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OT: Tidal waves (was: Let me introduce myself)

From:Tim May <butsuri@...>
Date:Saturday, January 1, 2005, 1:08
Thomas R. Wier wrote at 2004-12-31 11:40:26 (-0600)
 > From:    "B. Garcia" <madyaas@...>
 > > # 1 wrote:
 > >
 > > > - tidal waves (is that the word?) -
 > >
 > > these are the same as Tsunamis
 > Actually, no, they aren't. Tidal waves are caused by the
 > gravitation of the moon, while tsunamis are caused by seismic
 > changes in the earth's crust.  And parts of Atlantic Canada are
 > witness to the largest variations in tidal changes on the planet.

Well, yes and no.  "Tidal wave" _is_ used to refer to seismic
sea-waves in English, has been for a long time, and may well still be
more often used thus than in the technically correct sense.  My
Japanese-English dictionaries translate _tsunami_ as "tidal wave" and
vice versa.

I understand the technical distinction, and I'm sympathetic to the
desire to harmonize technical and popular usage.  But outside a
specific context, it's almost as misleading to say that tsunamis are
not the same as tidal waves as to say that they are, particularly when
there's a non-native speaker involved.

Incidentally, the earliest attested use of the term "tsunami" in
English appears to have been by Lafcadio Hearn in _Gleanings in
Buddha-Fields_ (1897):

  "From immemorial time the shores of Japan have been swept, at
  irregular intervals of centuries, by enormous tidal waves,--tidal
  waves caused by earthquakes or by submarine volcanic action. These
  awful sudden risings of the sea are called by the Japanese tsunami."