Sailor Speak of the Week – Scuttlebutt

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Definition

Noun

  • Rumors or gossip.
  • A drinking fountain or water cooler.

Origin

Probably earlier than the 19th century.

Comments

Drinking or potable water used to be carried in a cask, called a butt, which had been scuttled (i.e. had a hole punched in it) to allow water to be easily drawn from it. Hence, scuttlebutt became the term for a drinking fountain, as well as place where sailors congregated around to exchange rumors, gossip, and small-talk. Same reasoning holds for the office gossip exchanged around the water cooler.

References

Rogers, J.G. (1985). Origins of Sea Terms. Mystic, CT: Mystic Seaport Museum.

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