“To Tide You Over”

By Maeve Maddox

Carol Dedrick wonders about the expression “to tide one over”:

A quick Google search found most folks believe the saying to be “tide me over” vs. “tie me over.” I did find one seemingly credible site [that] supported the opposite. Do you know the origin of the statement, and the correct version?

I found the site that defends the error “tie me over.” The blogger is very firm in his/her contention, but presents nothing more than personal opinion to support it.

The word tide is from the Old English word for “time” or “season.” Yuletide, for example, means “the season of Yule.” German Zeit is cognate with tide.

“Tide” meaning “rise and fall of the sea” came into use in the 14th century. This meaning derived from the notion of “fixed time of high water.” Old English used the words flod for high tide and ebba for low tide. Tide as a verb is recorded from the 1620s.

Here’s the OED’s definition of the expression “to tide over”:

to get over or surmount (a difficulty, time of stress, etc.) as if by rising on the flowing tide, or by taking advantage of a favourable tide.

Speakers to whom the expression “tide over” is unfamiliar mistakenly write “tie over”:

Journal Page To Tie You Over

Oftentimes, A Fast Cash Advance Loan Can Tie You Over Those Lean Moments

To tie you over until our full … review lands, here’s a first look at the opening levels of the campaign

It should be enough to tie you over until you find yourself a new boyfriend.

Perhaps these writers see the image of people clinging to a rope, rather than someone in a ship being borne up and carried by the tide.

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20 Responses to ““To Tide You Over””

  • NEB

    Some early uses of this phrase can be found at http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/tide-over.html.

  • Maeve

    @NEB,
    Thanks for the link. Excellent article.

  • Amy

    My niece and I refer to a snack as a “tide-me,” since it’s something to tide you over until lunch or dinner.

    “I’m starving. When will dinner be ready?”
    “Not for another hour.”
    “Yikes. I better have a tide-me.”

  • thebluebird11

    @Amy: Love the “tide-me” phrase!! Reminds me of a story about my former mother-in-law, who had to deal with the same situation. She used to tell the kids, “Have a Tic-Tac, only 1-1/2 calories and it’ll tide you over.” LOL.

    Meanwhile, this “tie you over” thing is making me cringe!! Ewww! sounds horrible.

  • Beverley

    With regard to your “Journal Page to Tie me over,” the example you cited, “Oftentimes, A Fast Cash Advance Loan Can Tie You Over Those Lean Moments,” fits in with the “Tie you over, if you’re strapped for cash, concept — i.e., strapped, tie.

  • Lilia Silva

    The meaning of the phrase is actually using or having something to “tie” (as in connect like attach with a knot) the two events together through “over” the time interval.

    People like the word “tide” in the phrase indicating an action, but tide isn’t a verb. Tide is a noun and it’s typical of illiterate people to invent verbs (action words in case you weren’t paying attention in grade school) by just using a noun (things, people, places, objects- also in case you weren’t paying attention in grade school) that sounds good in place of the verb.

    It’s funny to see people making justifications for illiteracy. Like the word “three-peat” the root of “repeat” isn’t “peat”, or “one-peat”, or “two-peat”. just because it sounds catchy doesn’t make it an intelligent use of language. The correct phrase would have been “third time” or “triple” which are correct use.

    Of course as with most sports announcers who confuse metaphors, like golf people who use “line drive” which refers to a baseball being hit parallel to the baselines, the sports announcer that coined “three-peat” didn’t learn to think before he speaks.

    But it makes for entertaining listening, until supposedly educated people pick up the stupid misused words or phrases and “four-peat”, “five-peat”, or “sixty-seven-peat” them ignorantly.

  • Lynn

    In regards to Lilia, I have never heard anyone use any of these phrases you mention. And I have to wonder why get your panties in such a bunch over it all? If you really want to be correct in your grammar why not go back to speaking oh say ancient Egyptian and writing in hieroglyphs for instance. Haven’t you realized by now that language is always being reinvented and evolves? It would have to otherwise we wouldn’t have any language at all to describe all the varying ways you seem to be a stuck up know nothing imbecile who decided to be the grammar nazi on some obscure site to feel better about their own intelligence.
    Also, the expression really truly is “to tide me over/tide you over/ tide us over” etc. Not tie.

  • Starsage

    Edward Meyrick Goulburn’s book The Pursuit of Holiness of 1869: “As an exuberant mounting flood shall tide us over the difficulties of our career”.
    Tides rise and allow ships in and they ebb and prevent ships from passing. To tide over something is the reference. What are your references for using the word tie? Most people do not do their research.
    If you are looking for an older reference, perhaps Brutus’s comment, in Julius Caesar: “There is a Tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the Flood, leads on to Fortune”.

    This sentence, no verb.
    Trivium.

  • Rose

    Lilia, I think you are confusing illiteracy with simple bad grammar. Also, the beauty of language is that evolves, just because words or phrases are not definitively correct, does not mean that they are invalid or lack meaning. How do you think we ended up with the interesting and quirky phrases we are able to take such delight in?

  • Gautam Jain

    Lilla,

    “tide” over is a phrasal verb. Wow you just learnt something and you can stop crying. The worst enemies of any language are peeps like you.

  • Lee

    I always thought it was “Tie me over” and my explanation was that it meant you would be secure for the time being.

  • Not me

    To: Starsage

    You said, “This sentence, no verb.” Do you actually consider that a sentence, or was that a joke? In dialogue you can say that, its not proper grammer though. This is not a possible English sentence.

    Try walking up to someone and saying “This sentence, no verb.” and see if you sound like a cave man, you will.

    The proper sentence would have to be “This sentence has no verb”. Both clauses “This sentence” and “no verb” are dependent clauses. Your sentence has no independent clause or complete thought.

    Yes, I am nit picking ha ha. I like your attempt! If you can come up with a possible sentence without a verb, I will be impressed.

    – Cheers!

  • Tim McMahon

    I think “tie you over” is especially appropriate for a payday loan as in “tie you over a barrel and extract a pound of flesh”. But if it will really “tide you over” or just put you further in debt is a totally different question.

  • Jlodie

    Lilia – good grief. I am all for grammar nazis but come on! You are so far off track. Germane much? Three-peat was trademarked by Pat Riley after the Lakers won two championships in a row. He was expecting his Lakers to win a third. But come on. I believe the term my father-in-law uses for people like you is BlowHard.

  • Kal

    To “Not me”

    There is no such a word as “grammer” unless you are speaking of Kelsey Grammer. I think you meant “grammar”.

    Your use of “its” in the sentence “In dialogue you can say that, its not proper grammer though.” is not correct. “Its” is the possessive form of “it”. I think you meant to use the contraction of “it is”, which is spelt “it’s”. [if you are American then “spelled”]

  • Jeff Carter

    Maeve, thank you for tackling this phrase. While I have said it many times before, I said it this morning, and suddenly realized how strange it is. I had to know its origins. Thank you, NEB, for the other helpful reference.

    To “Not me”:

    Before you criticize another’s grammar, perhaps you should work on your own. In addition to the mistakes mentioned by Kal, on two separate occasions, you join independent clauses with a comma and no conjunction. The appropriate punctuation is a semicolon.

    “He who lives in a glass house should not throw stones.” or “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

  • Jeff Carter

    For the reasons I give above, I do not typically point out grammar mistakes unless they are made by someone pointing out someone else’s mistakes. Before someone takes the opportunity to do the same to me, my second sentence above should not have a comma after “morning.”

  • Ziaheart

    For people defending “tie me over”… Merriam-Webster recognizes “tide over” but not “tie over”.

  • Wow, Just Wow

    “Spelt” is an archaic form of wheat. I’m just kidding. Woah, people sure get upset to discover they are speaking gibberish. I believed the saying to be “tide me over,” but was uncertain so I googled it. We are not so much a sea-faring people as in days of old, so I can understand why “tie you over” seems possibly correct. I mostly surf the web, and not so much as to record its tidal movements.

  • Smiley

    I thought it was Tie as in, a music tie, which tells the musician to carry on to the next bar. I liked this better. I am sad now.

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