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"start my soul-bolts"

(Melville, White Jacket) - an expletive by a 19th-century sailor. Rather specific, but maybe somebody can come up with an equivalent. (Where's the 'nautical' S.E. site, anyway?)

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    Some context is needed. – Hot Licks Dec 22 '18 at 12:41
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    Your soul bolts are those (metaphorical) thing that fasten your soul to your body. If you were to remove them or rip them out, your immortal soul would flee your body... aka you would die. He’s saying “if I’m lying, let God kill me here and now”. Start, I don’t know.. get moving, get initially loosened, somehow make more likely they’ll come free. Side note: there was a kind of punishment aboard ship involving being whipped by a special rope.. that rope was sometimes known as a starter (as in starting a horse with a whip), a teaser, or a toagy. – Dan Bron Dec 22 '18 at 13:56
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    Start also means to jump with surprise (be startled); in an old wooden ship the twisting of the timbers in a heavy sea always brought the risk that a bolt would spring out, and often that was noisy and frightening. – Hugh Dec 22 '18 at 14:23
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    I'd translate 'start' simply as 'break loose' or 'unfasten' and the expression as 'strike me dead, if...' (I ever set foot on a plank again). – A.Berg Dec 22 '18 at 14:47
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    What are you asking? For somebody to explain what the term means—or for an alternative expression? If you're looking for an alternative expression, explain what you think the term means. – Jason Bassford Dec 22 '18 at 15:47

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