"Batten Down the Hatches" - Preparing for the Storm
What does that quote even mean? "Batten Down the Hatches." Several definitions apply, and folks have been using the phrase since 1867 when it was printed in Admiral W.H. Smyth's nautical encyclopedia The Sailor's Word Book.
The word "batten" is a verb (an action word), so to batten something you are doing something, and in this example "batten down hatches" means to make safe, be prepared in case water pours in from severe weather, flooding or strong winds. If there are windows, make sure they are tightly closed (batten). Prepare yourself, your family, house guests and others for the predicted harsh weather: tornado, hurricane, typhoon, monsoon or a strong downpour.
"Batten down the hatches" traveled from The Sailor's Word Book from ship talk as sailors went from "at sea" to living on dry land, the quote traveled with them then as familiar language often does; it was spread throughout the world like a nomad. On board a historic ship: Mayflower, Nina, Pinta, Santa Maria, Andrea Gail and even the Black Pearl doors on the floor of the crafts were shut tightly with tarps nailed over them to keep water from draining to the lower level of the ships during a storm at sea. These hatches still exist but are more modernly crafted.
If they are battened down securely and tightly, the bottom floor of a ship will appear dry, as if a sea storm "never even happened." Stay tuned to the weather channel so you can be prepared and warned by the meteorologist of incoming dangerous weather. Stock up on batteries, test flashlights for working order, have a cellular phone with the Red Cross and SERVPRO on speed dial. Don't forget to "batten down the hatches" at home on land (tightly shut doors and windows).
Bob Dylan’s (September 2012) song Tempest, recounts the story of the Titanic's sinking, He uses the lines: "They battened down the hatches, but the hatches wouldn't hold."
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