Loblolly and Mayhap

I subscribe to a word a day post from Wordsmith and I laughed when the word ‘loblolly’ came up the other day. I must be one of few people who are very familiar with that word thanks to reading the Master and Commander and Horatio Hornblower series of books by Patrick O’ Brian and C.S Forester respectively. I am fascinated by naval warfare in the 18th and 19th centuries. A loblolly is an assistant to a ship’s surgeon and was characterized by Padeen in the Master and Commander books.

One I was not familiar with though was mayhap. Not sure whether I will ever use it but will file it in my back pocket in case the opportunity ever arises


(may-HAP, MAY-hap) 
adverb: Perhaps.
From the phrase ‘it may hap’, from Middle English hap, from Old Norse happ (luck, chance). Earliest documented use: 1533.
“The Marine motto was the ‘first to fight’ — and mayhap to die.”
Bing West; Bold in battle, Wily in Washington; The Washington Post; Nov 25, 2012.

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

2 thoughts

  1. Hi Janet,
    The Naval Hospital Corpsmen of today are the modern “loblolly boys”. The name came about, from what I’ve heard, because during medical procedures at sea, under heavy weather, the surgeon’s assistant, the “loblolly boys”, oft times needed to hug the loblolly pine upright log that supported the upper decks.
    And “mayhaps”, a combination of maybe and perhaps is one of my favorite words. Don’t know why, but it is.
    Stahy healthy and happy.
    Jo Silverman

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