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Davy Jones’ Locker
Noun: The bottom of the sea, especially as the grave of all who perish at sea. Idiom. Nautical superstition. (Or not.)

References:Earliest recorded reference (that I’ve found so far) is 1726 in The Four Years Voyages of Capt. George Roberts by Daniel Defoe. But there’s no negative connotation there. That comes later, in The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle (Seriously? Someone named a book that?) by Tobias Smollett, published 1751. Here Jones is described as having saucer eyes, three rows of teeth, horns, a tail, and blue smoke coming from his nostrils (ok, that’s sufficiently freaky). The tale of Davy Jones causes fear among sailors, who may refuse to discuss Davy Jones in any great detail. (Which does NOT help with the research.)

Etymology: Unclear, with an annoying number of theories. Possibly derived from “Devil Jonah,” and/or from West Indian names for a mean ghost (“duppy”). Or from Welsh sailors calling to St. David. Or from a pirate with that name, but probably not, because there’s either no evidence he existed or there’s evidence that he existed but wasn’t all that famous, so he probably didn’t get a whole personification named after him. Could be a pub owner who kidnapped sailors. Might be a nearsighted sailor named “Duffer Jones” who kept getting swept overboard, but come on, that makes even less sense than the pirate no one’s ever heard of. Probably not anything to do with the Monkee of the same name.


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Hannah Griffith

June 2009

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