First let me digress. One of my favorite blogs is Cap'n JP. I love his accounts of life on the Thames as they make me nostalgic for London and my rowing days. I grew up close to the Thames and got into rowing as a teenager. I have always loved being on the water and had no access to sailing so rowing was a substitute.
A lot of people think that rowing, like sailing, is for posh people. Like sailing this is a misperception. It's actually very down-to-earth. One of the clubs I rowed for, Furnivall Sculling Club epitomized this. The club was started in the late 1890s by Dr James Furnivall, (pictured on the left) one of the co-creators of the Oxford English Dictionary. Furnivall was an enthusiastic waterman. Here is what Wikepedia has to say about that:
Furnivall was always an enthusiastic oarsman, and till the end kept up his interest in rowing; with John Beesley in 1845 he introduced the new type of narrow sculling boat, and in 1886 started races on the Thames for sculling fours and sculling eights. In 1896 Furnivall founded the Hammersmith Sculling Club (now called Furnivall Sculling Club), initially for working-class girls, and he "entered into its activities with his usual boyish enthusiasm, for it brought together two of his favourite activities: vigorous outdoor exercise and enjoyment of the company of young women"
The last point was in keeping with his love life, which accounted for the twinkle in his eye, but I digress too far.
The club's membership was anything but posh. The atmosphere at the club was not like the "stick-you-arse" clubs further down river that will remain nameless. It was a lot of fun.
Every year, the club would buy a couple of new boats. Traditionally, new boats were named after past members. They had respectful but dull names like "Arthur Jones", "Geoffrey Swallows" or occasionally something a bit more rousing like "Triumph".
One year, the club bought a sleek new quad scull. This was a fast boat and would be crewed by four of the club's best rowers.
Naming the boat fell to the crew and a couple of committee members. The traditional naming convention they got together in the pub to ..er brainstorm.
After a few pints of Fullers ESB, the whole notion of giving the boat some boring name after a past member went by the board. They started talking about the more inspirational things a cox would use to encourage the crew. One of them had heard a cox recently shout at the crew:
"I want to you to make this boat move like sh*t off a shovel!"
"How about using cockney rhyming slang?" suggested one of the party. (For those of you who don't know, Cockney Rhyming Slang is a London slang where you rhyme a word with two words and then shorten it. For example, stairs are apples and pears but abbreviated to apples. So you in London you go up the apples.)
They couldn't remember the rhymes for the words in "sh*t off a shovel" so they explored around it. They came up with using Cr*p off a Spade? The cockney rhyming slang for Cr*p is Pony and Trap which abbreviates to Pony. The rhyming slang for Spade is Lemonade which shortens to Lemon.
So they decided to call the boat "Pony Off A Lemon" as in that boat moves so fast it goes like "a Pony (and Trap) Off a Lemon(ade)."
They kept the name a secret till its public unveiling on the following Sunday morning. Most of the club turned out. All were expecting a traditional name. I wasn't there but I wish I had seen the look on the faces of the spectators when they took the covers off.