Way for a sailor
Posted: 15 April 2014 03:16 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Just watching a pre-code movie with John Gilbert and Wallace Beery, Way For A Sailor, 1930. It’s about merchant mariners and their various adventures. The title phrase is used early on in an intertitle (silent movie habits died hard), SINGAPORE - Money to spend! Two days to spend it! WAY FOR A SAILOR!

I assume it’s That’s the way for a sailor!, That’s the way a sailor does things! Is this an early example of what I had assumed was the modern construction way to go!

Edit: Another possibility. Could this be Make way for a sailor!, ie give a sailor some room, out of the way! Sailor coming. ?

[ Edited: 15 April 2014 03:25 AM by aldiboronti ]
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Posted: 15 April 2014 03:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I assume it’s That’s the way for a sailor!, That’s the way a sailor does things!

That would be my reading.

Is this an early example of what I had assumed was the modern construction way to go!

I don’t think so, although some of the sentiment behind the expression may be shared.

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Posted: 15 April 2014 05:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I disagree with Dave; I immediately interpreted it as “Make way for a sailor!” and find it an implausible abbreviation of “That’s the way a sailor does things!”

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Posted: 15 April 2014 06:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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FWIW, I’m in the make way camp too.

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Posted: 15 April 2014 06:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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If I had only seen the movie title, I’d be in the “make way” camp too. But the use on the intertitle leads me to think the other way. But it is certainly ambiguous and a non-standard construction.

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Posted: 15 April 2014 11:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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The context makes me lean towards “make way for a sailor”: it comes immediately after the statement that the sailor has money to spend and only two days to spend it.  This conveys urgency on the sailor’s part and the opportunity for others to get some of his money, both of which would fit with a proclamation that room should be made for him. Also, the “all caps” treatment of “way for a sailor” seems to fit with it being a bold proclamation to make room for him (although, I suppose it would also fit with a proclamation that “that’s the way a sailor does things”.)

To muddy the water further, though, a third possible meaning that occurs to me is that “way” is being used to mean “destination” as an extension of its sense of “path/direction”.  So SINGAPORE would be the “way for a sailor”, that is, the place a sailor should go.  I’m not familiar with “way” being used to mean “destination”, but, then again, I’m not familiar with it being used to mean either “make way” (without “make”, that is) or “that’s the way [whoever] does things”, either.

But, since “way for a sailor” is juxtaposed against money to spend and two days to spend it, rather than Singapore, this makes me lean towards “make way for the sailor”.

Out of curiosity, is most or all of the movie set in Singapore?  Or is it just one of many settings in the movie?

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Posted: 15 April 2014 12:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Svinyard118 - 15 April 2014 11:01 AM

Out of curiosity, is most or all of the movie set in Singapore?  Or is it just one of many settings in the movie?

Just the early scenes are set in Singapore. The action for the rest of the film is on the high seas and in London. I must admit that I’m leaning towards Make way for a sailor! now.

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Posted: 15 April 2014 03:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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What lh and DW said.

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Posted: 16 April 2014 05:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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If I had only seen the movie title, I’d be in the “make way” camp too. But the use on the intertitle leads me to think the other way.

Really? It’s the intertitle that seals the “make way” interpretation for me.  Language intuitions are funny things.

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Posted: 11 May 2014 07:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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FWIW, The Way of a Ship, a book about Benjamin Lundy, who crossed oceans under sail in the late nineteenth century, written by Derek Lundy, his great-great nephew and published 2001, contains the sentence

There were gunboats in the port now, and when these hard men hit the beach, said Russell, it was way for a sailor and stand from under.

which if Lundy is using genuine 19th century sailor-speak, corroborates the “make way for a sailor” reading.

Google Books suggests there were two books published in the 1920s with the title Way for a Sailor (one with an exclamation mark in, by Albert Richard Wetjen, the other by Bill Adams) but I can’t tell which one was turned into the film.

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Posted: 11 May 2014 09:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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The film came from the Albert Richard Wetjen book. (From IMDB.)

[ Edited: 11 May 2014 10:21 PM by aldiboronti ]
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Posted: 13 May 2014 10:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Coming through!

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