Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Know The Ropes

Posted by Elyse Bruce on February 24, 2010

It’s not surprising to learn that the language of an island nation with a rich maritime history has a number of idioms related to sailing.  The earliest recorded use of this phrase dates back to England and the 10th century.

New sailors signing on with a ship had to acquaint themselves with knot tying as well as handling the ropes for each individual sail on the ship.  The better a sailor knew to tie and handle the ropes, the more valuable he was to the captain.
 
In this way, it paid to ‘know the ropes’ and a smart man was the one who learned the ropes as quickly and as efficiently as possible. 
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