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

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. Answers.com 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 article 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 skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

9 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 answers.com, 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.

  6. Darrell Says:

    Dear Steve,

    Sorry to say this, bult you are wrong. Do some more research on the phrase and you will see that Lisa is correct. Proverbs are words of wisdom that teach a lesson. There is a lesson in the proverb. It is clear that time will not wait for you, you have to get things done before you run out of time. If your report is due or your train leaves at noon, turning in your report late or missing the train will cost you because time and tide will not wait for you. Your tide (season) has come and gone and you have missed your opportunity. Therefore, if you have something to do by a certain time, get it done before it is too late and the tide is gone.

  7. Raine Says:

    I think what you are saying is incorrect. The saying is to remind us of the insignificance of human creations of things like trains or school reports. It’s to remind us of the fact that if you work or not you cannot make time nor tides stand still. Time marches on with or without us. It’s a reminder of our mortality not a lesson in being industrious or making appointments. It’s more like the carvings of hourglasses on headstones that remind us that reminds you more to live in the moment (as if anyone can do otherwise) despite any efforts you get no more or no less. All else is just our own perspective.
    Time and tide cannot be restrained despite man’s efforts to regulate or measure them.

  8. Graham Says:

    I agree with Raine, if in the proverb tide referred to time it would make no sense to say time nor ‘time’ waiteth for no man. It is a simple fact that we can stop or control time and we can’t stop or control the tide. If you get caught out by time an you get caught out by the tide at your peril.

  9. Graham Chaucer Says:

    Tide and time wait for no man. Tide of darkness overcame us, the darkness came over us for a time for the king of darkness to rule for a time. Time wait for no man is an illusion. Time never stand still for no man is illusion. When the tide come to wash away man no man can stand still. Tide stand still Tide waits still like a river from a lake. The serpent said tide n time wait for no man. The serpent lied spread the darkness for a time and season. Time for darkness that spread over man has come to end now. So soon time of darkness no more. Tide n time wait for no man is cover up because tide waits for man and time comes to an end time comes to flow like rivers of time. Time comes and time goes like ripples in a lake when you cast a stone it skips across the surf beneath the sky. From zero to infinity, time is infinite. Tides not. There’s amount of tide never amount of time time run out. Man’s time to run from tide finished. Tide is obviously a fool in tide that surfing serpent. Catch the serpent tide, carry the serpent tide along the river, carry the tide serpent down to lake of fire. Time goes on All in gods time gods time is best As soon as the sun shines it will light up the sky.

    What is the weight of tide re volume ?

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