Since this debate began, I've heard from any number of people...and any number
of military types who actually would be in a position to either hear this, or
And it's totally a reasonable line. Some, including former commanders on
shipboard and ordinary sailer-types noted that there are two Really Worrisome
Orders: the first is "Emergency speed," which means "kill warning bells,
disable safety systems, give her everything she's got and let me know just
beore the engines burn out."
The other is...ramming speed. Which means "kill warning bells, disable safety
systems, full emergency speed, today is a good day to die."
The basic delineation is that when you're in battle, you use the bare miminum
of words to express what you're trying to say, because seconds can mean the
difference between life and death and success and failure.
One could, indeed, make the longer, more involved statements others have said
they'd've preferred...but by that time, there would be no surviving ship to
give the order to. Further, you want to give the crew the minimum possible
time to think about what these orders *mean*...so you keep it short and sharp
and rely on their training to get them to do what the order implies.
Yes, it's an old-fashioned term...but there's such a thing as tradition in
military language, where ships have decks even though they're not wooden decks
anymore...and there isn't a naval officer anywhere who on leaving port doesn't
say "set sail," even though he could be commanding a nuclear vessel without a
sail in sight.
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