WHEN President Clinton went aboard the carrier USS...

Salmagundi

April 20, 1993

WHEN President Clinton went aboard the carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, according to one press report, "fighting a perception that he does not understand the military culture because he avoided the Vietnam War . . . [he] practiced talking like a sailor."

We asked our resident gob how sailors talked. He said it used to be said of them that they used language that would make a maiden blush, but that was long ago.

Sailors talk the same today, but maidens have changed their vocabularies.

"But probably," our gob went on, "the report meant that the president practiced using nautical jargon, like 'port' for left, 'starboard' for right, 'ahoy' and so forth.

"There's an old joke about that," our gob continued.

"A young junior officer is indoctrinating seamen recruits on their first day on a ship. "This is a deck not a floor, that is a bulkhead not a wall, that is a ladder not a stairs, and if you ever forget it I'll throw you through that little round window over there."

Not very funny, but that's the way it is with gob humor.

This editorial page used to run Navy jokes almost every day. (Typical example: Nurse: I think that sailor's regaining consciousness, doctor, he tried to blow the foam off his medicine.")

We did this in a feature called "Gob Humor." The history of that we will recount for you tomorrow.

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