Date: Fri, 23 Jan 1998 15:22:37 -0500


Subject: On the beam

Denis Anson danson[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]MISERI.EDU writes

On Wednesday, January 21, 1998 12:35 AM, Bapopik [SMTP:Bapopik[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]AOL.COM] wrote:

Perhaps "on the level" is related to "on the beam"--a seafaring term. If a

ship's not "on the level" it's a titanic disaster.

More properly, on the beam means directly to the right or left (port or starboard) as opposed to

off the bow or the stern.

Few sailing ships, however, were ever on the level. When under sail, the ship would heal over to

the leeward side, and

might have one rail almost in the water, with the other in the air.

The _American Heritage Dict. of the Eng. Lang._, 3rd edn., says:

1. Following a radio beam. Used of aircraft.

2. On the right track; operating correctly.

The origin in #1 is more in accord with the general usage (#2) than the nautical origin is. Besides,

isn't that usually "on

the port beam" or "on the starboard beam"?

BTW, isn't it also "heel over", not (for ships) "heal over"?

-- Dr. Whom: Consulting Linguist, Grammarian,

Orthoepist, and Philological Busybody

a.k.a. Mark A. Mandel