Jetsam, not flotsam
Dear Editor:Even a pack rat would have to agree with the editorial in the Times on Wednesday, “The Thrift Shop isn’t a dump,” however, I take issue with the use of “flotsam” in the piece instead of jetsam. The two are not interchangeable from a constructionist’s view.The editorial said that “volunteers’ time is spent carting flotsam to the landfill,” referring to the junk people dump at the back door of the Thrift Shop.Maritime law defines flotsam as wreckage of a ship or its cargo found floating on the sea, while jetsam means what is cast overboard to lighten a vessel in distress, often such goods when washed ashore. From here it is easy to see that to jettison goods means to cast off as an encumbrance or to discard, according to maritime law, which looks to make the distinction.Thus, jetsam would have been the better word, though metaphorically one might argue for flotsam as the wreckage of a city’s people.One further note for those who care, maritime law also recognizes “lagan” or “lagend,” which are goods sunk in the sea with a buoy attached so that they may be recovered later. Read Patrick O’Brian’s sea stories for this and other useful information.Tim CooneyAspen
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