Japanese flotsam, Part 2

Posted by Ken Campbell February 1, 2012 1 Comment 1154 views

I was taught that flotsam is a term that refers to floating debris, while jetsam denotes stuff that has washed ashore. I don’t remember how old I was when I was instructed thus, but I do remember who told me, and he was incorrect. Confident, but incorrect.
So, just in case you’re ever in the position of trying to explain to someone the difference between the two terms, here it is, and it’s actually fairly simple: Jetsam refers to floating items that were “jettisoned.” Things that were tossed overboard from a ship or a plane, for example, perhaps to lighten them, perhaps as refuse. For whatever reason they may find themselves floating on the deep blue sea, items classified as jetsam were, at one time, on board a ship, etc.
Flotsam is any kind of floating debris, on or near the surface. It is not limited to being part of a ship, but it can be anything: chunks of building material, dead seabirds, glass net floats, and so on.
All jetsam is flotsam, but not all flotsam is jetsam.

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