Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Beacon, New York
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It is English in origin.
A cut and paste from an English site,
'Ship-shape and Bristol fashion' is actually two phrases merged into one. Ship-shape came first and has been used since the 17th century. It is recorded in Sir Henry Manwayring's The sea-mans dictionary, 1644:
"It [the rake] being of no use for the Ship, but only for to make her Ship shapen, as they call it."
Bristol fashion was added later and is first seen in print during Bristol's heyday as a trading port, in Richard Dana Jr's Two years before the mast, 1840:
"Everything on board 'ship-shape and Bristol fashion'."
Admiral William Henry Smyth's 1865 Sailor's Word-book - an alphabetical digest of nautical terms, which is a treasure trove of nautically inspired phrases, has a definition of the phrase:
"Said when Bristol was in its palmy commercial days - and its shipping was all in proper good order."
All the best,