Just Say Row

You would be amazed, as was the Classics Slacker, at how many different ways a captain can command his crew to row. Why, there are as many words for “row” as Eskimos have for “Wow, it’s really cold out here.” There are also scores of nicknames for the crew, too. And adverbs to “help out” (English teacher lingo) the verbs in case their arms get tired.

Weirdly (adverb intended), in Moby-Dick, the captains use many adverbs that contradict each other. They tell their crews to row softly, then easy, then strong—sometimes all within the same sentence. The poor rowers must feel like they are playing some sadistic game of “Red Light, Green Light.”

The second most-used verb after “row” is “pull.” And the most common nickname for the crew is “boys.” Thus, “Row, boys!” or “Pull, boys!” would cover it. If you command your crew with either of these exhortations, they will almost certainly grab hold the oars and move them in unison from front to back, thus driving the boat forward toward the goal of whale.

“But why use two words when you can use twenty!” Melville no doubt said to himself while writing chapter 48, glancing at his shelves full to bursting with ink bottles.

Lucky for you, the Classics Slacker has created a simple row chart (pun of course intended) you can refer to. Using this chart, and without reading Moby-Dick, you’ll learn how captains coxswained their oarsmen in days of yore.

Verb (for “Row”)
Nickname (for Crew)
Adverb (to help “Row”)
Punctuation Mark (Mandatory)
Pull
Boys
Strong
!
Stroke
Men
Easy
!
Spring
My Lads
Long and Strong
!
Seethe Her
My Chaps
Softly
!
Start Her
My Fine Hearties
Steadily
!
Give Way
My Children
Truly*
!
Break Your Backbones
My Little Ones
Madly*
!
Crack Your Backbones
My Sucklings
Deeply*
!
Burst All Your Livers and Lungs
My Heroes
Metaphorically*
!
Break Something
You Babes
Spitefully*
!
Bite Something
You Dogs
Rabidly*

Start Something
My Steel-bits, My Silver-spoons, My Marling-spikes
Metallurgically*
!
Dance*
You Rascals
Cheerfully*
!
Get a Grip*
Ye Ragamuffins
Deliciously*
!
Wake Up*
Ye Sleepers
Groggily*
!
Sauté*
Ye Rapscallions
Hungrily*
!

(*The Classics Slacker admits she willfully added these words just to fill out her chart.)