This word has a splash of refreshment in its sound, like Suzanne Pleshette with a bottle of Freixenet. In fact, it almost sounds like a brand name for plug-in air fresheners or mouthwash strips. Or it could be some little thing you catch in a fish net, or a female freshman, or a refreshed fourchette (French fork), or some hip-hop artist, or…

Just listen to how it splashes, like a Ferrari into a flooded underpass! First with the [f], then the swelling up of the liquid [r], then opening to the mid-front [ɛ] before the big splash of [ʃ] and the quick deceleration and downsplash of [ɪt]. Is it perhaps a quick rainstorm?

Close! It’s a sudden flood of a stream or river due to rain, melting snow, both, or something else. This word looks like it comes from fresh, and in fact it does. Originally it was just a name for a freshwater stream that flows into the sea, but by the mid-1600s it had gained the additional specific meaning of a quick flood of a fresh stream.

In short, it’s what Cougar Creek in Canmore and Exshaw Creek in Exshaw and the Elbow River in Calgary became a couple of weeks ago, and what the Don River and a few other streams became this afternoon in Toronto. Quick as a whisternefet (a sharp slap), a simple flow of fresh water flashed into flood form. Just because before the stream could empty, more and more water came to refreshet. Freshet’s sake…

One response to “freshet

  1. Reminds me of when I was a kid. In the US, they drank Kool-Aid(tm) brand flavoured sugar water. Where we grew up, the brand (and to some degree, generic name) of choice was Freshie.

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