Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Episode 114: In the Same Boat Show Notes

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Bunny Trails: A Word History Podcast

Episode 114: In the Same Boat 

Record Date: June 18, 2021

Air Date: June 23, 2021



Welcome to Bunny Trails, a whimsical adventure of idioms and other turns of phrase. 

I’m Shauna Harrison


And I’m Dan Pugh

Every week, we take an idiom, or other turn of phrase, and try to tell the story from its entry into the English language, to how it’s used today.

This week much of the United States commiserating together, specifically over the heat where temperatures of 40 degrees celsius, 104 Fahrenheit are baking the Midwest. And Death Valley in the Southwest US has hit over 51 celsius, 124 Fahrenheit. The only consolation is we are all in the same boat. Which is, of course, our phrase for today. 

But this phrase has begun to shift its usage a bit recently. But we’ll get to that later as we discuss if we are really all in the same boat or not. 


From the OED

a. to be in the same boat and variants: to face the same circumstances as others, esp. to be in the same predicament; to face the same difficulties or risks.

The first attestation, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, in an English translation of a French work, Thomas Hudson’s Du Bartas’ Historie of Judith in forme of a poeme. It was written in 1584 and translated in 1608. 

Haue ye paine? so likewise paine haue we: For in one bote we both imbarked be.

The French phrase it was translated from, en mesme navire, would today literally translate into “in the same ship”


Thomas Taylor · Valew of True Valour

He is in the same boate which is tossed and threatned with the tempest, and is someway interessed in the common cause, and quarrell.

(According to the Century Dictionary, VALEW is just an old spelling of value.)


Edward Ward · Nuptial dialogues and debates: or, An useful prospect of the felicities and discomforts of a marry'd life, digested into poems, by the author of the London-spy

Therefore the Sinner, and the Saint, Are often in the self-same Boat.


Here’s a definition of the phrase from 1885 in the Progressive Dictionary of the English Language, a Supplementary Wordbook to All Leading Dictionaries of the United States and Great Britain, by Samuel Fellows

I love finding our phrases defined, because most of the time all we get is context clues from them being used in sentences. But when we can find it used in a dictionary it really helps understand what it meant at that point in time. And it means roughly the same today as it did in 1885. 

Here’s an example of two newspapers fighting by putting stuff in the paper… This is out of the Western Kansas World, which is out of WaKeeney Kansas. My great-great grandma lived in Trego County in 1887. Which is a wild thought to me right now that my great-great grandmother, who has been dead for 70 years, was likely reading this very article as an 18 year old woman that I am about to read to you right now. 

1913 - Here is one from the newspaper comics, or as my grandpa called them “the funnies”. It was titles Osgar and Adolf are in the same boat. Since this was from 1913, it would have been before the first world war, so Adolf would not have had any negative connotations. The text is written phonetically as if someone was speaking English with a heavy German accent. I will not read it in that way because it makes me slightly uncomfortable to do so. I don’t know if it would be offensive or not, but since I feel uncomfortable about it, I’m just not gonna do it. To set this up, Oscar appears to be eating food at Adolfs expense, and Adolf doesn’t appear happy about it.  

1944 - This one is an ad for war bonds to help in WW2. It’s out of Detroit and has an image of 5 people, presumably supposed to be your everyday people on it. It has a pre-teen boy, a housewife, a male butcher/baker, a male business person in a suit, and a male railroad or factory worker, and they are all in a row boat on stormy seas, but they are smiling and rowing towards the sun whose rays spell victory and you can see 1944 within the corona of the sun.

Of course, all 5 of these people are white, despite the population of Detroit being almost 17% non-white at the time, according to the 1950 census data. 

Let’s do one more. This one is from a political ad. I’ll read just a bit of it here, but our Patrons can hear more about this great ad in the behind the scenes video of the show, which is available to Patrons at any level, whether you support us with $1 a month or $100 a month.

From 1950

Before we get to the more modern examples, we want to give a shout out to the folks who make this show possible!

A Quick Thank You


This episode is sponsored by our amazing Patrons. 

Bunny Trails is and will always be free. But we are only able to make this content because of the awesome support of our Patrons like Pat Rowe and Mary Halsig-Lopez. 

Because of Pat, Mary, and many others, you don’t have to pay a dime to enjoy Bunny Trails week after week. But even though Dan and I volunteer our time, there are still real costs to making this show, including hosting fees, equipment maintenance, domain costs, and more. 

And we turn to you, our listening community, to help cover those costs. To do that, we use Patreon, a service that allows you to support the creators and artists you love. Our patrons get exclusive behind the scenes content, early access to episodes, and access to our videos so you can actually watch along as Dan and I make the show. 

If you are in a financially stable place, and would like to support this educational artform, we encourage you to check out the options. We are bunnytrailspod on Patreon, or find links to everything we do at

Modern Uses

2016 Movie

In the Same Boat, a documentary - Originally released in Spain in 2016

A look at the economic paradox of technological unemployment, wherein modern society focuses on creating jobs, but technology offers people the unique opportunity to work less and less.

I bet there are some interesting updates to this argument in a COVID world.

2017 Song

Same Boat, by Swedish singer, songwriter, and musician Albin Lee Meldau This was the first released single off the album About You

I would die

I wouldn't sleep

I would cry

I would weep

When the night is coming

And I'm missing my babe

Knowing we're all in the same boat

2019 Art

I saw an acrylic on canvas artwork called “They Were in the Same Boat” by British artist Alan Fears.  It depicts a brown-skinned male and female fishing on a boat called “The Same Boat”. It measures  roughly 35 inches wide by 35 tall and is for sale now on for just $7,800 USD. You can get prints of it, too, if the original is a little outside of your price range. 

2021 Book

In the Same Boat, by Holly Green - release date of July 20, 2021 

Sadie Scofield is just a few days away from the race of a lifetime. The Texas River Odyssey may be 260 miles and multiple days of arduous canoeing where every turn of the river reveals new dangers-downed trees, alligators, pitch black night-but those dangers pale in comparison to going another year knowing that her father is ashamed of her.

Last year, Sadie caused a disastrous wreck that ended her father's twenty year streak of finishes, and he's never looked at her the same. Now, she knows that finishing the race with her brother, Tanner, is her one shot to redeem herself. She's ready for anything...except Tanner ditching her for another team at the last minute.

Sadie grits her teeth and accepts that she has to team up with Cully, her former best friend turned worst enemy. It's irritating enough that he grew up to be so attractive, but once they're on the river it turns out he's ill-prepared for such a dangerous race. But as the miles pass, the pain of the race builds, they uncover the truth about their feuding families, and Sadie's feelings for Cully begin to shift. Could this race change her life more than she ever could have imagined?

With an unforgettable heroine and an immersive setting, Holly Green's captivating debut promises heart-stopping action and a swoony romance that will leave you cheering.

Wrap up...

As I alluded to at the beginning of the show, the phrase has begun to shift. While it is still widely regarded as meaning “to face the same difficulties or risks”, the phrase has occasionally become a stand-in for boot-strapping, which is a shortened form of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, which means to get yourself out of a problem, seemingly without assistance. All in the same boat, then, is sometimes being used to blame a person for not being able to take a similar action as a more fortunate person does. For example, A few months ago I heard someone saying they hadn’t been able to go get the COVID vaccine because the hours the clinic was open didn’t line up with their time off between their two jobs. This person worked 14 hours a day, two jobs, with Sundays off. Another person, a well-paid professional, dismissed her,  saying, “We’re all in the same boat. You just have to make it a priority.” And I felt this was a bastardization of the idiom. Because in this case, we weren’t all in the same boat. We might be on the same body of water. But this guy was clearly in a yacht. And this lady was in a tiny rowboat. They were most certainly NOT in the same boat. 

But there is a similarly sounding phrase as in the same boat, and that is to sail in the same boat, sometimes said as to pull, or to row in the same boat. This one, according to the OED, means

to act together or in concert; to adopt the same position on a matter; to pursue the same ends.

It appears to have originated in the early 1800s. And I think I like the message of this one even better. So maybe instead of telling people we are in the same boat, we should shift to rowing or sailing together in the same boat. That seems like a much more equitable arrangement. 



That’s about all the time we have for today. If you have a modern example of this phrase we should have included this week, we’d love to hear about it! Reach out to us on any of our social media accounts: Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram all @bunnytrailspod, or comment on our website


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Thanks for joining us. We’ll talk to you again next week. And until then remember... 


Words belong to their users.

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