Just briefly, there is a book to be found in every sailor's personal library called JACK'S SPEAK.

It gives, or so it claims, a definition [and explanation] of all words and phrases used by Royal sailors in the United Kingdom navy. Some definitions are dubious and some clearly wrong, with several missing completely.

In mid June 2015, and old navy buddy of mine visited a Norfolk public house, and there saw a sign above a door which read "Sod's Opera". Chuffed at seeing this first, he asked the landlord as to its meaning [and application] and the landlord didn't have a satisfactory answer, indeed, no answer at all. David Morris [ex WO Bunting] was in his element - he was centre stage, and did his "kiss me Hardy" and "the boy stood on the burning deck" bit, extolling all the virtues, stories, epistles,  and folk law that he and the navy could muster, delivered, during the next ten hours open to him before chucking out time.  The landlord, between cat naps [such was his enthusiasm and need to receive and subsequently retain David's wisdom] expressed a desire to contact Green King, the Brewery owner of the pub as soon as possible, to have "sod's opera" painted over the top of every other door in the sprawling pub which offered booze, food and accommodation. After all, with such a plausible yarn, surely he could increase this customer level a thousand-fold.

David sent this story and supportive photographs in an email to me and lots of other buddies, and the outcome of that email is the reason for this short web page story, which is entirely self evident. This what I sent back to him


Hi David

Regrettably, for this purpose if nothing else, the navy has a Sods Opera but so too does the civilian world and the navy copied the civilian model which in reality was a pantomime - a mixture of male and female characters, where many of the leading parts are given to men dressed up as women - Dames for example - which could be either "straight" or "lewd" as befitting.

I mentioned this in my booklet [taken from my web page short stories] many moons ago, and some people still use it in their speeches, which believe it or not, they get paid for.

This page will tell you all you need to know about the origins [and antiquity] of the expression SOD'S OPERA  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Augustus_Henry_Sala

When [we] went to sea in the early part of the 20th century and just before - it was used on board HMS Powerful during the second Boer War and possibly before - we coined the expression simply to relate to men taking women's parts - just as London pantomimes and as it still is to this very day - and really it meant odds and sods, and not Ships Operatic Department.  Jack's Speak has much to answer for, as indeed has naval folk law.

I subtend, that your recent visit to a Norfolk pub at which you were offered a door leading to a SODS OPERA is nothing more than a public bar area which welcomes all comers to an enjoyable and knock-about fun, men and women, in fact a cast suitable to make the evening swing in the theatrical sense, which dates from mid Victorian raucous music hall type behaviour. As, I said, the navy copied this, and you may have witnessed an old and original Norfolk pub which represents the day of and influences of  George Augustus Henry Sala, the rightful owner of the Sods Law expression.

Keep and stay happy

Best regards