salty tide marks

susanna76

Senior Member
Romanian
In her book On Beauty, Zadie Smith mentions "[guests that] arrive in staggered fashion, scarves stiff and wet with the snow, with salty tide marks on their leather shoes, with handkerchiefs and ostentatious coughs and wheezes."

I'm wondering about "salty tide marks." The tide in there seems poetic. For all I know, though, it might be the set phrase to describe those lines on wet leather shoes. So how is it? How would you describe those marks?

Thanks!
 
  • Renaissance man

    Senior Member
    It's correct that those marks aren't actually from the tide--given that the wearers haven't literarilly waded along the shores for long periods--but all things exposed to wet and salt (streets are often salted in cold areas) will show similar features.
     

    susanna76

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    Hi Renaissance man, and thank you. My question, however, is about the phrase "salty tide marks," not about how those marks come to be. If you were to say that someone's shoes showed those lines from the wet and salt, how would you have described them? I have a feeling that Zadie Smith's way of talking about it is poetic -- nicely poetic: I enjoyed it. Problem is, I can't think of any other way to describe those marks myself, so that's why I turn to you and other folks out here.:)
     

    Renaissance man

    Senior Member
    "Salty tide marks" are lines made out of salt residues; typically wavy, and in layers. I guess you could google for pictures.

    I wouldn't read too much symbolism into the expression, but there's probably no harm in doing it :)
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    I suppose I'd have to call them 'water marks' (two words, not 'watermarks', which are in paper). Yet this doesn't quite convey the accurate visual impression of salty tide marks, does it? I suppose that's part of why Zadie Smith is a published writer.
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    I suppose it is imagery which is poetic, but I don't know if there is any everyday set term for those marks on shoes. I'd probably say "My new shoes got ruined in that rainstorm- they've got those white wavy lines on them"
    "Tide mark" used to be used to describe the line found on a kid's neck that hadn't been properly washed. A friend used it to describe the marks on the underarms of a garment, from sweat or deodorant.

    Hermione
     

    susanna76

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    Hi there everyone, thanks so much! Hermione, thanks so much for pointing out those connotations of "tide marks." It all makes much more sense now :).
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    The highest mark on the shoe will show the depth of the deepest water the person slogged through, thus, metaphorically, the height of the tide (how deeply the tide came in) as if they had just been standing on the beach.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    It doesn't sound poetic to me - it just gives me an impression of a wavy white line left from the salt in the melted snow (presumably the paths had been salted as suggested by Renaissance Man).
     

    susanna76

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    Right, now that Hermione and se16teddy pointed out some other contexts where the phrase is actually used as such, I realize where the idea came from. It's poetic (passed into common use, but poetic nevertheless:)), but not of her invention -- only the context has changed.

    Again, thank you everyone!
     
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