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Back in July I wrote a post about the proverb “Time and Tide Wait for No Man“. MC commented, “It has nothing to do with the sea, it’s ‘tide’ as in ‘noontide’.” Noontide means noon or midday. I still think it has to do with the tides. agrees: “This proverbial phrase, alluding to the fact that human events or concerns cannot stop the passage of time or the movement of the tides, first appeared about 1395 in Chaucer’s Prologue to the Clerk’s Tale.”

What do you think?


This artilce was posted on Tuesday, September 15th, 2009 at 9:43 am and is filed under Countries & Cultures, England, English, English Proverbs, Languages, Mama Lisa, Proverbs, TIme and Tide Wait for No Man. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

5 Responses to “Time and Tide Wait for No Man… Is it the “tides” or “noontide”?”

  1. Lisa Says:

    Jeremy wrote:

    I agree with you and, Lisa. Saying “Time and midday wait for no man” would be redundant. Chaucer may have been thinking of King Canute’s 11th Century attempt to stop the tide as proof of his omnipotence.

    Chaucer’s quote is in The Clerk’s Tale: “For thogh we slepe, or wake, or rome, or ryde, Ay fleeth the tyme; it nyl no man abyde.” (Modern English: For though we sleep, or wake, or roam, or ride, the time will fly; it will pause for no man.”)

    King Canute (995 – 1035) was the king of England, Denmark and Norway. The story has it that he commanded the tide to stop. Most people thought he was being arrogant and presumptuous. According to the original story though, he knew he couldn’t stop the tide and was trying to demonstrate to his subjects the limits of a kings power.

  2. Lisa Says:

    It seems that the word “tide” comes from “time”. According to Wikipedia, “A tide is an obsolete or archaic term for time, period or season, such as Yuletide, eventide, shrovetide, Eastertide, noontide, etc… When used on sundials the ‘tides’ were around three hours long, starting at 6am and ending at 6pm, the working day divided up into these four tides. Working people would know which ‘tide’ it was through the ringing of a church bell.”

    The tides later got their name from this same meaning… since they come at regular intervals.

    It seems that the meaning of tide in the proverb “Time and tide wait for no man” may have originally been referring to a period of time or a season. However, people clearly came to think of it as the tides of the sea. And it is good advice to beware the tides – because they wait for no man!

    However, all of this is besides the point, the real meaning of the proverb is: don’t wait to do what needs to be done, because time won’t stand still for you while you procrastinate.

    Note: Chaucer seems to be the earliest person to refer to this proverb… this is according to The Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs and The Wordsworth Dictionary of Proverbs.

    Many thanks to Jeremy Shatan and MC for pointing out the original meaning of “tides”.

  3. Dan Says:

    My dad used to say:
    “Time and tide waiteth for no man. And DAMN sure no woman!”
    He was a card.

  4. Steven Says:

    Lisa wrote, “the real meaning of the proverb is: don’t wait to do what needs to be done, because time won’t stand still for you while you procrastinate.”

    I have to disagree. That is, perhaps more than it means.

    It means that time and events will not stand still for anyone.

    That is all it means. The rest of what you added such as, “don’t wait to do what needs to be done”, were your own value judgments about how you feel one should respond to that truth.

    As far as it not standing still while you procrastinate, that also is not in there. It won’t stand still even when you are being industrious.

  5. Lisa Says:

    It may mean that “time and events will not stand still for anyone”, but in modern day usage, I believe that people say it with the connotation of seizing the moment.

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