Sunday, October 4, 2009
Over on Brian O'Rourke's blog, he's advocating that American men, well, man up and stop being so afraid of cider. All this somehow led me to think about grog, the rationed drink of the Royal British navy. None of that has much to do with cider, as I found out.
What is grog when it's at home, anyway? Well, that would depend on its home apparently. But the word does have a very distinct point of entry into our vocabulary, namely, August 21st, 1740. This is when the British Vice Admiral, Edward Vernon, decreed that rum would henceforth be diluted with water or small (weak) beer on board. Apparently on rations of straight rum, the sailors under his care had become just a bit drunk and disorderly.
Unfortunately, that shipboard water was often rank. Various additives were used to remedy this, and one of them was fruit, of the citrus persuasion. What happened seems to have been accidental--the Vitamin C in citrus ended up helping prevent scurvy, that shipboard plague, and Vernon's crew beat the curve, healthwise. Figuring that he was doing something right, other officers were quick to adopt his practices.
He was known, I hope affectionately, as "Old Grog". Although initially I hoped this had something to do with his being the inventor of this elixer, it happened rather differently. The nickname came fron the "grogram" coat he wore. What's grogram? Well, it's a coarse fabric that is the equivalent of the French derived grosgrain, meaning large grained. I was going to say, it stems from this, but apparently there is an old French 'grogram' as well. They all seem to mean "roughly" the same thing.