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If I had to guess, I would have assumed that abeam meant sitting, standing or lying on a beam. It’s a good thing I don’t have to guess because that is not even close to what it means.

Just as aside, I strongly think that we should consider adding that definition. It could come in very handy in some, admittedly, rather rare situations. For example, say you get drunk, break into a high-rise construction site, manage to get to the fifty-second floor, which is the highest the building has risen to so far, and position yourself on an exposed beam, but you’re too drunk to figure out how to get back down. In that case, you’d want to communicate that information to emergency personnel as quickly as possible.

Being able to pull out your cellphone, dial 911, and cry out, “Help! I’m abeam on the top of the such-and-such building,” would take less time than crying out. “Help! I’m standing on a beam on the top of the such-and-such building.” True, it might only save a second, but who knows what could happen in that second while you’re tipsy on a beam at the top of a tall, unfinished building?

With that perfectly rational pitch for a new definition of abeam out of the way, I should mention what abeam really means. It means perpendicular to the length of a ship or airplane. That’s probably of great interest to pilots and sailors, but in the interest of not boring the hell out of everyone else I won’t say anything more about it.

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