Posted by: Jack Henry | February 26, 2014

Editor’s Corner: Sea Change

A couple nights ago, during an insomniac haze, I grabbed a Money magazine to read and lull myself back to sleep. Instead of returning to the land of slumber, however, I was awakened by the phrase “affecting a sea change.” I’d heard this before, but honestly, I thought people were saying “a seed change” and that they were a little loco. I knew that they were talking about a major change, but I just couldn’t figure out what gardening had to do with it.

Shiver me timbers, here’s some information behind that phrase. From Merriam-Webster:

sea change (noun): a big and sudden change


1: a change brought about by the sea

2: a marked change: transformation <a sea change in public policy>

According to Wikipedia, by way of the Oxford English Dictionary, the term sea change:

…originally appears in William Shakespeare’s The Tempest in a song sung by a supernatural spirit, Ariel, to Ferdinand, a prince of Naples, after Ferdinand’s father’s apparent death by drowning:

"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,

Hark! now I hear them, ding-dong, bell." [KC-While Shakespeare was an amazing playwright, I can’t really sing praises for his songwriting.]

The term sea-change is therefore often used to mean a metamorphosis or alteration. For example, a literary character may transform over time into a better person after undergoing various trials or tragedies (e.g., "There is a sea change in Scrooge’s personality towards the end of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.")

Kara Church

Senior Technical Editor

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

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