Sunday 27 December 1668

(Lord’s day). Walked to White Hall and there saw the King at chapel; but staid not to hear anything, but went to walk in the Park, with W. Hewer, who was with me; and there, among others, met with Sir G. Downing, and walked with him an hour, talking of business, and how the late war was managed, there being nobody to take care of it, and telling how, when he was in Holland, what he offered the King to do, if he might have power, and they would give him power, and then, upon the least word, perhaps of a woman, to the King, he was contradicted again, and particularly to the loss of all that we lost in Guinny. He told me that he had so good spies, that he hath had the keys taken out of De Witt’s pocket when he was a-bed, and his closet opened, and papers brought to him, and left in his hands for an hour, and carried back and laid in the place again, and keys put into his pocket again. He says that he hath always had their most private debates, that have been but between two or three of the chief of them, brought to him in an hour after, and an hour after that, hath sent word thereof to the King, but nobody here regarded them. But he tells me the sad news, that he is out of all expectations that ever the debts of the Navy will be paid, if the Parliament do not enable the King to do it by money; all they can hope for to do out of the King’s revenue being but to keep our wheels a-going on present services, and, if they can, to cut off the growing interest: which is a sad story, and grieves me to the heart. So home, my coach coming for me, and there find Balty and Mr. How, who dined with me; and there my wife and I fell out a little about the foulness of the linen of the table, but were friends presently, but she cried, poor heart! which I was troubled for, though I did not give her one hard word. Dinner done, she to church, and W. How and I all the afternoon talking together about my Lord Sandwich’s suffering his business of the prizes to be managed by Sir R. Cuttance, who is so deep in the business, more than my Lord knows of, and such a loggerhead, and under such prejudice, that he will, we doubt, do my Lord much wrong. In the evening, he gone, my wife to read to me and talk, and spent the evening with much pleasure, and so to supper and to bed.

17 Annotations

Chris Squire   Link to this

‘loggerhead 1.a. A thick-headed or stupid person; a blockhead.
1595 Enq. Tripe-wife (1881) 168 That shee should sweare‥that she would neuer marrie with the Grocer he was such a logger-head.
1598 Shakespeare Love's Labour's Lost iv. iii. 202 Ah you whoreson loggerhead, you were borne to do me shame.
. . 1708 T. Hearne Remarks & Coll. (1886) II. 107 A pitifull, sneaking, whining Puritan, related to ye Loggerhead at Lambeth.
. . 1790 E. Malone Note on Twelfth Night in Plays & Poems Shakspeare IV. 33 The picture of we three?... I believe Shakspeare had in his thoughts a common sign, in which two wooden heads are exhibited, with this inscription under it: ‘We three loggerheads be’. The spectator or reader is supposed to make the third.
’ [OED]

Jenny   Link to this

We use the term (in New Zealand) "at loggerheads" to describe an argument which isn't going to have a resolution any time soon.

Australian Susan   Link to this

@Jenny - and in Australia - and UK (well, when i lived there!)

Mary   Link to this

At loggerheads.
Still in use in that same way in UK.

Tony Eldridge   Link to this

that ever the debts of the Navy will be paid, if the Parliament do not enable the King to do it by money;

"by money"? A curious expression, implying there might be another means of paying off the debts. Presumably the poor seamen could be abandoned but how would the merchants be satisfied?

Australian Susan   Link to this

"by money", I think, means "cash upfront" not promissory notes, treasury bonds, tickets etc.

Terry Foreman   Link to this

At loggerheads is also in common use in the US.

JWB   Link to this

Crown debts to the Penn's estate paid with land in America.

Betsy   Link to this

I, too, struggled with a stained tablecloth on Christmas. But I used a vase to hide the stain. All was well. Glad nobody called me out on it though.

Robert Gertz   Link to this

Downing, ace of spies... Interesting that he's so open with Sam, but I suppose it's no fun being a spymaster if you can't tell anyone.

"Of course Pepys you realize I shall not only deny all of this but have you quietly killed should you breath a word...But a very happy holiday season to you." Downing, cheerily.

"Yes, Sir George." Sam, bit perplexed...And annoyed...

Not like I asked him to tell me all the secrets of our nascent secret service...

"Edgar." Downing nods to Sam's cab driver...Sam staring...

Even I didn't know his name was Edgar...

"And tell that sweet wife of yours to mind where she does her rosary..." shrewd nod.

Jenny   Link to this

So how did "loggerhead" meaning a stupid person transform itself into "at loggerheads". Perhaps it means that that the people involved in the argument are a couple of blockheads!

Mary   Link to this

At loggerheads.

Perhaps this arose because the loggerheaded participants in an argument were seen as too obstinately thick-headed to be able to see anything other than their own points of view.

languagehat   Link to this

1580s, "stupid person, blockhead," from dial. logger "heavy block of wood." Later it meant "a thick-headed iron tool" (1680s), a type of cannon shot, a type of turtle (1650s). Loggerheads "fighting, fisticuffs" is from 1670s, but the exact notion is uncertain, perhaps it suggests the heavy tools used as weapons. The phrase at loggerheads "in disagreement" is first recorded 1831."

John Ryan   Link to this

In a Patrick O'Brien book I read, a loggerhead was a rod with a ball on the end. It was put into the ship's fire, then used when hot to melt tubs of pitch, to caulk the ship.

Sailors used to occasionally fight with them ,hence the phrase 'to be at loggerheads'

languagehat   Link to this

I love P O'B, but he is not an authority on etymology.

Andrew Hamilton   Link to this

P O'B may not have been far off the mark. OED gives several definitions pertinent to this discussion. (1) is a synonym for blockhead, but (3) describes an heavy-headed instrument used for melting pitch and (8) suggests that to be "at loggerheads" may refer to a duel with such instruments.
From the OED DVD:


1. a. A thick-headed or stupid person; a blockhead.
3. a. An iron instrument with a long handle and a ball or bulb at the end used, when heated in the fire, for melting pitch and for heating liquids.
8. pl. in various phrases. †to fall, get, go to loggerheads: to come to blows. to be at loggerheads: to be contending about differences of opinion; also, rarely, to come to loggerheads.
[The use is of obscure origin; perh. the instrument described in 3, or something similar, may have been used as a weapon.]

Australian Susan   Link to this

No. 3 might be the reason for naming the loggerhead turtle - its head and neck suggesting the instrument??

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