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Origin of the Word “Jetty”

While fishing from a jetty, Maria in San Antonio, Texas, wondered about this name for a structure extending from the shore out into the water. The word jetty comes to us via the French word jeter, meaning “to throw” (the dance step...

Take Me to the River

We’ve heard a lot lately about great athletic rivalries, most notably between Olympic swimmers Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte. So it’s worth noting the source of this watery word. In ancient Rome, the word rivus meant “a small...

Flounder vs. Founder

What’s the difference between flounder and founder? To flounder is “to struggle or thrash about,” while to founder is “to sink or to fail.” Surprisingly, the verb flounder shares no etymological root with the fish...

swish and spit

swish and spit  n.— «It requires transoceanic vessels to dump ballast water at least 200 miles from shore. Those carrying no ballast must rinse their tanks with salt water, a process known as “swish and spit,” to kill organisms lurking in...

flotsamist

flotsamist  n.— «Where and when something reaches shore depends mainly on weight, wind, and currents. Experts can study flotsam—driftwood, in particular—that help them understand ocean currents and weather patterns. Nature also provides...

soil nailing

soil nailing  n.— «He estimated that roughly two-thirds of the steep walls required extra attention to shore them up, using an engineering technique called soil nailing.» —“Museum opening delayed to 2010″ by Tracie...