I was doing some research on the history behind the newest Disney villian, Davy Jones, and found some interesting information regarding where the term 'Davy Jones' and 'Davy Jones' Locker' comes from. Here's what I found.
Davy Jones' Locker is an idiom for the bottom of the sea — the resting place of drowned seamen. It is used as a euphemism for death at sea (e.g. to be "sent to Davy Jones' Locker"); Davy Jones is a nickname (used primarily by sailors) for what would be the devil of the seas.
The earliest known reference to Davy Jones occurs in The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle by Tobias Smollett, published in 1751:
This same Davy Jones, according to the mythology of sailors, is the fiend that presides over all the evil spirits of the deep, and is often seen in various shapes, perching among the rigging on the eve of hurricanes, ship-wrecks, and other disasters to which sea-faring life is exposed, warning the devoted wretch of death and woe.
He is described as having saucer eyes, three rows of teeth, horns, a tail, and blue smoke coming from his nostrils.
The term appears to have been common among sailors, as the name Davy Jones appears often in popular nautical literature.
As is common with slang, the exact origin of "Davy Jones" is hard to discover. These explanations have been proposed:
This is an expression that is commonly used by sailors. When you say that someone has gone to Davy Jones's locker what you are implying is that the individual drowned at sea; he is at the bottom of the ocean. The idiom can be used with objects as well.
Although the idiom has been part of the English language for well over two centuries, no one is really sure about its origin. Some scholars speculate that Davy Jones or David Jones, was a fearsome pirate. One of the things that he did with his captured prisoners was to make them walk the plank. In other words, he threw them overboard while they were in the middle of the ocean. Result? The prisoners invariably drowned. Another theory is that David Jones was the owner of a pub who often drugged his unsuspecting patrons and sold them off as slaves to ship owners.
The theory that most people are comfortable with is the following: Jones is actually from Jonah, you know the character in the Bible who was swallowed by a whale; and Davy is a corruption of the West Indian word "duppy" meaning "ghost or devil". So Davy Jones is actually the spirit of the sea, the sailor's devil!
We knew that sailors used the phrase to refer to the bottom of the ocean, but we had no clue as to its origin. After entering the phrase "Davy Jones' Locker" in the Yahoo! search bar, we discovered several possibilities:
Michael Quinion's excellent World Wide Words site offers a great quote from Tobias Smollet's The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle (1751): "This same Davy Jones, according to the mythology of sailors, is the fiend that presides over all the evil spirits of the deep...."
One legend suggests that a particularly fiendish pub owner named David Jones used to incapacitate hapless drinkers in his ale locker, and send them off aboard ships. Sounds like a handy way of disposing of your enemies.
Brewer¿s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable offers an interesting linguistic take on the issue: Davy is a bastardization of Duffy, the West Indian term for ghost. Jones comes from Jonah, the prophet who spent a few uncomfortable days lodged in the GI tract of a whale. And a locker, loosely defined, is a place to store valuable things. So the phrase "He's gone to Davy Jones' locker" (i.e., he cashed it in) loosely translates as "He's safe with Duffy Jonah now."
A random Navy Trivia page we stumbled across has some entertaining guesses: Duffer Jones was a notoriously myopic sailor who often found himself overboard. Davy could also come from the horned one himself, the Devil. The shortest sailor on board usually impersonates him during the the Crossing of the Line, a bizarre naval cross-dressing ceremony. The less said, the better.
And finally, we were happy to read that Cool Word of the Daysuggests that Davy comes from St. David, a patron saint of Welsh sailors, and reiterate the Jones/Jonah connection. That sounds reasonable enough to us.
Only the first theory explains the locker. The name may have originated in Wales, where David Jones is a common name.
- A pub owner named David Jones who used to incapacitate hapless drinkers in his ale locker, and send them off aboard ships.
- Duffer Jones, a notoriously myopic sailor who often found himself overboard.
- Davy comes from Duppy, a West Indian term for ghost, or from Saint David, also known as Dewi, the patron saint of Wales, while Jones comes from the prophet Jonah.
- A euphemism for a "Devil Jonah"; Jonah being a term referring to any bad luck on the ocean.
- David Jones, a pirate on the Indian Ocean in the 1630s. - Jan Rogoziński, The Wordsworth Dictionary of Pirates, Ware, Hertfordshire, 1997
In popular culture, Davy Jones is everywhere.
Davy Jones, or Davey Jones is a fictional pirate. He is a main villain in the film Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest , played by Bill Nighy. A villain named Davy Jones appears, along with his crew of undead sailors aboard the Flying Dutchman. He is portrayed as a mutatated cross between a man and a squid, with a wriggling beard of tentacles. His character does seem to be a sea-bound version of the Devil, as he deals with souls, as is common in Devil mythology.
In SpongeBob SquarePants, in one episode, Mr. Krabs is threatened by the Flying Dutchman to be sent to Davy Jones' locker, which is full of gym socks.
In the videogame Banjo-Tooie, in the fourth world the boss (a giant anglerfish called Lord Woo Fak Fak) is inside a locker that says: "D. Jones".
In the beginning of the PC Game The Curse of Monkey Island, the wanna-be pirate Wally describes his toughness by saying "I'm so tough, that in high school I stuffed Davy Jones in his locker!"
In the computer game "Blood Money" (developed by DMA Design published by Psygnosis in 1989), the shops in the under water level bear a sign that says "Davy Jones Equipment Locker".
In the song "Run Silent Run Deep", by Iron Maiden, there is the sentence "The tar black smell of burning oil all the way down to Davy Jones".
In the song "The Irish Ballad", by Tom Lehrer, a girl (among other things) "weighted her brother down with stones and sent him off to Davy Jones".
In the song "Rhymin' and Stealin'" by the Beastie Boys there is a line "Deliver Colonel Sanders down to Davy Jones' locker".
In the comic book series "Hellboy", Davy Jones' locker is an underwater room full of jars in the shapes of men. This room is owned by the villainous Bog Roosh, a fish-like witch that draws her power from the souls of drowned sailors.
In the collectable miniatures game Pirates of the Spanish Main, Davy Jones appears as a unique crew for the Cursed faction.
Most of this information was found at wikipedia.org.