Definitions

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Etymologies

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Examples

  • Bess Mizzen, I must say, is no more than a leaky bum-boat, in comparison of the glorious galley you want to man.

    The Life and Adventures of Sir Launcelot Greaves

  • The captain's wife begins to pack up her band-boxes in order to return home, while the Jews and bum-boat folks are pushing all the interest they can scrape together to induce the first lieutenant to give them the priority of entrance with their goods and chattels on the approaching pay-day.

    The Lieutenant and Commander

  • We were fortunate enough to get some fowls, fruits, and vegetables from a bum-boat of Malays, who made a business of supplying ships.

    The Cruise of the Alabama and the Sumter

  • We had some money in our pockets, and we purchased some sheets of paper from the bum-boat people, who were on the main-deck supplying the seamen, and I wrote to Mr Drummond and

    Jacob Faithful

  • The master's-mate, who was directed to take the vessel to Portsmouth, was the spurious progeny of the first-lieutenant of a line-of-battle ship, and a young woman who attended the bum-boat, which supplied the ship's company with necessaries and luxuries, if they could afford to pay for them.

    The King's Own

  • -- Bess Mizzen, I must say, is no more than a leaky bum-boat, in comparison of the glorious galley you want to man.

    The Adventures of Sir Launcelot Greaves

  • His father is a common boatswain -- a warrant officer -- not a gentleman even by courtesy, and his mother, for what I know to the contrary, might have been a bum-boat woman, and his relations, if he had any, are probably all of the lowest order. "

    The Grateful Indian And other Stories

  • His father is a common boatswain -- a warrant officer -- not a gentleman even by courtesy, and his mother, for what I know to the contrary, might have been a bum-boat woman, and his relations, if he has any, are probably all of the lowest order. "

    The Story of Nelson also "The Grateful Indian", "The Boatswain's Son"

  • Another glass, Jem, to the crew of the Leander: don't you remember the ducking ould Mother Macguire, the bum-boat woman, received, for bringing paw-paw articles on board, when we came in to refit? "

    The English Spy An Original Work Characteristic, Satirical, And Humorous. Comprising Scenes And Sketches In Every Rank Of Society, Being Portraits Drawn From The Life

  • "We have but a poor dinner to-day," said Mrs Trotter, "for the bum-boat woman disappointed me.

    Peter Simple

Comments

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  • Usage: "...Jack was determined not to lose a minute of it but to run down-Channel with a press of sail until he could round Ushant with plenty of sea-room. He would not even stop long enough to take in fresh supplies from the bum-boats that came round the ship, observing in his decided manner 'that they were not here to blow out their kites with lobscouse, nor to choke their luffs with figgy-dowdy, but to convey the Catalan troops to Santandero without a moment's loss of time...'"
    --Patrick O'Brian, The Surgeon's Mate, 287

    February 9, 2008

  • Good to know--thanks!

    November 29, 2007

  • Also seems to refer to boats that sell provisions to houses built alongside canals and rivers, or actual floating villages. I've heard this term in both Singapore and Brunei in the last 10 years.

    November 29, 2007

  • Your head could be chock-a-block with far worse things, sionnach. Nothing like a good G&S lyric to brace you on a bad day. :-)

    Bilby, bum-boats are still common in Asia? I'm presuming the term was probably coined in the mid-1800s, then.

    November 29, 2007

  • As a teenager, I had to help my mother learn the Buttercup part (and all corresponding G & S contralto parts - Ruth, Katisha etc.), including some of the really nonsensical stuff in the "Things are seldom what they seem" number. As a result, my head is chock-a-block with bizarre Gilbertian phrases like:

    Highlows pass as patent leathers;
    Jackdaws strut in peacock's feathers.

    Drops the wind and stops the mill;
    Turbot is ambitious brill.

    Thirsty lambs run foxy dangers.
    Paw of cat the chestnut snatches.

    Meanwhile, I can barely remember my new cell number.

    November 29, 2007

  • Still fairly common in Asia. Better than pirates.

    November 29, 2007

  • Thanks, sionnach--I'd forgotten that! And now I have a lovely earworm. :-)

    November 28, 2007

  • Most famously, the character Buttercup in Gilbert and Sullivan's "H.M.S. Pinafore" was a bumboat woman (the G & S score spells it without a hyphen).

    For I'm called Little Buttercup -- dear Little Buttercup,
    Though I could never tell why,
    But still I'm called Buttercup -- poor little Buttercup,
    Sweet Little Buttercup I!

    I've snuff and tobaccy, and excellent jacky,
    I've scissors, and watches, and knives;
    I've ribbons and laces to set off the faces
    Of pretty young sweethearts and wives.

    I've treacle and toffee, I've tea and I've coffee,
    Soft tommy and succulent chops;
    I've chickens and conies, and pretty polonies,
    And excellent peppermint drops.

    November 28, 2007

  • In the mid-1800s, a boat that pulled up alongside a vessel in port to sell provisions and fruit.

    November 28, 2007