Word Geek – Push the boat out

After discussing certain phrases, in our multi-cultural office, we realised not everyone was familiar with the common UK phrase “push the boat out”. And as we drift towards the festive season, when traditionally you may “splash out” a little on friends and family, Word Geek wanted to look into the origins of the phrase.

The idiom is generally used to describe spending a bit more money on something then you usually would in order to have an enjoyable time or celebrate something special. E.g. “she really pushed the boat out for her 60th birthday party”.

It is also often used sarcastically, in an informal manner between friends, when someone hasn’t made a lot of effort or spent much money at all E.g. “you really pushed the boat out buying these paper plates for the party!”

The origin of the phrase actually comes from slang used by the Royal Navy in the mid-20th century. It was the figurative term used if someone bought a round of drinks during a naval party. The parties would normally be held before setting off on a voyage.

As boats are usually too big for one person to move, it has always been an act of generosity and kindness to help ‘push the boat out’ from land into water. It is said that the figurative term that was used in the Navy originated from this literal meaning.

This phrase is a great example of how mother-tongue translators can help bridge the gap between languages. Only a mother tongue speaker can truly know all the nuances of their native language, including tone and humour.

Remember, you don’t need to ask us to push the boat out for you, our translators and Project Managers run a tight ship to ensure you receive a first class service every time you work with us. Get in touch with our friendly team, to start a journey over smooth waters with The Language Factory.


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