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I have a life long interest in the terms and language of sailing. One of the terms I most often hear misused is the word describing what landlubbers call the living room.
So the question is, is it saloon or salon?
Over the past few years I have heard it called a salon more frequently, which is incorrect. It is properly called a saloon. It is the area of the boat where you take your drinks. Now this brings up another point that is interesting but also supports the use of saloon.
During the settling of the “wild west” many people brought terms with them that had sailed to the west coast from the east. It is believed that this was where the term saloon came from for the inn’s that sold liqueur.
Nathaniel Herreshoff, the father of the modern day catamaran and yacht designer from the late 1800′s always referred to the living area as the saloon. Pick up any of his books on yacht design and you will see the references to the “saloon”. In fact pick up any book on yacht design and you will see the reference as saloon, not salon.
From McGraw-Hill Boating Encyclopidia.
Many boaters seem to find the word cabin rather lacking the elegance and significance they associate with their boats. Therefore, they refer to their cabin as a salon, a fancy French term for reception hall or a room filled with perfumed finery. Hairdressers, beauticians, and couturiers have salons; sailors have a saloon. The Encyclopedia of Nautical Knowledge defines a saloon this way: “In a cargo and smaller passenger vessels, the main cabin, or that serving as a dining-room, assembly room, etc.” The Oxford Concise Dictionary describes a saloon as a “public room for first-class or for all passengers on ship.”The only dissonant note is sounded by Webster’s New World Dictionary, which allows the use of both salon and saloon but then confesses that saloon is “specifically, the main social cabin of a passenger ship.” Nevertheless, whereas most sailors use the word saloon, most powerboaters seem to prefer salon. (I knew it!)
So there you have it. You have a drink sitting in the saloon. You have your hair done at the salon.