Great Sayings Revisited: Walking the plant

Plant
Nice plant. Now, take it for a walk!

To walk the plant, during the Age of Discovery and all that other pirate stuff, has gone down in legend as a legendary thing to do. This isn’t so much a saying, let us point that out, but a thing to do – just so we’re clear! Simply put, back in the past plants were taken on board pirate ships and then it was someone’s job to walk the plant several times a day.

Of course, this not being much of a macho task, the plant walker was generally considered to be one of the lowliest forms of scum known to humanity. However, the walker was paid for his/her work so generally got on with walking the plant around the ship. Their job title was “Official Plant Walker” and they were paid the modern equivalent of 1p an hour. Oh, the humanity.

Walk the plank

The plants enjoyed the walk, of course, but if the Official Plant Walker refused to walk the plant then there would be disastrous consequences (usually involving scurvy). However, there were more drastic measures in place as, you know, these were pirates we’re on about and they’re pretty bloody evil.

During our research, we also came across the lesser known term “walk the plank”, which was apparently a way of executing bad pirates. Now, naturally, when one pirate was walking the plank, if another pirate was walking the plant then everyone concerned had to be be careful not to:

  • A – Upset the plant
  • B – Accidentally kill the plant walker
  • C – Let the pirate supposed to be walking the plank off

Due to the illiteracy of the era, this was rather difficult to achieve and it’s believed many hundreds of innocent plant walkers were tossed into the ocean for no good reason. Indeed, some plants even got wrapped up in the disorder and you had the unusual sight of a person walking the plant and then walking the plank.

Regardless, in 70% of cases the plant walker would usually complete his or her task without dying hideously. The plant, suitably refreshed, would then go about doing its thing without interfering with pirate antics such as ram-raiding other ships and gargling grog.

Modern Pirates and Plants

Modern pirates, as portrayed in films such as Captain Philips and Parrots of the Caribbean, don’t have planks anymore and, thusly, there’s no need for plants on board most modern ships. As a result, walking the plant has dropped out of modern vernacular. This is a shame, as taking a plant pot for a walk is quite the wholesome activity.

Planks are also out of favour these days and walking the plank is no longer a useful form of anything. Indeed, if you have a plank about your home (such as if you’re a student and you stole one), then you’re quite the Hipster and should get rid of it immediately. Sling it outside with the plants, where ancient history belongs.

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