[ Paraphrased from a Corsair group posting]
The word "taught" often gets confused with "taut." Here are some hints regarding correct
usage of the two words.
"Taught" is the past tense of "teach." Consider the following sentence: "I done teached him all I know and he still don't know nothing." You can improve the sentence by replacing the word "teached" with the word "taught," so that it reads, "I have taught him all I could, and he's still remarkably ignorant."
You can see the improvement.
Now let's look briefly at the other word. "That line was so tight that it done pulled the winch right out of the cabin top." Here, you can replace the word "tight" with the word "taut." That won't help the cabin top or the winch, though, and perhaps this sailor should have reefed earlier.
But be careful, because in the next example you can't reef your sails with a simple replacement of one word for another. "I used that new gasoline-powered blender that I got from Cabela's to make a batch of margaritas, and I've been tight all day." Here, the word tight is used to mean slightly drunk, and it's a slightly out-of-date use of the expression. And yes, that store does sell that product. The engine has 2.5 HP - I'm not kidding!
One thing that you can't do is teach an old rope new tricks. Ropes are pretty stupid. Even if they're expensive ropes. So this is wrong, just plain wrong: "He cranked that winch until the line was so taught that it pulled the mast pivot fittings right out of the cabin-top when he was raising the mast."
It's wrong for several reasons. In this case the narrator alludes to the general fault, that some
teaching has been ineffective, but blames it on over-education of the rope rather than under-education
of the person.
One thing they teach in those Coast Guard classes, and if you've ever taken one then you've been taught this, is that you ought to read the directions. In this case, the Farrier or Corsair Sailing Manuals. Another thing they teach is that rope can't read, no matter how taut it is.
I hope that this discussion has made the whole issue clear now.