Why do Americans call the British ‘limeys’?

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

Why Americans call the British 'limeys' © Getty Images

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.

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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). 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.