A slang term meaning rumor or gossip.

Drinking water on a sailing ship was usually stored in a scuttled butt: a butt or cask which had been “scuttled” by making a hole in it so that water could be released. Since sailors exchanged gossip when they gathered at the scuttlebutt for a drink of water, scuttlebutt became Navy slang for gossip or rumours. That corresponds to the water cooler in an office, where people often gather for discussion and exchange of news, personal and otherwise.

“Hoisting the scuttlebutt” is an event Sea Scouts participate in during regattas such as the Old Salts Regatta. In this event, a 50-gallon drum of water is lifted 3 feet off the ground using a block and tackle and a tripod. The tripod is constructed from three spars, which are tied together by “head-lashing.” The block and tackle is suspended from the top of the tripod, which is then erected by the crew. A barrel hitch is tied around the drum, which is then lifted off the ground. Then it must be lowered and the equipment “broken down” back to its original condition. 

Time stops when all crew members are back in line and called to attention by the coxswain. There are three runs per crew, and the crew with the fastest time wins. Disqualification can occur when water is spilled or if any of the crew other than the coxswain (and sometimes the barrel hitchers) talk. A run under a minute is generally considered good, though times much lower than this have been seen in competition.

This modern event is based on activities that crews used to frequently have to perform on ships. Water or other goods would be stored below deck. A tripod would be put up on the deck over an open hatch, and the cargo lifted up out of the stores.

Thanks to cell phones and email, scuttlebutt is now enjoyed everywhere.

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