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Word Nerd: Tide

Published on March 16, 2017 7:00AM

Clammers walk the beach during low tide.

Chinook Observer file photo

Clammers walk the beach during low tide.

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By RYAN HUME

Tide [tīd]

noun

1. The twice daily rise and fall of the sea due to pull of the sun and the moon. Each high and low tide lasts about 12 hours

verb (archaic)

2. to drift, or ebb and flow, as in with the tide

Origin:

Enters English before 1121 from the Old English, tīd, which referred to a portion of time. Its original meaning in English was synonymous with the word “season,” as in a fixed segment of the year. The first reference of the term being applied to the swell of the ocean is recorded in 1340.

“More especially is this true of the tide lands, which form such a large and valuable percentage of Clatsop’s area. While the work of clearing from timber the land farther back is laborious and expensive — involving in some cases a cost of $100 dollars an acre — the dyking of the tide lands, though no less costly, insures at once an area of tillable soil convenient to market and capable of growing any cereal except Indian corn, and any root or grass known to man.”

—Geo. B. Loring, U.S. Commissioner of Agriculture, ​“Clatsop County Tide Lands,” The Daily Astorian, Saturday, Aug. 9, 1884, P. 3

“It is claimed that on the tide lands at and above Knappa, cranberries can profitably cultivated.”

—​“Clatsop’s Great Land Wealth,” The Daily Morning Astorian, Friday, Dec. 4, 1896, P. 1

“According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word ‘tide’ originally meant ‘a portion, extent, or space of time; an age, a season, a time, a while’ and could also mean ‘a point in the duration of the day, month or year ... in reference to an action or repetition; occasion.’ You might recall those archaic words like ‘morrow-tide,’ ‘noontide’ or ‘eventide’ — now we call them morning, noon and evening, but back then ‘tide’ helped to distinguish a specific part of a day. This sense of the word is still with us, such as in the phrase ‘good tidings,’ which refers to a good event.

Thus, in the adage ‘time and tide wait for no man,’ the two words were originally an alliterative reduplication: synonyms that sounded good next to each other and emphasized the phrase’s meaning through repetition.

The word ‘tide’ began to more exclusively mean ‘tide of the sea’ around 1500. This modern definition probably stems from the meaning ‘the time of high water’ or the space of time between low and high water. The meaning may have been borrowed from a similar Middle Low German word. Or the transference of sense could have gradually happened over the years, much like the changes wrought by an ebbing tide to a shoreline.

It all goes to show that the message behind the words is real. Not even language is immune to the flow of time.”

—Sedlak, Rebecca, ​“New in town: ‘Time and tide wait for no man,’” Coast Weekend, Thursday, Dec. 26, 2012, P. 3



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