Monday, May 21, 2012

Ship-shape and Bristol fashion

Many in North America have heard the term ship-shape in reference to high quality, but the Bristol fashion part is often not used. This phrase originates from the United Kingdom.

Bristol is a city in the U.K. that has served as a seaport for thousands of years. The city is several kilometres from the ocean and has a river where ships enter the seaport. Bristol harbour is susceptible to drastic water level changes with the tides, so much so that before the 18th century ships would be beached during low tide. This meant that ships that were not of sound construction would be destroyed in the process. Furthermore, sturdy ships needed to ensure that their cargo was secure in order to prevent their contents from shifting during the beaching process.
Bristol harbour

Ship-shape and Bristol fashion are two phrases merged into one. Ship-shape was first used in the 17th century and the Bristol fashion part was added in the early 19th century. Originally, the term was used to indicate the need to secure a ship's cargo during transport to being used today to indicate something of high quality.

Thank you Amanda for suggesting this phrase.

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