Saturday, February 7, 2015


Almost everyday, whenever I read the news, I come across a story where thoughtlessly, the writer has parroted the error-filled phrase "ebb and flow."

Rightly, it is ebb and flood and not "ebb and flow". Even ebb and slack would be better. The flow is the ebb and flood.

A Google News search for the last 30 days shows many have written the mistaken ebb and flow. Such reveals the ease at which men will parrot the behavior of those before them without any thought.

An incoming tidal flow is known as a flood tide and also known as a flood current. An outgoing tidal flow is an ebb tide and also known as an ebb current. The period between flood and ebb tides, when there is little or no current, is called slack water or slack tide.

Men can attest the word tide to Old English tid meaning at a time ahead.  My Old English speaking ancestors living in Canterbury, Kent, said flod and ebba for the rise and fall as they did not say the word tid related to water. Not until the mid-1300s, did my Middle English speaking ancestors say tide to mean the rise and fall of the sea.

Slack is an Old English word. Men can attest the phrase slack water to 1769 meaning the time when tide is not flowing.

English speakers, even more so native speakers and those with ancestral English, ought to know words such as yuletide, Christmastide, tidings, riptide, betide.

It's cringeworthy (and yes, I coined that word) whenever hearing someone say or reading someone write, ebb and flow as noted marine biologist Rachel Carson (Silent Spring) did when she wrote, "To stand at the edge of the sea, to sense the ebb and flow of the tides ...".

At least Longfellow, "The lowest ebb is the turn of the tide," and Yates, "Where beauty has no ebb, decay no flood, but joy is wisdom, time an endless song," had it right.

Enjoy Debby Harry with Blonde performing a cover of the 1967 John Holt song perhaps originally performed when Holt was a member of the Paragons. Holt did much to define the reggae sound of Jamaica.

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