Date: Fri, 23 Jan 1998 15:40:38 -0500


Subject: Re: On the beam

On Friday, January 23, 1998 3:23 PM, Mark Mandel [SMTP:Mark[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]DRAGONSYS.COM]


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]


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


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

Quite right on the spelling. I'm not a good speller.

The first meaning is, of course, of much later origin. Actually, that version

of being "on the beam" originated in W.W.II. Arthur Clarke wrote a book,

"Glide Path," about the development of radar landing systems in W.W.II which

talks about being on the path, or on the beam when landing in foggy weather.

Denis Anson, MS, OTR/L

Assistant Professor

Occupational Therapy Department

College Misericordia

301 Lake Street

Dallas, PA 18636

phone: 717-674-6413

fax: 717-674-8902

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