Half Past the Month

April 13, 2020

BEING IN THE AGE GROUP shown in daily charts and graphs as the most vulnerable to the Wuhan virus, a wordsmith friend is trying to decide whether he is the flotsam of this pandemic or the jetsam.

Whichever, he is coming to realize that his group is that which the other age categories are content to cut loose, to leave to their own devices, letting the COVID-19 chips fall where they may so they can return to business as usual.

So be it, but let’s get our terms straight.

“Jetsam,” his dictionary says, is the wreckage of a ship or its cargo found floating on or washed up by the sea, “people or things that have been rejected and are regarded as worthless.”

That doesn’t sound right — or fair, for that matter. The friend’s age group, after all, includes combat veterans, Internet pioneers, medical geniuses, not to mention the fathers, mothers and grandparents of the ship’s crew.

“Flotsam,” on the other hand, seems more gentle, even applicable to the current crisis, just a little push overboard. It is unwanted material or goods that have been thrown from a ship “and washed ashore,” especially material that has been discarded to lighten the vessel.

Much better, to the friend’s mind.

And he chooses to focus on that “washed ashore” part. He would like the discussion to narrow down exactly the shores upon which he is apt to be washed. The preference, all things being equal, would be the white sands off Destin on the Gulf of Mexico. But if a foreign shore is required in the interests of social distancing he would accept Whitehaven Beach off Whitsunday Islands, Australia.

Let the debate begin. — tcl


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