Why do Americans call the British ‘limeys’?

The medical, sea-faring origins of this Great British Insult

(Photo by iStock/Getty Images Plus)

In 1757, Scottish surgeon James Lind conducted the world’s first clinical trial, proving lemon or lime juice prevented scurvy, a disease particularly suffered by sailors, caused by a lack of vitamin C. The Royal Navy was persuaded to issue lime juice in its official grog ration and British seamen became the healthiest in the world (for the time).

Advertisement

The term ‘lime-juicers’, considered hilarious by Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans, gradually became ‘limeys’, describing British land-lubbers as well as sailors and eventually losing any connection with the sea. It was then adopted by Americans in the early 20th century.

Advertisement

This article was taken from BBC History Revealed magazine