Close up and Closed up

Originally published by The Lookout Newspaper, on 5 December 2022, this article is reproduced here in its unedited state.

The term close up may refer to a flag that is hoisted to the full extent of a halyard, with the head of the flag touching the block, e.g., “Flag Romeo close up,” which indicates that a ship is ready to participate in a replenishment at sea (RAS).

When a signal flag is not close up it may be at the dip, meaning it is placed halfway up the flag hoist, which indicates an action is about to occur, e.g., “Flag Romeo at the dip,” means the ship is preparing for replenishment at sea. At the dip can also be used to describe a person who is about to do something. For example, “Are you going for a run?” Response, “I’m at the dip.”

Close up might also be used as a verb, in an order that might be made via a pipe over the ship’s broadcast system, or a verbal order, meaning for seamen to proceed to a place of duty, i.e., “Cable party, close up!”

Closed up can be used to describe a sailor who is performing a duty, on watch or at a station, i.e., “Bloggins is closed up on the helm.” The same term is used to describe a sailor who is competent, alert, and deporting themselves in a professional manner, i.e., “Since his QL5 course, Bloggins is really closed up.” A similar term is switched on, which can be used to describe someone who is competent and alert. All about can also be used to describe a sailor who is clever, snappy, and efficient.  Seamanlike is used to positively describe anything befitting a seaman, or indicating competent seamanship, i.e., “Bloggins tied the bowline quickly, in a good seamanlike manner.”

The United States Navy refers to a closed up sailor as “A.J. Squared-away,” who is a mythical sailor who is perpetually well-organized. Squared away is a phrase used in most nautical contexts, and indicates that a space or piece of equipment is organized or ready for an inspection. It is derived from a term used when a sailing ship’s square sails were raised before the wind and the ship was able to get underway.

Bristol fashion is a term that came from the Royal Navy that describes anything that is smart and seamanlike. It was first used to describe ships sailing out of Bristol, England which were known for being well-organized and tidy.

A sailor who never shirks duties and carries them out to the letter is said to be “All for George.” Largely a historical term, it began to be used during the Second World War when King George VI was the reigning monarch. No equivalent term seems to have been invented when Queen Elizabeth II came to power.

When I was a young sailor in HMCS Preserver, I recall an occasion when I was sent aloft to assist in an inspection of the TACAN antenna. Before we climbed up the stick the Radar Chief instructed, “One hand for the Queen,” meaning that we needed to use one hand to work (for the Queen) and our other hand would be for ourselves (to hang on tightly). Today the term would be, “One hand for the King.” Even so, at the time we climbed that mast for Queen Elizabeth. God Bless her.

You will find over 4000 examples of Jackspeak in my book Jackspeak of the Royal Canadian Navy (2nd ed.).

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