So, then, we see that of all ships separately sailing the sea, the whalers have most reason to be sociable- and they are so. Whereas, some merchant ships crossing each other’s wake in the mid-Atlantic, will oftentimes pass on without so much as a single word of recognition, mutually cutting each other on the high seas, like a brace of dandies in Broadway; and all the time indulging, perhaps, in finical criticism upon each other’s rig. As for Men-of-War, when they chance to meet at sea, they first go through such a string of silly bowings and scrapings, such a ducking of ensigns, that there does not seem to be much right-down hearty good-will and brotherly love about it at all. As touching Slave-ships meeting, why, they are in such a prodigious hurry, they run away from each other as soon as possible. And as for Pirates, when they chance to cross each other’s cross-bones, the first hail is- „How many skulls?“- the same way that whalers hail- „How many barrels?“ And that question once answered, pirates straightway steer apart, for they are infernal villains on both sides, and don’t like to see overmuch of each other’s villanous likenesses.
Herman Melville: Moby-Dick or The Whale