dead horse

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Obsolete term used by seamen to describe the period of work on board ship for which they had been paid in advance when signing their articles. Having worked off the dead horse the crew celebrated by parading around the decks an effigy of a horse stuffed with straw. The parade was accompanied by the song ‘Old man, your horse must die’, before the effigy was hoisted to the yardarm and then cut adrift to fall into the sea. In ships where passengers were carried, the stuffed horse was often put up to auction among them before being cut adrift, the money being divided among the crew. To flog a dead horse, to expect, vainly, to get extra work out of a ship's crew while they are working off the dead horse.

See also horse latitudes.

See also horse latitudes.

Subjects: Maritime History.

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