Learn more Download now Shop now Browse your favorite restaurants Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Learn More Shop now Learn more Shop Fire Shop Kindle Learn More Shop now Shop now Learn more

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.
11 Comment| 16 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 23 July 2016
JACKSPEAK is the result of over forty years of research by Rick Jolly and Tugg’s cartoons. The alternative author’s biography is every translator’s not to be missed challenge.

The Author’s Preface is the life story of JACKSPEAK, which had its start when the author a then very green and still very much wet behind the ears Surgeon Lieutenant in Her Majesty’s Royal Navy congratulated a Royal Marine for managing to catch the boat up during the 1971 difficult times in Malta. That never forgotten embarrassment was the impetus of forty years of much work, much help and the many people all of whom I signal BZ, BZ…Bravo Zulu.

The best way to review JACKSPEAK is to begin with a statement from Oxford Dictionary. (...)“Language Matters At Oxford Dictionaries, we have just one thing in mind: improving communication through an understanding and passion for language. That’s JACKSPEAK: Communications through an understanding and passion for language, the language of the Jacks.

Who is Jack? Indeed, who are the Jacks? For the answer one needs to turn the pages of JACKSPEAK to Chapter JULIET, pages J – 241 to J – 252, since the explanation is nearly a full page, I shall turn the pages back to Chapter ALPHA, page A – 1 and explain that every chapter is given the International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet: Alpha, Bravo…all the way to Zulu the last chapter of JACKSPEAK and the last word in JACKSPEAK; in JACKSPEAK the word Zulu has four meanings.

JACKSPEAK is Bravo Zulu. In the star system, JACKSPEAK is Admiral of the Fleet. I highly recommend JACKSPEAK. It is a dictionary that can proudly stand at attention side by side to Oxford’s Dictionary, Oxford’s Thesaurus, Oxford’s Etymology, Oxford’s Grammar and Oxford’s Style Manual, after all JACKSPEAK is all of the aforementioned for Her Majesty’s oldest organised fighting force, and for the Jack, the Jenny and the Royal that have kept the oldest organised fighting force in good working order for centuries.

Richard Francis McDonald
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 12 March 2018
I've just come across this RN slang book and intend to buy it! I think 'Tugg' used to do the cartoons for the Navy News? I joined the RN in April 1967 and fully intended to stay in for the duration! In 1973, I even started taking my 441's for the step up to killick but, my then fiancee wanted me to come out to get married so, I felt duty bound (as you do) to obey her command! As the months went by, I nearly joined up again, many times after I left but, didn't follow it through! I loved my time in the RN and had many great 'runs ashore' all over the world. I remember many, many of the Jackspeak sayings we used to use but, have probably forgotten more than I remember so, will need to buy this book to jog my old memory! One Navy saying in particular was when we went ashore for a tour around the local pubs, clubs and "nightlife" (being polite) and mysteriously woke up in our pit the morning after, "OMG, the inside of my mouth feels like the inside of a Nagasaki dustmans left flip flop"! After a lovely cool goffer and some of the duty chef's finest, we would feel ready for the day ahead! I'll update this review once I buy "Jackspeak" and, hopefully find that this saying is in there! I should also add that Rick Jolly was an RM doc and many RN officers have commented on this book from the comfort of the wardroom but, the real and best ‘jack speak’ slang phrases were born and nurtured by those who served, lived and slept in their hammocks on the lower decks! No, I’ve not yet bought or read the book! I don't need to because, having served in the RN and, knowing how it all works, it's an automatic 5 star rating!
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 4 January 2012
Having read an amusing review of this book, I purchased it as a Christmas gift. However, upon receiving it I was extremely disappointed with some of the content and language, which was wholely inappropriate for the person for whom it was intended. I therefore returned the book.
44 Comments| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 19 July 2017
I happened to pick this off the shelf in the shop at the Royal Marines Museum, Southsea, as it then was, and started laughing out loud, so I had to buy it. It's full of all sorts of words and phrases, from different ages, for all sorts of situations. There are the general maritime expressions that have come ashore into general usage, like "flogging a dead horse" or being "taken aback", and very special naval and Marine words and phrases that I'm sure only a serviceman would know. It's all so very funny and interesting, the words and phrases show attitudes that are amusing, cynical, angry, naive, loyal, endearing and more often than not, unrepeatable in polite company. The cartoons are funny too. It's not politically correct, and probably contravenes the rules concerning various 'obias and 'isms. Even though there's so much information, it still feels real, as I imagine it to be. It is apparently a lifetime's work for the author. Decoding the introduction written in Jackspeak was entertaining, and sad, when I found out what lies behind it. Surely one of the best books I've ever bought!
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 6 February 2013
Oh what a wonderful and very amusing trip down memory lane to read this book. The sheer ingenuity and expression of RN Naval slang is a thing of wonder and very amusing. Being an old salt myself (and, incidentally, having served with both Rick Jolly and Tugg), I used to talk just like this when in the company of fellow matelots. I have the original spiral bound advanced copy that I got from Rick, some years ago, but this 2011 updated version is much more comprehensive. Rick's missed a couple of gems out but I'll let him know using the contact detailed in the book. This can still be enjoyed by "Gash Civvies" who will "crease up" whilst hoisting in the "dits". Sadly a lot of the jargon is no longer used and a lot of the kit and activities referred to, no longer happens in our much diminished boating lake navy. As well as being very amusing this book should be regarded very seriously as a valid historical document. If I had only one criticism, it can be slightly Officer-centric in places, whilst the wonderful slang mainly emanated from the lower deck. However, this does not detract from the value of this book.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
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.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 17 July 2016
Being ex Royal Navy AKA a Matelot this is a book very close to my heart, it's nice sometimes to have a flick through and have a giggle at some of the Jackspeak we used to use while in the mob. Rick Jolly the author is a naval legend and a very good bloke to boot. I've personally met the chap a couple of times now. This book is a must for anyone buying for an old sailor or even maybe if you're about to join the Royal Navy you could consider this as homework or research. Believe me if you know half the stuff in this book you're well on the way to being a true matelot!
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
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 shippers...me 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!!
0Comment| 6 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 10 February 2016
11 Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse

Sponsored Links

  (What is this?)