What’s the Word #18 – Flotsam/Jetsam

March 17, 2016 at 12:02 am | Posted in Today's Reasons To Celebrate | Leave a comment

I chose two words, flotsam and jetsam, today because although they have different but similar meanings, they are often used interchangeably.

flotsam  is debris from the wreckage of a ship and its cargo found floating on the water or washed ashore. It can also be used generally to describe unimportant or unwanted items. Additionally, it is used to describe people who have been rejected and are regarded as worthless. Here is the dictionary.com definition of flotsam.

Flotsam originated in the early 17th century: from Anglo-Norman French floteson, from floter ‘to float’.

Examples:

  1. Many a treasure has been found by young children in the flotsam found along a beach.
  2. Sifting through the flotsam in my strorage shed, I found myself engulfed in memories, unable to part with any of the treasures from my youth.
  3. The ruling class in Washington D.C. treats the citizenry like flotsam to be ignored or swept away onto the rubble heap of existence…until it’s time for the next election.

jetsam refers to goods that were thrown overboard deliberately, to lighten a vessel or improve its stability in an emergency, which either sink in place, float along the surface, or are washed ashore. Here is the dictionary.com definition of jetsam.  

Jetsam originated in the late 16th century: (as jetson): a contraction of jettison.

Example:
The Captain of the ship was unconcerned about the jetsam he was creating as he feverishly directed his crew to discard the cargo to save the ship.

Occasionally you will hear the two words used in conjunction with each other as in “flotsam and jetsam” — Meaning useless or discarded objects.

Example:
With the “establishment” Republicans threatening to force a brokered convention if Donald Trump has the most delegates going in; and the Democrats with their “super-delegates”, many in the electorate are beginning to feel like flotsam and jetsam bobbing around in the electoral pool; with the outcome of the election already pre-determined by the “powers that be”.

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