I’d been asked by a fellow blogger ‘memyselfandkids‘ where the term ‘Limey’ came from – I had used it to describe myself being that I was talking about the Americas and I am a Brit.
Unlike some people I don’t find the term offensive – I mean there are many words that are used to describe us – the French call us Les Rosbifs, the Aussies call us Poms and although slightly more derogatory we have on occasions been known to the Germans as Inselaffen (Island Apes !).
So all in all Limey isn’t so bad – as for the term ‘Limey’ from what I know it originally applied to British sailors.
In the days before vitamin supplements and fridges, one of the things that sailors suffered terribly from was scurvy, a condition caused by a lack of vitamin C. Vitamin C comes mainly from fresh fruits and vegetables and these foods aren’t exactly easy to come by when you’re floating around the ocean for months at a time – there’s no popping down to the local greengrocers.
So instead of fresh produce, the Royal Navy physicians prescribed lime juice for all sailors to help ward off scurvy – hence the designation of ‘Limeys’. The reason that life provided these sailors with limes and not lemons was mainly due to the prevalence of such in the West Indies and as such they became more accessible – ironically it is a fact that Lemons contain more Vitamin C than Limes and eventually their use overtook that of the Lime however the name stuck – Limey actually sounds better to me than Lemony anyway.
As valuable as any Man o’War the use of performance enhancing citrus juice was initially a closely guarded military secret as being able to be at sea for long periods without contracting scurvy was a huge military benefit. As other Navies struggled to stay at sea as long, it was a case of ‘He who is there rules the waves’.
As often happens over the centuries, terms eventually lose their original context and ‘Limey’ has since been applied to all us British, whether sailors or non-seafaring landlubbers.
As for me, I don’t often go long-haul sailing and thus have never suffered from scurvy, so although not really needing the Vitamin C but making the best of the situation, if life gives me lemons …
I make lemonade …
However I much prefer if life gives me limes …
As then I make margaritas !