I was standing abaft the binnacle


Trying an action which arose from the collision of two ships at sea, a sailor who gave an account of the accident said, “At the time I was standing abaft the binnacle.”

Where is abaft the binnacle – where is abaft the binnacle?” asked Lord Mansfield; upon which the witness, who had taken a large share of grog before coming into court, exclaimed loud enough to be heard by all present: “A pretty fellow to be a judge, who doesn’t know where abaft the binnacle is!”

Lord Mansfield, instead of threatening to commit him for contempt said: “Well, my friend, fit me for my office by telling me where abaft the binnacle is; you have already shown me the meaning of half-seas over.”

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(Credit: Law and Laughter)