Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: Limey (by guest author Camille Minichino)

Please welcome today's guest, author and good buddy Camille Minichino, she of many authorial pen names, including her latest, Elizabeth Logan. Her (that is, Elizabeth's) newest book is MURPHY'S SLAW in her Alaskan Diner Series. For more about Camille and her work, check out her website at


Uh-oh, another rather unpleasant medical story, after last week’s collywobbles

 Here’s a reminder of our susceptibility to disease throughout history: the story of scurvy, and eventually, the origin of the term limey to describe an Englishman.

 Early explorers called scurvy the "scourge of the sea." The disease was widespread during the Victorian era, causing ulcers, gum disorders, and blackened skin from internal hemorrhaging. According to historian Stephen Bown, scurvy was responsible for more deaths at sea than storms, shipwrecks, combat, and all other diseases combined.

The precise cause had been a mystery until Royal Navy surgeon James Lind stepped in.

In May of 1747, the Scottish doctor began groundbreaking clinical testing and showed that diet, specifically vitamin deficiency, was involved. He saw to adding lemon or lime juice to the sailors’ diet. Lind is credited with the successful treatment and cure.

 By the 1800s, the term limey was used for British sailors, then English immigrants. It eventually made its way to the U. S., where its use was extended to describe any Englishman.

As an example of its non-derogatory use, an 1824 Chicago Tribune article used the term to describe Professor William A Craigie, an editor of the OED.

Still, it might be wise to refrain from using the term unless you’re sure whom you are addressing.

"ACK! Scurvy! We need citrus and we need it now!"
Nocturne by James Abbott McNeill Whistler -, Public Domain,

Dr. James Lind: "Orange you glad to see me??"
By Sir George Chalmers, c 1720-1791 - [1], Public Domain, 


Camille Minichino said...

Blimey, I love your captions, Ann!
Hmm, I wonder if BLIMEY is related!

Ann Parker said...

Hi Camille! ... You know, I was just wondering about "blimey" myself. Great minds and all that! :-)
Thanks so much for participating in slang-o-rama!

Ann Parker said...

Well, of course I had to go check. And now I'm hoping I haven't used "blimey" in any of my historical books... According to Online Etymology Dictionary "blimey" dates to
1889. As for its origin: "probably a corruption of (God) blind me! First attested in a slang dictionary which defines it as 'an apparently meaningless, abusive term.'"

Liz V. said...

Both very interesting. Thanks.

According to Wikipedia, however, they should have stuck with lemon juice,as it is much more effective than lime juice or oj.

Ann Parker said...

Ah! Interesting, Liz... I imagine it was easier to suck on an orange than a lemon... but if there were only lemons, and I were a "limey on the sea," I'd definitely go for it, myself. :-)

Camille Minichino said...

Thanks for all this followup!
Couldn't we all just quit our day jobs and do etymology all day?

And thanks again for letting me barge (like a ship) in, Ann!

Ann Parker said...

Any time you want to *sail* in and explore another phrase and/or word, feel free, Camille! :-) Thanks for a fun post!