Why Do They Say ‘Weigh Anchor’?

Christopher Columbus cried, “‘Weigh Anchor.’ A few minutes later a crewman reported, ‘Two-thousand, one-hundred thirty-six pounds’.”

Cute joke when Flip Wilson did his old routine but it is actually a play-on-words. To ‘weigh anchor’ means to bring it aboard to get ready to depart.

The verb ‘weigh’ refers to ‘bear’ or ‘move’ giving it many shades of interpretation including ‘weight’ or heaviness.

In 1906 Charles Zimmerman, a Navy Lieutenant and Bandmaster of the United States Naval Academy Band, was asked to write the music for ‘Anchors Aweigh’, by lyricist Alfred Miles, a Midshipman.  In 1926 Royal Lovell, another Midshipman, added a third verse. It became the well-known fight song for the Naval Academy.

Confusion sometimes sets in when ‘Anchors Aweigh’ is misspelled ‘Anchors Away’ causing the misunderstanding that it means ‘to drop anchor’ (away anchor) which is the complete opposite of the true meaning.

Hopefully those handling anchors are good spellers.

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