Wednesday, 27 October 2010

ABC Wednesday O is for Offing

Frequently I hear myself saying of something, 'It's in the offing' and then wondering why I've said it. I know that I mean 'It's on its way' or 'It will happen soon' but the 'offing' is actually the most distant part of the sea that can be seen.
It is variously defined as 'The part of the sea visible from shore that is very distant or beyond anchoring ground', or 'it is said of a ship 'visible at sea from the land'.
'"The offing" is the part of the sea that can be seen from land, excluding those parts that are near the shore. Early texts also refer to it as "offen" or "offin".Someone who was watching out for a ship to arrive would first see it approaching when it was "in the offing" and expected to dock before the next tide'.
And now I feel a touch of John Masefield coming on. In his poem, 'Sea Fever' he wrote, 'I must down to the seas again' but in his own poetry reading he added 'go' and all the versions I've heard have rendered it thus.It makes more sense since 'down' is not a verb!
John Masefield (1878 - 1967) was Poet Laureate from 1930 until his death in 1967. He wrote this poem when he was 22.
I don't know the name of the reader but I think he has a lovely, mellifluous voice.


  1. What an interesting post for the O Day, Janice! I love the poem and the reading, really beautiful! Hope your week is going well!


  2. That was a lovely listen ..Thank you

  3. when things are in the offing, do they EVER arrive?

    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

  4. I didn't know what the offing was either - an interesting word!

  5. So that's the origin of that saying. I've heard it many times and said it myself many times, meaning "it's coming soon" etc.
    And I love John Masefield. The Unknown Reader does have a good voice for this, one of my favourite poems.

  6. It's in the offin means soon but really is far away! Nice way to put someone or something off!

  7. Ah, yes. I went to sea for four years and I used to recite Masefield's poem during storms.

  8. I had no idea where that word originated - but I've used it a few times. I remember my grandmother using it and I doubt she knew its actual meaning.

  9. I found the reader had a very hypnotic voice Janice, especially reading one of my favorite poems. I don't remember having heard the word 'offing' before, and I am glad to learn something new. Thank you.

  10. Great choice for O! I always wondered where that phrase came from! Loved the reciting of the poem as well!

  11. what a wonderfully interesting post
    I can now imagine myself using the word

  12. There..another word that i never knew meant what you talked about today!
    distant part of the sea?...hmmm..

    about JM's poem..I once,back in school,used to wonder if that was a typist's error!!


  13. That I never knew. It is amazing how many sayings we use that employ words and phrases that have lost their original meaning.
    Only the other day friends were discussing the phrase - I have seen more (insert items) "than you can shake a stick at". We remain baffled.

  14. I think this is fascinating! I've always known the expression, but not the background of how it came about. As a teacher, I love learning something new every day. So thanks for that. Have a great week! :D

  15. The origin of words is always so interesting. I had never heard where this word came from. I also love that poem. I have a love for the sea, even though I have only been on it a few times. I know what he means by the sea calling.

  16. I agree that the reader has a wonderful voice.

    I'm amazed that someone 22 could write such good poetry.

  17. Wow--two gifts in one! I'd often wondered about the origins/meaning of "it's in the offing," which I've used most of my life without knowing exactly what I was talking about. So thanks for the history--and for the poem. I had to memorize it as a child, and hadn't heard it in years--but love it still.

  18. Loved the poem - this was my FIL's favourite.



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