05 July 2009

Flotsam, Jetsam, now I've got her, boys. The boss is on a roll!

Ok, this is kind of embarrasing. I just recently realized "flotsam and jetsam" were not just the names of the two evil eels in the Little Mermaid. I grew up with the movie and never thought twice about it.

The dictionary has a usage note that says:
In maritime law, flotsam applies to wreckage or cargo left floating on the sea after a shipwreck. Jetsam applies to cargo or equipment thrown overboard from a ship in distress and either sunk or washed ashore. The common phrase flotsam and jetsam is now used loosely to describe any objects found floating or washed ashore. (Also related is lagan, which is debris that sinks.)

They have both undergone several spelling changes through the decades, but etymologically,
  • Flotsam comes from flotasion/floating/floater, spelled flotsen til the mid 19th century, when -some was being added to many English words.
  • Jetsam is a syncopated variation of jettison, which comes from the French, jeter, meaning to throw.

The phrase has been used for many other things in popular culture aside from these characters. Obviously.

1 comment:

Andw said...

I never knew about lagan! How interesting.

This comment's word is "nocepiph," an intense realization upon suddenly waking up.