Master and Commander - Larboard to bow. Why did starboard survive instead?

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Master and Commander - Larboard to bow. Why did starboard survive instead?

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1LesMiserables
Edited: May 15, 2013, 5:03pm

I have been reading Master and Commander lately and I must say, I have increased my nautical vocabulary tenfold.

On interesting word I have come across is larboard. I had not heard of that until now. Of course its opposite starboard is well known, yet it seems it was larboard was the one to succumb to the block and was supplanted with port, I wonder why? Why not starboard?

larboard, n. (a.) Naut.

(ˈlɑːbɔəd, -bəd)

Forms: α. 4 ladde-borde, 5 ladeborde, latheborde, latebord. β. 6 larborde, lerbord, leereboord, 6–7 larbo(o)rd, 7 lubbord, 7– larboard.

ME. lad(d)eborde, latheborde, altered in the 16th c. into ler-, leere-, larbord, by form-association with the contemporary ster-, -steere-, starbord. The second component is OE. bord, ON. borðe, ship's side (board n. 12); the origin of the first component, which appears as ladde-, lade, lathe-, late-, has not been determined.
Some would connect it with lade v., taking it to mean ‘the side on which cargo was received’, or on which deck cargo was placed.
In OE. the corresponding term was bæcbord; this did not survive into ME., though its etymological equivalent still remains in all the mod. continental Teut. tongues, and was adopted into Rom. (F. bâbord). The word seems to have meant ‘the side at the back of the steersman’; the rudder or steering-paddle of early Germanic ships having been worked over the right side, whence the name stéorbord ‘steering-side’, starboard.

The side of a ship which is to the left hand of a person looking from the stern towards the bows. Opposed to starboard. (Freq. in phr. without the article, as †on larboard, †by larboard, †a larboard, to larboard.)
The term has now been discarded in the navy and supplanted by port, to avoid confusion with the similar-sounding starboard.

α 13‥ E.E. Allit. P. C. 106 Þay layden in on laddeborde & þe lofe wynnes. 1495 Naval Acc. Hen. VII (1896) 203 Devettes‥j a sterbord an other a latebord.

β 15‥ Sir A. Barton in Surtees Misc. (1888) 68 Ethere bye lerbord or by lowe That Scootte would overcome yowe. Ibid. 69 A larborde wher Sir Andrewe lay. 1583 Stanyhurst Æneis i. (Arb.) 21 Theire ships too larboord doo nod. 1591 Raleigh Last Fight Rev. (Arb.) 19 Two on her larboord, and two on her starboord. 1598 Hakluyt Voy. I. 4 Vpon his steereboord alwayes the desert land, and vpon the leereboord the maine Ocean. 1667 Milton P.L. ii. 1019 When Ulysses on the Larbord shunnd Charybdis. 1698 Froger Voy. 171 We saw five ships, three to the Star⁓board, and two to the Lar-board. 1707 Lond. Gaz. No. 4380/2 In firing along our Larboard, we saw he had a Design to board us on the Bow. 1853 Herschel Pop. Lect. Sci. i. §17 (1873) 11 She will heel over to larboard.

†b.b as adv. = To larboard; formerly used as a nautical command. Obs.

1634–5 Brereton Trav. (Chetham Soc.) 169 Larboard, that is, to the left hand. 1647 R. Stapylton Juvenal 224 Larboard now The reeling tree, then starboard, forc't to bow. 1663 Gerbier Counsel 32 As well understood‥as one at Sea among Mariners; saying, Steere, or Lar-board. 1667 Dryden Tempest i. i, You Dogs, is this a time to sleep? Lubbord. Heave together, Lads.

B.B attrib. passing into adj. Belonging to or situated on the left or port side of a vessel.

1495 Naval Acc. Hen. VII (1896) 192 Latheborde Bowers‥Sterborde destrelles‥Ladeborde destrelles. a 1613 Overbury A Wife, Saylor, In a storme tis disputable‥on which side of the ship he may be saued best, whether his faith bee starre-bord faith or lar-bord. 1613 Purchas Pilgrimage ix. vii. 862 The Land on Larbord side (saith Sir R. Hawkins) is without doubt Ilands. 1627 Capt. Smith Seaman's Gram. ix. 39 His Mate with his Larboord men‥releeues them till foure in the morning. 1669 Sturmy Mariner's Mag. i. 18 Cast off your Larboard-Braces. 1748 Anson's Voy. i. vi. 59 A signal was made‥to bring to with the lar⁓board tacks. Ibid. ii. v. 177 About four points on the larboard-bow. 1762 Falconer Shipwr. i. 282 On the lar⁓board quarter. 1833 Marryat P. Simple viii, Ease off the larboard hawser. 1867 Smyth Sailor's Word-bk., Larboard-watch, the old term for port-watch.

b.B.b humorously used for: Left.

1781 Cowper Let. to J. Newton 18 Mar., Wks. 1837 XV. 75 A slight disorder in my larboard eye may possibly prevent my writing you a long letter.

2varielle
May 15, 2013, 10:34am

Thanks for this. I've been working my way through the series, and not being a nautical sort or a linguist, have sometimes been bemused by the language. It's nice to have more context.