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Copper-Bottomed : Phrases


Genuine - something that can be relied on.



It is unusual for an idiomatic phrase to have such a literal derivation as this. 'Copper-bottomed' originally described ships that were fitted with copper plating on the bottom of their hulls. The process was first used on ships of the British Navy in 1761 to defend them against wood-boring insects and to reduce infestations by barnacles.

On 18th August 1780, The Edinburgh Advertiser published an extract of a letter from a Falmouth sailor to his father:

"My dear Father, We sailed from Spithead, on Monday 7th, and on Thursday 10th, fell in with the Nymph, one of the proudest frigates of France, copper-bottom, and on the look-out."

It wasn't long before the phrase began to be used figuratively, to refer to anything that was reliable and trustworthy. Washington Irving, in his work 'Salmagundi', 1807, included this line:

"The copper-bottomed angel at Messrs. Paff's in Broadway."

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