OAR AND NIGHT SKY
Today, we're going to talk about ships. In the olden days, instead of a rudder, sailors would use a single oar in the back of the boat to guide it. When the ship had to dock, the side with the oar on it would face outward. Because you could better see the night sky from that half, it became known as starboard, and the side that faced the docks was known as port, for obvious reasons. Nowadays, however, port specifically refers to the left side of a ship, and starboard to the right. Why? Because the majority of sailors, like most people, were right-handed, and the oar was kept on the right side of the boat. Over time, the definitions shifted to be standardized meanings of "left" and "right". Finally, let me just dispel the myth that the word posh comes from the phrase Port Out, Starboard Home: most popular acronym etymologies like that are false.
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Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.