What is the meaning and origin of "flotsam and jetsam"?

(G. Vindya, Secunderabad)

This was originally an expression used by sailors. Flotsam refers to the floating wreckage of a ship and its cargo. Jetsam, on the other hand, refers to cargo deliberately thrown overboard in order to lighten a ship during an emergency. When you use this expression to talk about people, what you mean is that as far as you are concerned they are useless and unimportant. The expression is normally used to refer to people without homes and jobs. Here are a few examples.

*The beggar was sharing the pavement with various other human flotsam and jetsam.

*Laxman's mind is burdened with the flotsam and jetsam of many years of bad instruction.

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"Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are good is like expecting the bull not to charge because you are a vegetarian."—

Dennis Wholey

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