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July 1998


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"A LISTSERV list for discussions pertaining to New York State history." <[log in to unmask]>
Ed Martin <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 30 Jun 1998 21:58:06 -0400
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"A LISTSERV list for discussions pertaining to New York State history." <[log in to unmask]>
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At 08:31 PM 6/29/98 EDT, you wrote:
>     The words "pier," "slip," "dock," "wharf," etc., have or had very
>specific meanings.  A true "dock" is the same as a slip.
>...English Dictionary.

From Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913)
 An opening or space for vessels to lie in, between wharves or in a dock;
as, Peck slip. [U. S.]
I notice the [U. S.] tag on this specific 14th definiton of slip.  MAYBE
that's why it's not in the ENGLISH Dictionary.

Why would it be specifically U. S.?  If you can't endure supposition, skip
the rest.

I know the term is still heard in NYC, and since THAT town was one of the
first large New World ports, the expression may well go back to NYC's
earliest English colonial days, supporting a NYC origin for the term.
I read that NY people long ago complained about the slips infringing on the
streets.  Were they actually dug as inlets, where shoreline space on an
island was extremely valuable?  My 1848 map of the piers actually shows
Coenties Slip as such an inland intrusion.  That slip is within the
earliest settlement area, as were Burling Slip, Peck Slp, and Old Slip.

Also, trans-East River ferry service would have been a very early-on
NYC-Brooklyn activity.  Ferry-slip is still a common expression!  When I
lived in NYC I only heard the term used for dockings where the ship was
embraced closely on 3 sides and we got off at the bow.
Did such peculiar dockings exist in Britain?  If not, it might explain at
least its absence from the English dictionary.

Now I'm going to have to find out if the origin goes back to some simple
everday expression like, Don't slip down the ramp where the ship comes in.
(Inclined ramps did exist to secure small craft.)

Edward Martin