The parlance of pilots

Mark Vanhoenacker in Aeon:

Header_Essay-NN11455125I like how different the language of the sky is from everyday English – indeed, we might give it its own name, Aeroese (though it’s also sometimes, and less aspirationally, called Aviation English). Above all, I love how Aeroese can somehow manage, in its technical, obscuring precision, to capture the high romance of flight – an aspect of my job, no matter how much I love it, that in the cockpit we rarely have reason to consider directly.

A prominent feature of Aeroese is its deep nautical roots. Think portand starboard, forward and aft; deck; log; captain and first officer;bulkhead, hold and galley; rudder and tiller; wake; knot; even waves, as in mountain waves, an atmospheric disturbance that can produce turbulence. And of course the word aeronautical itself.

In a profession that, for all its joys, often seems to lack deep traditions, I like that aviation has borrowed much of its language (and its uniforms) from the older world of the sea. This heritage is something I went out of my way to capture in the title of my book, Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot(2015). Seafaring is a word I’ve always loved – it makes me think of icy masts, and charts held in place by oil lamps, and of Herman Melville’sMoby-Dick (1851), written a mile or so from my childhood home in western Massachusetts, which so carefully chronicles and sanctifies the language of the sea. Skyfaring, then, I convinced my editors; a word I thought I’d coined, until I found it was the title of a poem by William Watsonpublished in the late 19th century, some years before the Wright Brothers got airborne.

More here.