Before the Mast
To serve before the mast. To be one of the common sailors,
whose quarters are in the forward part of the ship. The half-deck is
the sanctum of the second mate, and, in Greenland fishers, of the
spikeoneer, harpooners, carpenters, coopers, boatswains, and all
secondary officers; of low birth.
“I myself come from before the mast.” —Sir W. Scott: The
Antiquary, chap. xx.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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