at my yard-arm gymnastics

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Senior Member
Hi folks, this is cited from Redburn by Hermann Melville (1849)
Q: he makes an irony, right? He likens his situation to a gymmastics athtlete?

But I was not many days at sea, when I found that my shore clothing, or "long togs," as the sailors call them, were but ill adapted to the life I now led. When I went aloft, at my yard-arm gymnastics, my pantaloons were all the time ripping and splitting in every direction, particularly about the seat, (butt part?) owing to their not being cut sailor-fashion, with low waistbands, and to wear without suspenders.
  • Chez

    Senior Member
    English English
    It's not irony, but yes, he is comparing the climbing and balancing he has to do on the yardarm of the ship to gymnastic movements.

    the seat = the backside/bottom/butt of a pair of trousers


    Senior Member
    English - England
    It certainly requires some gymnastic ability. Has he become part of the crew? Why is he at the yard-arm? Is he working there?

    Picture - working at the yard arm


    Senior Member
    English (northeastern US)
    "Gymnastics" might imply that he's spending a lot of effort moving around safely on the yardarm and not getting much actual work done up there.
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