Commander A. Covey-Crump - A collection of Naval Slang

Commander Covey-Crump (what an unusual name) was a former Naval assistant to the Chief of Naval Information.  He was responsible for producing a publication Covey-Crump, a collection of Naval Slang, abbreviations, legends, and historical tid-bits. It was first published in 1955, and I found it by accident when trawling the Internet. I have permission to reproduce a few extracts from his work from the Director of Public Relations (Navy) Ministry of Defence, Whitehall London.

Nelson's Button
On the left side of the fireplace in the Boardroom at the British Admiralty, is a white disc, about the size of a shilling piece. It is let into the oak paneling 5 feet 4 inches above the floor.

The legend has it. that this Button denotes the stature of Lord Nelson, but the more probable story is that it was put there to assist the Committee interviewing candidates for a Commission in the Royal Marines, for whom the Regulations of 1847 laid down a 5 feet 4 inches minimum height.

Naval Slang for articles taken, or intended to be taken ashore privately. Originally. Rabbits were things taken ashore improperly (i.e.. theft, or by smuggling, the name arose from the ease with which tobacco, etc. could be concealed in the inside of a dead rabbit) but, with the passage or time the application of this word has spread to anything taken ashore, an air of impropriety never the less still hangs on the use of the word, whether or not it is justified, and it seldom has any justification.

Slang name for Royal Navy. Its derivation stems from a very zealous Press Gang Officer with the name Andrew Miller, of whom it was commonly said, he pressed so many men into the Navy, that it was practically his own property.

Bathing Beauty
Sailor's name for Blanc Mange because it shivers and has such lovely curves.

Gender of Her Majesty's Ships
Ships are always feminine, whatever their names.

The classical author, Plautus (second century B.C.) wrote "If a man is looking for trouble he only has to buy a ship or take a wife, both of them will always need trimming."

To go round the buoy
Naval Slang, to come up (usually surreptitiously) for a second helping of food, especially in a Cafeteria Messing system.

Dead Marine
Common slang for an empty bottle. The expression is said to have been used by King William IV in the presence of some Royal Marine Officers to whom he hurriedly explained that he meant that like a Royal Marine having done one job of work well, the bottle was ready to do another.

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
Common expression meaning "in a quandary."  In a wooden ship, the Devil was the top plank or strake immediately below the sheer strake, and a person working over the ship's side below this plank was working in a very uncertain position.

Name given to a Midshipman detailed to attend the Captain or the Commander aboard a Naval Ship.


( 1 ) Adjective.... common slang for stupid, half witted.

( 2 ) Verb..... naval slang for celebrating an occasion with a drink. (usually an alcoholic one.)


This site was created as a resource for educational use and the promotion of historical awareness. All rights of publicity of the individuals named herein are expressly reserved, and, should be respected consistent with the reverence in which this memorial site was established.

Copyright© 1984/2014 Mackenzie J. Gregory All rights reserved