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Set sail with Grace's new book on maritime words


Sea world: local author Grace Tierney and her latest book ‘Words the Sea Gave Us’

Sea world: local author Grace Tierney and her latest book ‘Words the Sea Gave Us’

Sea world: local author Grace Tierney and her latest book ‘Words the Sea Gave Us’

Even the most habitual landlubbers amongst us may have found ourselves using words and phrases like 'clear the decks, pipe down, cyber, skyscraper, work strike, and slush fund' and never realise their maritime origins.

Well if you are a frustrated logophile or confessed word nerd, then a local writer has just the book for you.

Grace Tierney, an author writing in Stamullen, East Meath, last week released her second book about the history of words.

This time she's set her course for a watery trip through maritime history in 'Words The Sea Gave Us'. Grace, who moved to the Meath coast in 2005, says she's nurtured a love of the sea her whole life, growing up on Dublin Bay and listening to the fog-horns and sea birds at night.

'I've been blogging every Monday for a decade now about the history behind English words. It was an easy choice to write about pirates, sailing ships, and nautical phrases in this book,' she says.'Being an island, Ireland has such a rich history with the sea, and when you think about it, sailors' nationalities are the sea, so they brought a wealth of words with from all over the world, many of which we still use today, and may not know the origin.'

Grace, who is mum to Eleanor (15) and Daniel (16), says she loves the stories behind the words - the final cutlass attack in World War Two, why Long John Silver didn't have a peg leg, and the origin of the booby trap.

'Sea words are so international and words like 'hammock' were brought back by sailors with Christopher Columbus from South America, as they saw the locals using them and thought they would be comfortable to sleep in,' she says with a laugh. 'If I had to pick my favourite maritime-related word it would probably be 'gollywobbler', which is the really high sail on a ship, and just has a lovely sound!'

More than 370 words and phrases are featured from 'above board' to yardarm - drawn from parts of a ship, sail names, crew titles, surfer slang, marine monsters, nautical navigation, flying the flag, and of course, how to talk like a scurvy pirate. Throw in some sea fables, fashions, and weather and you're ready to set sail.

'I investigated the parts of a ship, sail names, crew titles, surfer slang, marine monsters, nautical navigation, flying the flag, and, of course, how to talk like a scurvy pirate,' she adds.'If you don't know the difference between being one or three sheets in wind I can enlighten you with a side trip to the Great Rum Debate in the UK parliament'.

Grace worked in IT for a decade, before taking time off to pursue her passion of words and writing.

She volunteers for the international National Novel Writing Month (www.nanowrimo.org) every November, mentoring writers of all ages from Meath and Louth while writing her own books too, but this time she wrote nonfiction instead of fiction - a tough challenge with all the research involved.

'My first book was about eponyms 'How To Get Your Name In The Dictionary', the stories of the people whose names entered the dictionary, from Casanova to Zeppelin,' she explains. 'That book turned into mini-biographies, and it really made me get into words, and the history behind them.'

The popularity of the British word game Countdown, and the spin-off books by their resident lexicographer Susie Dent, has allowed word nerds to declare their passion for all etymological.

'I was really encouraged by the response from the audience of my blog, but of course, there are always people who know better than you, and anytime I use a Latin word - which I didn't study - someone will correct me,' says Grace. 'But it has been wonderful to discover over time a wonderful community of wordfools, and I'm hoping not only them, but many others will enjoy my book.'

With two teens at home facing into the Leaving Cert, do they find their mum's love of words useful to their English homework?

'I actually think they are so bored of me talking about the history of words that they don't hear me anymore,' she laughs. 'But they are really supportive, and they may find it useful in the end.'

Of course, with no proper launch or public readings, it's a tough time to release a book, but Grace is still sure there are enough word nerds to spread the...well, word!

'I had a virtual launch last Monday and although it was sad we couldn't have a glass of wine in person, I did at home,' she says.' 'And I'm already neck deep in Old Norse for my next book anyway, which will be 'Words The Vikings Gave Us'.

'Words The Sea Gave Us' is out now in paperback and ebook ,and available on Amazon and her blog is www.wordfoolery.wordpress.com.

Drogheda Independent