Tuesday, April 22, 2014

2210 Dereliction

Words drift through my consciousness in different ways. I've floated along using them for years with never a care then one day they bump into my brain like chunks of driftwood into a propeller prop.

Take the words flotsam and jetsam. I've used them as two words meant to indicate the stuff drifting around in the ocean. But why both? Why are they apparently inseparable, like Chip and Dale or yin and yang?

I first heard the terms roughly in the time that the Flintstones and the Jetsons were on TV. I thought they were some sort of garbled southern dialect version of those two names. Like Dixie folks say Luh'vul instead of Louieville or Nah'lins instead of New Orleans.  

But no, they were words on their own. Words used a lot recently with the Malaysian airline disappeared. Leading some to conclude that perhaps jetsam is actually flotsam that comes from jets.

Flotsam and jetsam are used more or less interchangeably in thesauri but there are actually distinctions. I looked it up on the internet and flotsam, jetsam, lagan and derelict are specific maritime terms.

Flotsam is the floating wreckage of a ship or it's cargo. So in this case, if the airplane is found floating, it would be flotsam because it's a ship, not jetsam because it's a jet. 

Jetsam is part of a ship or its cargo that's purposely cast overboard to lighten the load in distress or that sinks and is washed ashore. So if it was purposely crashed or if it sinks the jet is jetsam.

Lagan and derelict are stuff on the bottom.

So by using flotsam and jetsam together I've been derelict in my duty to use words accurately. Sometimes the internet makes me feel like a befuddled castaway.


America, ya gotta love it. 

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