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Originally, a nautical command to keep a ship's head to the wind, it now describes the emotionally distant. What word is it?

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Answer: aloof

The word aloof derives from the Dutch loef, the weather side of a ship.

The wisdom buried in the etymology is that during stormy weather you avoid dangerous - and hidden - shores by heading into the weather (i.e. towards the wind).


Luffing one's sails, by turning into the wind, releases the pressure in the sails and reduces heeling and stops forward motion.

More precisely, lying to, setting the sails so that the ship advances slowly but then turns into the wind, luffing the sails and stopping the ship and then drifting off as the sails fill again, the ship advances again but again turns into the wind, and so on, is a storm strategy only if there are many miles between the ship and the rocks because the ship will drift slowly downwind.
rogercumming' at '

I think it was more to avoid being capsized by the wind or driven too fast in any direction.

When you point a sailboat directly into the wind the sail flaps or luffs ineffectually, and the boat moves more slowly through the water than if the sail were smooth and providing lift.
bennetc at

Very interesting, as always. I was further interested to find, on checking the dictionary, that loef also entered English as luff, with the original meaning somewhat altered and expanded but fully recognizable.
dassori0 at feedback

Hi, Moot Guy! I actually guessed the word correctly, but had no idea of the background of it. That's why I love the game! Thanks again!

[Mootguy: Thanks for the plug - the cheque's in the mail]
npetteway at

Interesting! The command now is LUFF, or LUFF UP, probably derived from aloof.
jestrom at

The buried wisdom probably has more to do with the following.

The initial 'a' served as a preposition, usually 'to' or 'toward' (abaft, alow, aweather, alee, etc.). Also in earlier times the ships company tended after a while to take on a certain aroma, not always pleasing to the nose.

The safest place to stand was to the weather of the crew.

Also, the reason the crew's quarters (and head) were at the forepeak is that on the most usual points of sailing the ship's bow was well downwind of the captain's quarters (and the poopdeck), unlike the modern jagt.

In fact the captains often insisted on remaining aloef. Kinda stands to reason, doesn't it?
jlhannah at

Hey, I guessed this one correctly! I think of the Moot questions as particularly difficult (so it's even more fun to get one right), so I am quite pleased with myself this time.

Thanks to everyone for the great explanations for this question.
redgilette at

In that case, what did sailors used to use to clean off their ship's head/prow? Must have been aloofa.
pillstone123 at

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