Oakum

Untwisted rope; used for caulking the seams (i.e. spaces between the planks) of a ship. It is forced in by chisel and mallet.

To pick oakun.
To make oakum by untwisting old ropes. A common employment in prisons and workhouses.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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