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on 19 September 2011
"There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays, And every single one of them is right!" - Rudyard Kipling

This is undoubtedly the best work of this nature that has ever been produced, in a genre stretching back to 1626 to Pocahontas' friend Captain John Smith`s "A Sea Grammar", via many other works including Admiral William Henry Smyth`s "The Sailor's Word-Book" of 1867. The author should need no introduction; if he does, read his "The Red and Green Life Machine" and reflect on the large number of lives saved because of his leadership and organisational and clinical skills in the Falklands in 1982. Meanwhile, here we have Surgeon Captain Jolly as the Navy's Dr Johnson, the Great Lexicographer.

Successive editions have profited from input from many hoary old shellbacks and now this third edition contains four thousand entries, still laced with many, many brilliant illustrations by the late Tugg Wilson, MBE. It's not just a dictionary; it is a memorial to Jack, Jenny and Royal as they were in the second half of the twentieth century and as we must all hope they still are, in spite of the reduction of the Fleet, the disappearance of the broadside mess deck, and the (perhaps) civilising influence of women serving at sea, which I fear may have done for the Two-deck Dash, and This Old Hat of Mine. I enjoyed the first edition, but the economy and apposition of Jack's language still amuse (as do Tugg's cartoons). The sheer scope and size of this work show how inadequate are the two-page `glossaries' commonly included in many books about the Royal Navy.

My own interest in this field stems from a period of intense boredom in hospital in 1976, during which I attempted to list all the naval slang I could remember from the 50s and 60s. Years of polishing, and later reading the result into a computer, eventually culminated in my placing the result (containing, at about 1800 entries, far fewer than Jackspeak) (it turned out, only temporarily) on the internet in 2007. Naval slang is a living thing, and since my service all sorts of new words, phrases and shades of meaning have come in, for instance `Four-knot fudge packer' and `Going (neither, incidentally, yet included).

This should be taken kindly; at over 500 pages it is possible the publisher and author might have had difficulty squeezing any more in; however there are some items which I think are ordinary colloquial business English (like `Hands-on management') which perhaps might have been pruned to make room. I think including ordinary seamanship terms is a slippery slope (unless they have an additional metaphorical meaning) because there are so many of them, and the Admiralty Manual of Seamanship, BR67, can be your guide. For instance `Accommodation Ladder' - so why not Mediterranean Ladder? Also Jolly's `Pilot Ladder' is I think Merchant usage and I prefer `Jumping Ladder'.

Occasionally a spelling error stuck in my throat. A tompion (right) is neither a tampion (wrong) (nor a tampon!) Tingel should be tingle. Sloshy should be slushie which links it to slush, as correctly defined. And it's ALWAYS Pendant, never pennant although that is the pronunciation - originally a flag much longer than broad which therefore hangs down, and is therefore pendant. The Anthony Roll is full of them (I'm a pendant pedant).

In my opinion the (RM) and (esp.RM) tags are a little overused, for instance `Trooped' was common currency in General Service in the 50s and 60s. Many of the (FAA) entries come from the RAF (and the USAAC in the case of `Hangar Queen`).

There is a lot of good stuff about origins, much of which is new to me. I've learned a lot; the author has shown a magnificent grasp of all sorts of minutiae of naval history

Publishing has moved to Conway, and is therefore in good hands, and to (sturdy) hardback which will stand much thumbing of a volume essential to understanding anything anyone ever writes about the Royal Navy.
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on 28 September 2011
I agree with the other reviewer about most points. I bought this recently as a present for my Brother-In-Law who is in the Navy and he loved it.

As a long time bookseller and bibliophile I would add that this book is beautifully bound, being a rather nice hardback cloth cover. It's full of cartoons much like the illustration on the cover and rammed full of Naval slang words, as you'd expect.

Definitely for Naval servicemen and women, but also for fans of language and wordplay.
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on 28 July 2013
I left the Pusser in 1990, having completed my 2nd engagement and casting a Mark One eyeball over the pages of this BR, brought the memories flooding back.
Like the morning after a run ashore in foreign parts, when you spot your oppo with a can of goffer; "Sippers mouth's as dry as the flip-side of Gandhi's prayer mat!"
Or when the stokers come off watch from the Boiler Box;..."It's as redders as a Jan docky's starboard Oggy pocket!"
Not to mention the dreaded duty roster; "It's enough to make a Bishop burn 'is books and bimble down Bugis Street for a bag-off!"
It's true what they say, you can take the man out of the Mob but you can't take the Mob out of the man.
So cheers Doc and no doubt Tugg is smiling down on us through that scuttle in the sky, a tot in one hand and a DF in t'other!!
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on 1 December 2011
Having grown up with a naval father and surrounded by his ex-RN friends, I grew accustomed at an early age to such phrases as "Stand from under" or "Is the Church Pendant flying?" and "Making my number." This book has these explained and many, many more in a witty and informative collection. Some of the phrases are definitely not PC, but anyone hearing of a "technicolour yawn" should be able to work out what Jolly Jack means without too much imagination as should having someone described as "handcarted" after a run ashore. Of course a sailor in that condition usually winds up having a "Crusher" descend on him to schedule an appearance on "defaulters.".

Anyone who is not a seafarer but loves books and stories of naval action, escapades or history will find "Jackspeak" invaluable. For writers who want to add a taste of reality to dialogues this book has all the authenticity you need.

Not only does it provide an explanation of the expressions, it also explains the origins of them and sometimes provides some technical background. The illustrations by the famous Naval cartoonist "Tugg" are an added bonus. It is perhaps worth mentioning for those who have never encountered Tugg's work, that he is the RN's equivalent of Giles, the cartoonist who created a generation of commentary on the British social and political scene from WW2 to his death in the 1990s. Now, lest I drive anyone to carrying out a "deckhead inspection" while reading this, I will add only that I commend this book wholeheartedly.
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on 1 October 2011
I have the earlier editions of this delightful book. The New edition by Conway is even better. Fun, informative and a great read.
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on 7 February 2012
This is an updated print of the classic naval slang dictionary produced by Rick Jolly. I purchased as a gift for ex military personnel and it was extremely well received. Destined to be sited in 'the little room' for on-going light reading.
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on 17 December 2012
Having served in the Royal Navy I was intrigued when I saw this book. As the author of The Captain`s Story a book about the Royal Navy`s youngest ever Captain`s fight to help win back The Falkland Islands, and conquer his own personal demons, I was fascinated to discover more.
My wife bought it for me as a birthday present, and I must say I was not disappointed. Oh, how the memories came flooding back. I was surprised to find as many words and phrases as there actually are in the book.
Full marks to the Author for researching the subject so thoroughly. All in all a very good read with plenty to make you smile. Especially, if you are ex-Navy like myself.
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on 24 October 2011
I got this as a gift for my Dad who is an ex naval officer. He loved it and said that it was very accurate - he even learnt some fleet air arm slang he didn't know.
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on 8 November 2011
If you are ever grabbed by the press gang take this with you if nothing else and you'll be all right!
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on 12 December 2012
What can I say about JACK SPEAK, written by a saw bones, as a former 20 year Vet (STOKER PO RNZN) who served a year in UK picking up HMS Dido I could have done with a book like this for translation purposes, a lot of the sayings did transfer to the RNZN, good dit well recomended, just dont give it to a civy it would be wasted.
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