When Jamaica was annexed (or conquered, or borrowed, whatever Brittania used to do when she ruled the waves) in 1687, the Royal Navy replaced the brandy that it had offered to its sailors on a daily basis for centuries with rum.

The ration was one pint for men and a half pint for boys (hence the term) daily. One suspects that alcohol was the only thing that really kept the men and boys going during those three year cruises of which the Admiralty was so fond. (Let's not go there.)

Goode olde Admiral Vernon, in an effort to dilute the rampant alcoholism that pervaded Britain's proud force for a couple of hundred years, started mixing the rum with water as early as 1740.

The one pint (or half pint) ration was not decreased, merely diluted. Sailors received two pints of grog (half water, half rum), served at noon and six P.M.

This is, I believe, an early and sterling example of military intelligence.

Sailors (and boys) who drank too much were "groggy."

For all sorts of unusual adventures involving boys and men at sea with booze and gunpowder, refer to the exquisite seafaring novels of author Patrick O'Brian.

(r) 2007-08-12@0:27 The Custodian says re Grog: Note: one critical addition to the grog (referenced in said excellent O'Brian novels) is that citrus juice was added to it to ward off scurvy - the grog was the preferred means for administration since the men were guaranteed to drink their share.