Flotsam and Jetsam

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Flotsam and Jetsam : Phrases


Discarded odds and ends; destitute, homeless individuals.


The politicians were concerned about the
flotsam and jetsam of the downtown city core.


These two terms originated from 17th-century sailing terminology. Flotsam' meant
wreckage or cargo that remains afloat after a ship has sunk.

Jetsam meant
goods thrown overboard from a ship in danger of sinking - in order to give it more buoyancy. Both literal meanings remain current, although the distinction between them is often forgotten.

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