02 October 2011

Tide for a New Post

Yes! I've heard the calls: "More! More!" So to keep my family safe from the clamoring mob, I've decided it's time to pay more attention to this blog.

And what better way to start out than by reflecting on the word "time"? Because I've been doing that lately. It could have something to do with Kid Number 1 returning as a third-year university student. It could have even more to do with Kid Number 2 entering as a freshman, of all things! Or it might relate to the changing of the seasons, or having my father visit us for the first time in a long while.

Nah... It's because I've been chewing on the Dutch word for "time": tijd. The -ij- diphthong is pronounced something between the English long i (as in "eye") and ay (as in "hay"). [Go here and click the play button to hear it.]

I began thinking of the word "tide", wondering how "tide" becomes "time" in languages that are practically kissing cousins. Then it hit me: the German word for "time" is Zeit (pronounced "tsite"). Bingo! Zeit = tijd = time.

At the same Zeit this following thought hit me: We have archaic words in English relating the -tide suffix to "time", such as "Yuletide" for "Christmastime". And then... and then...

(Follow me, patient reader, on this voyage on the tijd of discovery...)

Thinking of Yuletide brought me to "tidings of good cheer". Tidings are "news". So then I wondered how you got to "newsings" from "tidings". Cue the next slap on the head: The word for newspaper in German is Zeitung, literally "timings". [Special contest at the end of this post.*]

If tijd / Zeit are related to our English "time", is "time" in English related to our word for the comings and goings of waters along ocean edges? Seems clear that our use of the word "tide" for the four daily highs and lows must come from their regularity, thus allowing us to measure time.

So, thinking that English "time" and "tide" — in addition to waiting for no one — are closely related, I rushed to my OED, to find:

tide (n.): O.E. tid "point or portion of time, due time," from P.Gmc. *tidiz "division of time" (cf. O.S. tid, Du. tijd, O.H.G. zit, Ger. Zeit "time"), from PIE *di-ti- "division, division of time," suffixed form of base *da- "to divide, cut up" (cf. Skt. dati "cuts, divides"). Meaning "rise and fall of the sea" (mid-14c.) is probably via notion of "fixed time," specifically "time of high water".

time (n.): O.E. tima "limited space of time," from P.Gmc. *timon "time" (cf. O.N. timi "time, proper time," Swed. timme "an hour"), from PIE *di-mon-, from base *da- "cut up, divide" (see tide).



* Contest: A special prize for the first person who leaves a comment on this post drawing another blatant connection between newspapers and the English word "time". Or Russian, and doubtless countless other languages...


  1. Interesting. What about THE NEW YORK TIMES.

  2. And the Sunday Times. Haha!

  3. And we have winners! There are many newspapers with "times" in their titles... Essentially, I guess, it means "here's a snapshot of our times".

  4. pfff ......what you call a "magazine"... I call Tijdschrift! but why do you call it a Magazine? and what we call "magazijn" (sounds like magazine) is a "warehouse" or storage space.. (actually a gun also has a magazijn (dutch and in English), but in English if I ought to translate a magazine (chamber for bullets of a gun), into Dutch, I can't call it a 'Tijdschrift" )mwaaa do you follow?... ..... pfff has nothing to do with your topic but... lalala..."heck" I had some time to spare.. :)or "time to share" (by:Gabsky..who else :)

  5. Gabsky, thanks for sharing your tide... I think I follow... :-)