditionally announced aboard ship by making a pipe, this term was used to reflect that if the pipe has been made, the meal is likely still hot.

Pirate Rig - Civilian clothing, often outlandish and colourful, that sailors will wear instead of their uniforms, but only on the rare occasions that this is allowed. One such occasion is often a ship's banyan.

Pissing Fish Hooks - The likely side-effect of contracting venereal disease.

Pit - A bunk. Also see "Rack".

Pit Monster - A sailor that spends a lot of time in his pit (bunk).

Pitch - A vessel's motion, rotating about the beam/transverse axis, causing the fore and aft ends to rise and fall repetitively.

Pitchpole - To capsize a boat stern over bow, rather than by rolling over.

Planing - To skim over the water at high speed rather than push through it. When a vessel underway rises in the water due to the dynamic forces of motion.

Plank Owner - A member of the original commissioning crew of a ship.

Plimsoll Line - Special marking, positioned amidships, that indicates the draft of the vessel and the legal limit to which the vessel may be loaded for specific water types and temperatures.

Plot - To draw lines on a chart indicating bearings, courses and positions.

Plotting Table - A glass covered table housed in the Ship's operations room which was used by a Radar Plotter to plot radar contacts, and provide a tactical surface picture for use in fighting the ship. Finally phased out in the 1980s as they were replaced by Tactical Data Systems (TDS) (computer systems).

PLQ - Primary Leadership Qualification.

PMQ - Permanent Married Quarters; or simply base housing ashore.

PO - Performance Objective. A milestone in a training course.

Point of the Sword - According to Naval tradition an officer facing court martial must "deliver up" his sword, putting it unsheathed on a table in front of him/her to represent the placing of their rank, status and reputation on hold. Even before the verdict is read out, the accused always knows their fate, because when they return to the court the sword will be pointing toward them if they have been found guilty. If it remains unmoved, the officer knows they have escaped punishment.

Pointy End - A term for the ship's bow, usually used in a joking manner.

POL - Petroleum, Oil & Lubricants.

Police - The action of visually scanning an area that needs to be picked up or cleaned up. eg. "His punishment was to police the parade square."

Pollywog - A sailor who has never crossed the equator. Pollywogs are targeted during the "Crossing the Line Ceremony".

Polynya - An area of open water surrounded by sea ice.

Pom-Pom - A 40-millimetre British autocannon, used famously as an anti-aircraft gun by the RCN (and other navies) in WWII. The name came from the sound that the gun made when firing.

Pond (The) - The Atlantic Ocean. ie. "We are going off with NATO, across "The Pond" and back."

Pongo - Serviceman in the land element.

POOD - Petty Officer of the Day. A duty watch appointment.

Poop Deck - A high deck on the aft superstructure of a ship.

Pooped - Term used when the stern is swamped by a high, following sea.

Poopy Suit - Quaint term for an NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) suit.

Port - The left side of the boat. Towards the left-hand side of the ship facing forward (formerly Larboard). Denoted with a red light at night.

PPI - Short for Plan Position Indicator; a radar display.

Pregnant - An officer who has been in the zone for promotion for a lengthy period of time.

Present Arms - An order given on parade to a guard of honour, commanding them to hold their rifle vertically in front of their bodies. Originally a pacific and friendly gesture literally meaning "presented for you to take if you wish".

Press - The legal process of the impressment of personnel to man a ship. A common practise during the days of sail, and especially used during the Napoleonic Wars.

Press Gang - A formed body of personnel that would seek out and force men into service on naval ships. Usually it was done legally, but against the will of the victims.

Pressure Hull - The watertight, pressure-bearing structure that makes up the living and working area of a submarine.

Privateer - In the days of sail, a privately owned ship authorized by a national power (by means of a Letter of Marque) to conduct hostilities against an enemy. Also called a private man of war.

Prize - A property captured at sea in virtue of the rights of war.

Prop - A propeller mounted on a rigid shaft protruding from the hull of a vessel.

Propeller Walk - The tendency for a propeller to push the stern sideways. For example, a right-handed propeller (rotating clockwise) will tend to push the stern of the boat to starboard. Also see "Paddlewheel Effect".

Prow - A poetical alternative term for the bow.

Prowords - Specific language used in voice radio communications.

PT - Physical training.

Pud - A male sailor's personal tackle. eg. "Bloggins is missing... he must be off pulling his pud as usual."

Puddening - Fibres of old rope packed between spars, or used as a fender.

Pull up a Bollard - A friendly way to say "have a seat".

Pulling - The idealistic term for rowing a boat with long oars.

Punched, Bored or Countersunk - A term to describe someone who is an idiot. eg. "He doesn't know if he's punched, bored or countersunk!"

Purchase - A mechanical method of increasing force, such as with a tackle or lever.

Purser - Traditionally, the person who buys, stores and sells all supplies on board ships, including victuals, rum and tobacco. This term has largely fallen out of use in the RCN, however, its derivative "pusser" is still vey common.

Pusser - 1. Royal Navy slang for a purser, a ship's supply officer, now called a Logistics Officer. 2. Naval slang for anything that is military-like or service issue, as in "pusser's issue", meaning anything that is supplied by the Navy. eg. "I went to clothing stores and bought pusser running shoes."

Pusser Shower - A water-saving evolution in which one attempts to get clean while using as little water as possible. Basically, you turn on the shower for a few seconds to wet yourself down. Then, turn off the shower and lather everything up. Then, you turn the shower back on and rinse off.

Pusser's Rum - A brand name of "Navy" rum produced by Pussers Rum Ltd. "Pusser Neats" refers to Royal Navy rum, when rum was issued as a daily tot.

Putting the Queen to Bed - Evening colours or a sunset ceremony.

Putty - Formerly the ship's painter; now applies to the deck department personnel in charge of the paint locker.

Puzzle Palace - Referring to any headquarters ashore.

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!