Grain
Posted: 21 November 2017 12:21 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Interesting usage of the word that is new to me. The passage in which the term occurs comes from the Dionysiaca, an epic poem by the late Hellenic poet Nonnus who wrote in Egypt in the 5th century AD.

Bull, you are astray out of your country; Nereus is no bulldrover, Proteus no plowman, Glaucos no gardener; no marshground, no meadows in the billows; on the barren sea there’s no tillage, but sailors cut the ship-harbouring water with a steering-oar, and do not split with iron; Earthshaker’s hinds do not sow in the furrows, but the sea’s plant is seaweed, sea’s sowing is water, the sailor is the farmer, the only furrow is the ship’s grain and wake, the hooker is the plow.

The note on grain reads: If a line be drawn along the ship’s course, the part ahead is called the grain, the part astern is the wake. I found further elucidation at the Society for Nautical Research.

The Commonwealth ‘Fighting Instructions’ of 1653 include a command to form a line of battle in the Admiral’s ‘wake and grain’. In the 1654 ‘Fighting Instructions’ it was changed to ‘wake or grain’. Further instances of the use of the word ‘wake’ cast light on its use at that time. ‘Grain’ as a useful word in this context has fallen out of use. ‘Grain’ may have been used to mean the same as the modern use of the word ‘wake’, i.e. in line astern, or it may have meant the opposite, i.e. in line ahead. It may even have been used to mean in line either ahead or astern, a meaning that ‘wake’ might have had at the time. Either way, the meaning of the instruction was clear; that ships were to take up their stations in line, either astern or ahead of the admiral as appropriate.

So it may have meant this, it may have meant that or it may have meant something else. That’s all clear then!

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Posted: 21 November 2017 03:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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This definition appears front-facing:

“GRAIN. In the grain of, is immediately preceding another ship in the same direction.—Bad-grain, a sea-lawyer; a nuisance.”

Source:

The Sailor’s Word
A complete Dictionary of Nautical Terms
from the Napoleonic and VIctorian Navies

Admiral William Henry Smyth and Edward Belcher

Fireship Press 2008

The original was titled The Sailor’s Word-Book, and was published in 1867.  It is available on-line through the Gutenberg Project.  Sailor’s Word-Book

[ Edited: 21 November 2017 04:30 AM by cuchuflete ]
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Posted: 22 November 2017 10:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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The origin of the use of Grain as in wood-grain is given by all the sources I can get to as being related to the feeling of seeds i.e. rough.  This seems a bit odd, as wood-grain implies the orientation of layers not necessarily roughness.  It would seem to have more in common with this sea-faring use of a line or order.
Any references in more esteemed sources e.g. OED?

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Posted: 23 November 2017 11:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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The OED doesn’t seem to list this nautical/navigation sense of “grain”; however, the sense of wood-grain goes back to the 16th century, so if there is a connection (which I suspect is true) it seems more likely to be in the other direction: i.e., from the direction of grain in wood to the direction of sailing.

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Posted: 23 November 2017 12:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Google books has a non-maritime use that straddles the wood and waves:

Armenia: Travels and Studies and the Russian Provinces (Complete)
By Henry Finnis Blosse Lynch
London, 1901

“Sometimes it will be a cleft in this latitudinal belt of mountains, a transverse fissure in the grain of the range, which,
with its rustling river giving access to the interior, has attracted a settlement.”

Google Books Source

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Posted: 23 November 2017 07:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Could it have anything to do with the fact that the bow of a ship has a similar shape (curved “v") as the wake of a ship, as long as it is sailing in a straight line? The wood grains would bend in the same manner as the wake. So, if the ship were turning, the grain of the bow would be the reference. If it were sailing in a straight line, then the wake might be the reference.

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