Sea change

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Sea change

Post by trolley » Mon Oct 02, 2017 6:58 pm

Here’s my lesson for the day. While reading an article on U.S. gun control, on CNN, I came across this sentence “There's been a sea change over the last two decades when it comes to the reasons why people own guns.” A sea change? It was obviously a typo but I wondered what they really meant to say. Apparently they really meant a sea change.

Wikipedia says:
Sea-change or seachange, an English idiomatic expression which denotes a substantial change in perspective, especially one which effects a group or society at large, on a particular issue. It is similar in usage and meaning to a paradigm shift, and may be viewed as a change to a society or community's zeitgeist, with regard to a specific issue. The phrase evolved from an older and more literal usage when the term referred to an actual "change wrought by the sea,"[1] a definition that remains in limited usage.

Thank you. We now return you to your regularly scheduled program, already in progress

Re: Sea change

Post by Erik_Kowal » Mon Oct 02, 2017 10:05 pm

The etymologist Michael Quinion has covered this idiom, as follows:

Q. From Dave Donnelly in Hawaii: The phrase sea change appears frequently in both books and newspapers, and the only definition I’ve been able to find for it is that it is a transformation. How did the phrase come about and why?

A. The phrase is a quotation from Shakespeare. It comes from Ariel’s wonderfully evocative song in The Tempest:

Full fathom five thy father lies:
Of his bones are coral made:
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.

Shakespeare obviously meant that the transformation of the body of Ferdinand’s father was made by the sea, but we have come to refer to a sea change as being a profound transformation caused by any agency. So pundits and commentators who think it has something to do with the ebb and flow of the tide, and use it for a minor or recurrent shift in policy or opinion, are doing a grave injustice to one of the most evocative phrases in the language. I wish a figurative full fathom five to such people.

The point at which it stopped being a direct quotation and turned into an idiom is hard to pin down, though it seems to have happened only in the latter part of the nineteenth century. The Oxford English Dictionary finds the first allusive use in one of Ezra Pound’s poems from 1917. But examples can be found a little earlier than that, as in The Great White Wall by Julian Hawthorne, dated 1877: “Three centuries ago, according to my porter, a sea-change happened here which really deserves to be called strange”.

And it’s odd that it seems to be a rare example of a hyphenated phrase that’s losing its hyphen: all the modern dictionaries I’ve consulted have it as two words with not a hyphen in sight.

Re: Sea change

Post by BonnieL » Mon Oct 02, 2017 11:44 pm

Every time I see "sea change" used to mean any other kind of change, I find myself wondering who's dead.

Re: Sea change

Post by tony h » Wed Oct 04, 2017 2:03 pm

In an island nation it is evident the effect the sea has in making changes can be dramatic and irreversible. ... ornsea.jpg

Sea-change, for me has a rather wonderful way of being a long-slow-subtle change and also a sudden-dramatic-change but any sea-change is irreversible.

So 9/11 (or 11/9 in the UK) created a sea-change in the public view of terrorist threat.

Over my lifetime (which is quite a long time) there has been a sea-change in gender related norms.
Signature: tony

I'm puzzled therefore I think.

Re: Sea change

Post by Wizard of Oz » Thu Oct 12, 2017 5:29 am

Well one never ceases to come to know what one doesn't know. This particular word first came to my notice here in Aus when everyone was talking about the retiring baby boomers, many of whom were looking to downsize from the family home and move to smaller communities. These invariably were on the coast near the sea, hence my understanding of these people undertaking a sea change. From that there arose the related tree change where retirees chose to move to the country.

I could also think of the,
  • flee change where retirees sell up everything and move overseas
  • spree change where retirees cash it in, fly to Las Vegas and do it all on the tables and champagne
  • me change where retirees cash it all in and buy a new house, a new car, a boat, go around the world (twice) and spend it all on themselves.
  • key change where the locks on the house are changed to prevent older children from returning to the nest.
  • plea change where retirees ask to move in with their married sons or daughters
  • free change where a retiree waits for all his friends to retire and move then spends his time "catching up" with old friends on a circuit.
And finally the worst one of all, the flea change where one realises that there is no money left at retirement and ends up living with the pet dog in a doss house.

WoZ on a wee change (ie everything is pretty much the same)
Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

Re: Sea change

Post by Wizard of Oz » Wed Oct 18, 2017 1:54 am

Then there is the one a mate of mine has unfortunately undergone, the pee change. He has become incontinent and has to wear man nappies.

WoZ on a wee change (a wee dram that is)
Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

Re: Sea change

Post by Ken Greenwald » Sun Dec 03, 2017 11:45 pm

"Sea Change" sounded familiar and I could have sworn I posted it many moons ago. I searched a list of my postings and sure enough I found that I had posted it back in 2002. So, not that it adds much to the above, I will re-post it here. It must have been wiped out in one of our data transfer glitches:


Kelly, This new buzz-phrase is actually close to 400 years old, is in some dictionaries, and was coined by Shakespeare. But you’re right – it does seemed to have gained popularity recently and is all over the place. It appears as one word, two words, or hyphenated.

Random House Unabridged Dictionary

SEA CHANGE 1. a striking change, as in appearance, often for the better. 2. any major transformation or alteration. 3. a transformation brought about by the sea [1600-10]
“SEA CHANGE in trade winds: In two years' time the trade environment for Australian business could be totally transformed because, quietly and with little debate, Australia has changed its trade policy.” (December 02, 2002 – The Australian – Australia’s National Daily Newspaper)
“For Caviar Lovers, a SEA CHANGE” (November 26, 2000 – The Washington Post)

Word Detective:
The proper form is indeed "sea change," and I've been hearing it a lot lately too. It seems to have become a favorite buzz-phrase on those Sunday morning TV pundit-fests, where a bunch of "commentators" sit around prattling about a "sea change" in the American electorate or in some politician's campaign strategy. Personally, I think those bozos ought to be required to explain the meaning and derivation of "sea change" each and every time they use it. And even then they shouldn't be allowed to use it more than once every ten years.
"Sea change," which means a profound change or transformation in the nature of something, was coined, as many of our best English words and phrases were, by William Shakespeare. The relevant passage in his play "The Tempest" is worth quoting in full, both as an illustration of the original sense of the term and for its remarkable and eerie beauty [[Shakespeare, ‘THE TEMPEST,’ Act I, Scene 2, The island. Before Prospero’s cell, Ariel sings]]:
"Full fathom five thy father lies / Of his bones are coral made / Those are pearls that were his eyes / Nothing of him that doth fade / But doth suffer a sea-change / Into something rich and strange [[/ Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell]]."
By "sea change" (which seems to have lately lost its hyphen in common usage) Shakespeare meant a radical, fundamental transformation, metaphorically similar to the change wrought by prolonged submersion under water. The English language itself, for instance, is often said to have undergone a "sea change" when it was imported to the New World, gaining new words and idioms, and becoming, to British ears at least, "something rich and strange."
It pains me, however, to hear constant yammering about "sea changes" coming from Washington, where so few things ever actually change. The only genuine "sea change" I can imagine in connection with politicians would also involve the phrase "full fathom five."

Ken G (Fort Collins, CO, USA) – December 2, 2002

Re: Sea change

Post by trolley » Mon Dec 04, 2017 1:00 am

Ken, it's good to "see" you. Welcome back.

Re: Sea change

Post by Ken Greenwald » Mon Dec 04, 2017 1:36 am

John, thanks.

Ken Greenwald—December 3, 2017

Re: Sea change

Post by Bobinwales » Mon Dec 04, 2017 9:35 pm

It is good to see you back Ken. You have been missed.
Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales

Re: Sea change

Post by Erik_Kowal » Tue Dec 05, 2017 12:09 am

I echo Trolley and Bob.

Welcome back, Ken!

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