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Daily Archives: December 23rd, 2011

Have you ever noticed that pirates and sailors (who are not pirates) are often depicted as having “salty language”?  They are described as having foul language.  That got me thinking.  How are the words “salty” and “foul” related?  It didn’t make much sense to me.

I present the following transcript, which is really just a lot of my musings but conveniently typed out to someone who generally has a good appreciation of ridiculousness and the hard work it is to come up with such:

Moosterkey: Why is foul language considered “salty”?
Moosterkey: Is foul anything else considered salty?
Moosterkey: Salty play!
Moosterkey: That was such poor sportsmanship.
Moosterkey: Salty play!
Moosterkey: You have a salty mind.
Moosterkey: And also a salty mouth.
Moosterkey: Which may spew out salty language.
Moosterkey: What if you wanted to describe something that was actually salty?
Moosterkey: Would you be misunderstood as complaining something was foul?
cherriebb515: hahaha
Moosterkey: This bacon is salty!

Well, as it turns out “salty” and “foul” are and are not related at all.  At least in regards to pirates/sailors and their language.


adj \ˈsȯl-tē\

salt·i·er salt·i·est

1: of, seasoned with, or containing salt
2: smacking of the sea or nautical life
3a: piquant b: earthy, crude <salty language>

So, it turns out that salty also means “smacking of the sea or nautical life.”  I’m not sure why M-W decided to use “smacking” in their definition, but it doesn’t really matter.  When a pirate’s language is described as “salty,” it could mean that their language smacks of nautical life, which isn’t necessarily foul.  That would make sense.  Pirates and sailors spend an awful lot of time at sea.  And while their speech smacks of nautical life, it could also be piquant, earthy, or crude, which is probably more in line with what we think of foul language.  Tada!

Also, that bacon is so nautical.