The Scuttlebutt

Welcome to The Scuttlebutt, the Overfalls Foundation blog, where you’ll find our newsletters, articles on activities & events, photos & video clips, additional historical information, and Maritime Hall of Fame information.

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Scuttlebutt, the Water Cooler Talk of 19th Century Seafarers

When office workers catch up on the latest scuttlebutt around the water cooler, they are continuing a long-standing tradition that probably also occurred on the sailing ships of yore. Back in the early 1800s, the cask containing a ship’s daily supply of fresh water was called a scuttlebutt (from the verb scuttle meaning “to cut a hole through” and the noun butt, “cask”); that name was later applied to a drinking fountain on a ship or at a naval installation. In time, the term for the water source was also applied to the gossip and rumors generated around it, and the latest chatter has been called “scuttlebutt” ever since.