Shiver me timbers is a popular expression associated with pirates, used to express awe and astonishment.
The phrase refers to the wooden support frames of ships; sailors would call “timbers”.
While on the high seas, these timbers would be shaken by massive waves, strong winds as well as the occasional impact of an enemy cannonball.
“Shiver me timbers” refers to the feeling of dread one would experience in these situations, with the feeling of one’s living space being exposed to the risk of sinking and drowning all onboard.
While it is a matter of a long debate whether actual pirates and sailors would use the expression in the 16th and 17th centuries, “shiver me timbers” is still accredited to them.
The first documented cases of the expression, however, didn’t emerge until the 19th century, when pirate stories and novels would become fashionable in Victorian England, with the most iconic of these being Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island”, published in 1883.
The popularity of pirate movies, books and games caused “shiver me timbers” to spread far and wide during the 20th century.
One of the most prominent uses of “shiver me timbers” comes from the 1950 Disney motion picture adaptation of “Treasure Island”, directed by Byron Haskin.
- Historyextra.com – What is the origin and meaning of the pirate expression ‘shiver me timbers’?