Date: 2011-05-30 06:48 pm (UTC)
sharpiefan: Tall ship, sailors in the rigging (Sailors aloft)
From: [personal profile] sharpiefan
As far as I'm aware, 'show a leg' was used in port when the ship was open to wives and sweethearts. When men were required to turn out for duty, the bosun's mates went through the berth-deck calling 'show a leg'. A woman's leg entitled its owner to stay in the hammock rather than getting turned out unceremoniously to go on watch.

And I think it's partly because the sailors of the time were so often barefoot; a woman wouldn't have the sort of dirty tar-stained feet of a sailor. (As well as likely having a more shapely leg).
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The Monstrous Regiment of Women

May 2011

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