Wharf Quay Pier Jetty.

I found this diagram posted on Facebook; it’s a simple 2X2 according to which a wharf is built on piles and parallel to the shore, a quay is built on fill and ditto, a pier is built on piles and extending out from the shore, and a jetty is built on fill and ditto. Does that correspond to your understanding? I confess that my understanding of these words has been very vague, although I probably could have provided a similar definition of a pier.


  1. A quick look at Google images doesn’t suggest that the classification holds a lot of water. (Note, of course, that Google images are pretty unreliable since images can come from any old page that happens to mention the word. You have to click through to see if the image is really appropriate.)

    Most pictures of jetties show structures supported by piles, which accords with my usage. However, there appears to be such a thing as a ‘rock jetty’.

    The piers are all on piles. The main difference from a jetty seems to be that the piers are much larger. That also accords with my intuition. If you have a small wooden structure at the bottom of your lakeside residence for mooring a small boat (maybe even a rowing boat) next to, I think that would be a jetty, not a pier.

    Wharfs do appear to be on piles, but they aren’t necessarily parallel to shore. There is a Stearns Wharf at Santa Barbara that is out in the water, connected to the shore by a causeway. The main difference appears to be the very large scale of a wharf as opposed to a pier. A pier (where that is its main purpose, which is not the case with Brighton Pier) is a structure for ships to moor beside. Stearns Wharf has shops and a large area for parking as well.

    I agree that my image of a quay is something built on fill, and Google images tends to bear this out. (There is a picture of a pier under ‘quay’, but that’s because it’s the pier at Fairlie Quay.)

    Wikipedia has this at Pier:

    A pier is a raised structure in a body of water, typically supported by well-spaced piles or pillars. Bridges, buildings, and walkways may all be supported by piers. Their open structure allows tides and currents to flow relatively unhindered, whereas the more solid foundations of a quay or the closely spaced piles of a wharf can act as a breakwater, and are consequently more liable to silting. Piers can range in size and complexity from a simple lightweight wooden structure to major structures extended over 1600 metres. In American English, pier may be synonymous with dock.

    I suspect that the Facebook image is a prescriptive attempt to tidy up something that isn’t very tidy.

  2. At the article on ‘Wharf’, Wikipedia has this to say:

    A wharf, quay (/ˈkiː/, also /ˈkeɪ/ or /ˈkweɪ/), staith or staithe is a structure on the shore of a harbor or on the bank of a river or canal where ships may dock to load and unload cargo or passengers. Such a structure includes one or more berths (mooring locations), and may also include piers, warehouses, or other facilities necessary for handling the ships.

    A wharf commonly comprises a fixed platform, often on pilings. … Where capacity is sufficient a single wharf with a single berth constructed along the land adjacent to the water is normally used; where there is a need for more capacity multiple wharves, or perhaps a single large wharf with multiple berths, will instead be constructed, sometimes projecting over the water. A pier, raised over the water rather than within it, is commonly used for cases where the weight or volume of cargos will be low.

    In everyday parlance the term quay is common in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and many other Commonwealth countries, and the Republic of Ireland, whereas the term wharf is more common in the United States. In some contexts wharf and quay may be used to mean pier, berth, or jetty.

  3. J.W. Brewer says

    “Jetty” seems to be used in a variety of ways in English, perhaps with regional variation, but being built on fill definitely does not seem definitionally necessary for all senses of the word. If you want that concept built into the definition, I think the archaic-sounding technical term you want is “mole.”

  4. Lucy Kemnitzer says

    I think it might be revealing that all of the places named ” The Wharf” that I know personally–in San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Capitola, and Monterey, California–project into the water, and were originally made of wood, on wooden pilings. This indicates at least a local usage that is in disagreement with the diagram. (three of those are often referred to as “fisherman’s wharf” which may indicate something too)

    I can only think of places called “Pier” which were originally made of masonry or cement, and the places called “Jetty” that I know of are artificial sand spits lined with rocks, paved on top. These project into the water too. I can’t think of a local place called “Quay.”

    Come to think of it, I can’t think of any structure along my coast which is built parallel to the land, which is named. I mean, of course they exist: there are roads and reinforcements and seawalls there, but I can’t recall anybody using a single word to describe those places when they talk about being there. Except “waterfront” which I think refers to the whole area.

  5. The wharves on Nantucket are not parallel to the shore, quite the opposite. They stick out from the shore. They are built of wood and appear to rest on wooden pillars. The jetty is made of stones and defines one side of the entrance to the harbor. It appears to be resting on fill. There is no structure on top of the jetty, except a small light at the very end; as far as I could see it is just piles of rocks.

    I would second the observation above, that the Facebook poster seems to be trying to impose order on chaos. This would be a pretty odd choice of something to try to impose order on, though. Nautical terminology not really a hot button issue in today’s world, is it?

    (This counts as nautical terminology, doesn’t it?)

  6. Ken may be right about chaos but it’s no different than AmEng and BrEng’s boot and trunk, etc. His jetty on Nantucket does not fit my definition of jetty, which is a practical structure alongside which vessels can moor for loading/unloading. Usually but not always built on piles. His definition actually fits mine of a mole, a long breakwater protecting a harbour entrance, which may be formed of concrete or a mass of rocks. Some can also have a road or footpath along the top.

  7. Yes, those criteria hold for my limited childhood experience of our corner of the Thames Estuary. We had wooden piers, stone jetties, stone quays and wooden wharves. We also had ‘hards’, shingle tipped onto the mud so you could walk down to the water at any state of the tide. One hard was bullt of stone and went all the way down to the lowest tide level like a causeway so you could always launch a boat or land whatever the tide. The jetties and piers had steps at the end down to platforms at different levels for the same purpose. Then I went out into the big wide world and found people were calling them anything indiscriminately. One reason was possibly the ignorance of landlubbers. But there was also reconstruction like upgrading wooden wharves with stone facing to become quays but keeping the old well known name, so-and-so’s wharf.

  8. To me, if there’s any difference between a wharf and a quay, it has to do with who uses them: a wharf if for commercial cargo ships, and a quay for passenger liners, cruise ships, fishing boats, yachts, etc. There will be wharves in a merchant port, and quays in a marina (though I wouldn’t expect this technical distinction to be observed consistently).

    Canary Wharf itself takes its name from No. 32 berth of the West Wood Quay of the Import Dock…

    So in this particular case we have a dockland in which there were individual docks, in which there were “quays” subdivided into “berths” where merchant ships were moored for loading and unloading, and which might also be called “wharves”.

    My mental image of a jetty is a small artificial peninsula (such as a rock or concrete groyne). If it’s wooden, large, and serves as a berthing place for boats, I’d be inclined to call it a pier, but the prototypical piers for me are the pleasure ones, like the Brighton Palace Pier, the Santa Monica Pier, and the one I often saw as a child, the Sopot Pier (Molo w Sopocie) on the Bay of Gdańsk.

  9. I suspect that the Facebook image is a prescriptive attempt to tidy up something that isn’t very tidy.

    Just as I feared! Well, at least I’m more comfortable with my state of confusion.

  10. @Lucy: I can’t think of any structure along my coast which is built parallel to the land, which is named.

    The Embarcadero? Spanish for one or more of these.

  11. Lucy Kemnitzer says

    Thank you F: the Embarcadero had slipped my mind–not the place, but the name. And then there is Marina also, but it is a place within it–called slips mostly? Are there Marinas where the moorings don’t float on the water?

  12. J.W. Brewer says

    Arguably one of the most important rock records released in 1975 was Dr. Feelgood’s debut album Down by the Jetty. They were from the Thames Estuary – specifically from Canvey Island in Essex. But if you use the internet to find pictures to try to figure out what jetty they were talking about, neither the “Old Jetty” in Canvey Island (which was abandoned and in ruins by the early ’80’s) nor the “Occidental Jetty” (constructed at great expense circa 1970 but never really used by the oil industry as anticipated and now a rusting white elephant) appear to be built on fill.

  13. You’re gonna have to define “most important” pretty far down, considering that was the year of Blood on the Tracks, Young Americans, Katy Lied, Toys in the Attic, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, Red Headed Stranger, Tonight’s the Night, The Basement Tapes, Fleetwood Mac, Born to Run, Love to Love You Baby, Another Green World, Bongo Fury, Still Crazy After All These Years, and The Hissing of Summer Lawns. (Not to mention Metal Machine Music and The Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack…)

  14. J.W. Brewer says

    I woulda said if challenged “although not as important as Horses,” and your omission of that title suggests we are approaching the issue from very different perspectives. I should perhaps clarify that by “important” I specifically had in mind (and maybe I should have used different wording to emphasize this) not just quality-on-its-own-terms but significance in pointing the way to the future. (Another Green World and kinda-sorta Young Americans also do well on that metric, as I guess would Love to Love Baby if for some reason you conceptualized it as an album rather than just dealing with the title track in its extended mix as a freestanding object.) But Joni and Elton and Bruce and even Zappa were all just elegant members of an ancien regime in need of overthrow. I guess I should note that R.E.M. adding the title track of Toys in the Attic to their set lists circa ’85 was an important symbol of the insurgents realizing that a certain partial reconciliation was desirable as part of consolidating the new order and harmonizing it with the better aspects of the old — like the poem by the young Pound where he tries to make his peace with Walt Whitman.

  15. Good lord, how could I omit Horses?! My apologies to Patti in particular and rock and roll in general. I have disappointed myself.

  16. For me a jetty is primarily meant not to dock boats but to control the movement of sand or silt, either by limiting its motion parallel to the shore, or by channeling it at the outflow of a river to prevent the creation of a delta. The others are primarily meant for docking boats. I recognize all three, but I naturally use pier if wharf or quay is not part of the name.

    For me, dock always refers to the watery space next to a pier, and is the preferred synonym for slip. Note that drydock suggests that default docks are not dry, and that in BrE a criminal defendant stands in, not on, the dock. Calling a pier a dock makes you a lubber as far as I am concerned.

  17. J.W. Brewer says

    John C.: I suspect you might have different semantics for “jetty” if you’d grown up in a non-North-American part of the Anglosphere. Although consider way out in the American West https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiral_Jetty which has no function at all other than the aesthetic one of hopefully looking cool.

  18. Sir JCass says

    There’s also La Jetée, the title of Chris Marker’s 1962 sc-fi film, which resists attempts to translate it into English*. Wikipedia explains that the “jetty” in question is an “outdoor viewing pier at an airport”.

    *Although no doubt some wags would go with Twelve Monkeys.

  19. @John C For me a jetty is primarily meant not to dock boats but to control the movement of sand or silt,

    Ha! For me [BrEng and a boatie] a jetty is primarily meant to dock boats. (And is usually on piles, possibly with fill at the landward end.) What you’re describing is a groyne or mole.

    @JWB’s spiral is definitely a groyne. (Although it’s art, so it can call itself whatever.)

    @Lucy K Moorings floating on water are “pontoons”. A Marina will have those and jetties and slips, usually.

  20. Marja Erwin says

    I am a landlubber, but I thought all of them were built into the water, with wharf, pier, and quay being synonyms, and breakwater, mole, and jetty being synonyms, and the choice having more to do with the fashions of the time than the actual construction…

  21. I spell it groin (standard AmE) and recognize it as a synonym for jetty.

    Breakwaters, however, are entirely or primarily parallel to the shore.

    A mole can be at any angle, but is massive and is out of the water even at high tide.

  22. This is the first I’ve heard of a groyne (or groin, as the case may be).

  23. To me, the difference between a jetty and a groyne is purely one of function. Specifically, if it is there to control sand and silt movement, it’s a groyne.

  24. Harrumph! For Jetty, all the online dictionaries I consulted gave both meanings. All I can say is I’ve never heard the breakwater/groyne/mole sense.

    And it’s daft and dangerous to be ambiguous in this case: if you want to dock a boat, what you need is something with sheer sides going down vertically into deep water — i.e. piles. A heap of rubble is only going to put a hole in your boat long before you get close enough to throw a line. (Plenty of examples of that on YouTube.)

    I’d agree with other comments that the diagram from facebook is trying to impose artificial order on chaos. But if there’s any difference in sense:

    A quay is along the shore, and for that reason more likely to be fill. Although that’s often held back behind pilings, in order to give a sheer side for mooring.

    Wharfs/piers jut out into the water from the quay, so more likely to be piles, esp. at the seaward end. If there’s any difference, wharf is more commercial/substantial, pier is more recreational: pleasure pier, fishing pier.

    A jetty is a small pier, typically for tying up pleasure craft or dinghies/rowboats.

    Breakwater is a generic term including groyne, mole, even something semi-submerged/anchored to the seabed, to break heavy sees.

    A groyne juts out perpendicular from the shore of a beach or riverbank, to try to reduce erosion. (Which it at best merely delays.) Apparently this is also called jetty (not in my hearing).

    A mole surrounds a harbour to protect moored craft. And for that reason, yes, is massive.

  25. Siganus Sutor says

    For me a jetty is most frequently resting on stilts, but it’s not an obligation.

    Regarding the filled bit, there’s a French word for that — terreplein –, which applies to a flat backfilled area behind a retaining structure, a quay for instance. I don’t know if there’s an English equivalent.

  26. Siganus Sutor says

    I didn’t see that anyone mentioned a dolphin, which should be a structure not connected to the land (a small artificial piled island so to speak) to which a ship can be moored.

  27. Regarding the filled bit, there’s a French word for that — terreplein –, which applies to a flat backfilled area behind a retaining structure, a quay for instance. I don’t know if there’s an English equivalent.

    My monster bilingual Larousse says “backing, (relieving) platform.” (But in military use: terreplein.)

  28. J.W. Brewer says

    The context of the album title I referenced above fwiw is the slant-rhymed couplet “I’ve been searching all through the city / See you in the morning down by the jetty.” I’m not quite sure what sort of structure with what sort of function would make the most sense in that context. You can see a February 1975 performance of it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RHw_Gg1TjEU, although unfortunately not in situ near the water but inside a tv studio way up north in Newcastle for a regional show called “Geordie Scene” which no doubt the sophisticated Home Counties youth of the day looked down upon.

  29. Bathrobe says

    This are a jetty:


    Would anyone call it a pier?

  30. Lars (the original one) says

    What’s the English for shore-parallel structures with retaining walls and backfill, intended for mooring? The Thames Embankment is the same construction, but has too many fancy outcrops (and too few pollards) to be useful.

    Anyway, those are kajer in Denmark. No pilings in sight.

  31. This is the first I’ve heard of a groyne (or groin, as the case may be).

    I first heard of them when I visited Brighton and Hove back in the 1980s. As you take a stroll to Rottingdean and Saltdean using the Undercliff coastal walk, there are signs warning you to “keep off the groynes” every hundred metres or so. The signs don’t explain what a groyne is, but since they accompany their referents so regularly, one can add two and two together.

  32. @Bathrobe This are a jetty: …

    Yes (apart from the peculiar number non-agreement) that’s a jetty for tying boats up to. No fill that I can see.

    Would anyone call it a pier?

    A (very) small pier, yes: it has fancy lights and a hand-rail.

  33. @Lars What’s the English for shore-parallel structures with retaining walls and backfill, intended for mooring?

    In a harbour, I’d say “quay”. Along a river, I’d say “embankment”. Along a canal I’d say “canalside”. In a commercial area with cranes/sheds overhanging, I might say “wharf”.

    The Thames Embankment is the same construction, but has too many fancy outcrops (and too few pollards) to be useful.

    I think you mean “bollards”. “Pollard”(ing) is to do with pruning trees. In the case of the Thames Embankment, you ain’t supposed to moor up in Central London: there’s too much commercial traffic/all moorings are reserved (usually pontoons that rise/fall with the tide). You can moor downstream (not so much embankment as green, sucking mud. You can moor upstream of the tidal reaches, above Teddington (“tide-end-town”).

    BTW you don’t need bollards: small pleasure craft have vicious right-angled hooks on the end of their mooring lines, to sink into the sward; and/or mud weights.

    Anyway, those are kajer in Denmark.

    Google translates as “quays”. I’d guess it’s cognate with “quay”/French “quai”.

    No pilings in sight.

    Again careful with the treacherous English language: “pilings” are not piles. They’re typically W-profile steel girders driven — er, as in “piledriver” — vertically deep into the mud/shoreline to form a continuous wall; then backfilled with rubble; then capped with concrete. There’s miles of that along the Thames, except in Central London where it’s deemed too industrial/unsightly for the tourists.

    I’ve seen the same technology in the Netherlands. There was a machine (vibrating rather than piledriving) going solidly for three days on a building site next door to where I was trying to give a training course.

  34. J.W. Brewer says

    Bathrobe, that doesn’t look like a jetty to me; it looks like a dock. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dock_(maritime) has a helpful discussion of the differences between BrEng and AmEng usage for that particular lexeme. The prescriptivist claim made upthread that “dock” means the water that a boat is floating on when docked rather than the structure it’s tied to is simply false as applied to AmEng. (If one focused on it as a thing for fishermen to use rather than a thing for small boats to tie up to, it might be a pier, albeit an unusually small one.)

    Note that if “dock” was the water not the structure next to it, Otis Redding could not feasibly have been sitting on a dock while watching the tide roll away.

  35. Like those Blank maps of [region X] with names filled in by person from [region Y], some of these are guesses:-

    * pier — sticks out into the water
    * breakwater — you can’t walk on the top
    * groyne — sticks out from a beach. you can’t walk on the top.
    * wharf — where cargo ships berth
    * quay — street with one side on the river’s edge. I can see that it originally meant the wharf rather than the road abutting the wharf, but the Useful Distinction overrides this.
    * jetty — a word used in England. Maybe those floating piers where pleasure craft berth?

  36. Lars (the original one) says

    @AntC, thanks for the corrections. Still, neither piles nor pilings in the quays I’m thinking about, they were constructed in the 18th and 19th centuries so they had to build the walls from enough stone to hold. (Piles were certainly used for construction inland of the quay, since most of Copenhagen is built on waterlogged garbage, and pilings are used now in places where the heavier piledriving won’t make any weathered sandstone saints fall off the churches).

    And I never realized how literal the name Docklands is — Wikipedia shows me that there was in fact mooring on the main run of the Thames in the late 18th, but in the 19th the activity was moved into man-made basins out of the traffic.

  37. David L says

    Jeez, guys. I’ve read all the comments and I still don’t understand the precise differences between wharf, quay, pier, and jetty, and now I have groyne/groin and mole to worry about, plus I have to decide what was the best album of 1975. What sort of a blog is this?

    (I’m torn between Blood on the Tracks and Tonight’s the Night but I lean toward the latter).

  38. dainichi says

    those are kajer in Denmark.

    My given name is homophonous with “kaj” (singular of kajer), and in elementary school I had a teacher who always called me “Tågernes kaj” (the quay of the mists), the Danish title of Le quai des brumes, Port of Shadows.

  39. (I’m torn between Blood on the Tracks and Tonight’s the Night but I lean toward the latter)

    Yeah, those would be my choices as well, though I will always have abiding love for The Basement Tapes (I can still see in my mind the Long Beach room in which I first heard it).

  40. Living in South Florida, “quay” brings to mind the Keys, a chain of islands. for example, Key West, or Cayo Hueso in Spanish, or Key Biscayne. Entymonline.com reports quay is from Middle English key and further back “sand bank” from 5 c. Gaulish caium. In that context the facebook thing parallel to the shore built on fill would be an artificial key.

  41. first saw that diagram via engineering professor Deb Chachra on Twitter,

    it seemed quite reasonable – that is, met all my prejudices about the structures described..
    but now it appears it was just an attractive but spurious imposition of meaning.

  42. Just to add my experience to the pile, if someone had given me the 2×2 grid and any single one of the words ‘jetty’, ‘wharf’, and ‘pier’, I would have placed it just as in the photo, without hesitation. I was raised in a sailing family in California and feel very comfortable with the terms. On the other hand, I have a mental image of John Hancock’s wharf in colonial Boston being perpendicular to the shore… Here we go:


    But I think I remember this only because when I saw a map, I thought Hey that’s a pier not a wharf.

    ‘Quay’ is not a word I use naturally. I also would have placed it on the grid as in the photo, but only because it fits the only quay I know (Circular Quay in Sydney).

    @Lucy Kemnitzer: I always imagined Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco as parallel to the shore (in contrast with the piers there). Like this:


    Am I wrong?

  43. @David L Jeez …; @jb Am I wrong?

    No. Pretty clearly everybody is right. And all have won. And all shall have prizes. And the whole thing’s a darned mess. And I shall revel in it as a dog in fresh-mown grass [to echo Geoff Pullum].

    @david … the Keys, a chain of islands. Yes that sense (a low sandbank/sandy island) (in Florida probably influenced from Spanish?) is still in English, usually spelled “cay” these days.

    As you point out from etymonline, there’s been etymological confusion and spelling/pronunciation interference between PIE/Old Celtic/Norman/French/Spanish/who knows what.

    “Sitting on the edge of the quay, watching the time rolling away.” doesn’t rhyme quay with key. More variation.

  44. Haha! Right on cue my local paper has a headline “… cruise ship jetty”. http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/92116136/how-lyttelton-will-fund-cruise-ship-jetty

    Using “jetty” can’t be because of lack of space: dock or pier would be shorter; wharf or berth no longer. And the word “jetty” doesn’t appear in the article.

    I goggle at the thought of the Carnival Triumph trying to berth at the wee thing in @Bathrobe’s picture.

    P.S. ref my previous post, I’m mis-remembering Otis’s lyrics. But there’s plenty of songs rhyming “quay” with “bay”. So there’s ambiguity of pronunciation, as well as of meaning.

  45. I lived on the Seine alongside the Quai de la Conference in Paris for many years. It was built for Catherine de Medicis and was, as described above, built of piling, filled in with rubble, with a hard wall on the river side, resulting in a rather wavy surface to the Quai whee bits had subsided.
    The translation of Quai des Brumes as Port of Shadows does nothing for me, but I have other things on my mind at the moment than to work on a better translation – there is one, though. Dainichi’s teacher was right.

  46. But Spanish cayo ‘shoal, reef’ (as in the Florida Keys/Cays) also has an alternative etymology — from Taíno kaya ‘small island’.

  47. But why change the ending, when it would have been perfectly straightforward to borrow it as caya f.?

  48. david: Entymonline.com reports quay is from Middle English key and further back “sand bank” from 5 c. Gaulish caium

    Middle English key(e, cay(e, kay(e is attested since the 13th c., but it never means ‘sand bank’. It has its modern meaning of ‘wharf, landing stage’:

    No manere personne shippe, ne do shippe, neither Wolles, Wolfell … in no place within this Roialme, but onely at ye Keyes and Stathes beying in the Portes assigned by Statut.

    Payed to Edward Carpenter for makyng of stokkis, and for the Key at Stronde, 16 d. Payed for a planke for the Kaye, and 2 pecys of tymbere … 4 d.

    Also, already in the 14th c., the toll for loading/unloading merchandise at a wharf was called kaiage, keyage etc. (Med. Lat. caiagium)

    It comes from northern Old French cai ’embankment, dyke, levee’ (cf Poitevin chai ‘wine shed’), itself from late Gaulish caio (glossed ‘field or enclosed place’ in a 5th-c. word-list), earlier cagiíon, Gallo-Latin caium ‘hedge, enclosure’. Other Celtic cognates include Welsh cae ‘field, fence, hedge’, Cornish ke, Breton kae ‘hedge’ < Proto-Celtic *kagjom ‘pen, enclosure’, related to Germanic *xaɣan- and xaɣja- (cf.hedge, haw-thorn). All these things are man-made structures and (until the Middle Ages) not connected with the sea or with sailing in any way.

    Spanish cayo is known from the 16th c., used mostly in the context of Antillean geography, and has a different meaning from the quay-words. The Lucayan Taíno kaya, ke ‘island’ is well attested as a toponymic element. It seems, therefore, that quay and cay are only accidental lookalikes, not real cognates. So, by the way, are isle and island.

  49. Lars (the original one) says

    kaj = hæk — one more oddity for the attic of the mind.

  50. January First-of-May says

    It seems, therefore, that quay and cay are only accidental lookalikes, not real cognates.

    Sadly, to the best of my knowledge, there isn’t any name for a kind of boat derived from quay (despite the nautical meaning).

    Would’ve been hilarious if there was a “quayic” or something to contrast with the kayak, caique and cayuco (three kinds of boats with very similar names and apparently entirely unrelated etymologies, neither of which is related to “quay”).

  51. J.W. Brewer says

    I ended up doing a 150-mile drive late last night, from where I live now to where I grew up, so that I could attend a funeral this morning. Glancing just before I set out at the large but random pile of CD’s that happened to be in the car, I noticed Tonight’s the Night and put it on for the first leg of the journey. As I’ve noticed before when I have listened to it closely, it’s a frustratingly mixed bag once you get past the title track. So much of its claim to greatness is sort of “meta” — i.e. its willful rejection of a particular aesthetic (Steely-Dan-studio-perfectionist etc.) that was suffocatingly dominant at the time, but sometimes one wants to focus on things whose aesthetic merit is sort of absolute and contextless, i.e. that can be enjoyed w/o needing to call to mind what they are supposed to be contrasting with and critiquing. (I offer this point not to try to turn this into a 70’s-rock-criticism site, but in the hope that someone more learned will point out some bit of well-regarded eg 19th century Russian literature that could be subject to a parallel criticism.)

    I thought of putting on Horses afterwards for a direct A-B comparison, but it seemed not quite right for my mood and plus was in a location I couldn’t easily reach from the driver’s seat and would have required pulling over. So I saved Horses for the northbound return trip this afternoon in daylight and continued down the Jersey Turnpike accompanied by Feats Don’t Fail Me Now (’74 rather than ’75).

  52. I confess I haven’t listened to Tonight’s the Night in years, probably many years, and I might well have the same reaction now. (My condolences, by the way.)

  53. Siganus Sutor says

    “It seems, therefore, that quay and cay are only accidental lookalikes”

    The Haitian city of Les Cayes, which is near the “baie des Cayes”, is most probably related to the second one.

    And so should be the Malian city of Kayes, whose name is pronounced like “je caille” (I am freezing). As one would expect with such a name, it is a bitterly cold place.

  54. @Bathrobe:
    This are a jetty:
    Would anyone call it a pier?

    Hardly a pier, not even in Swedish (‘pir’) where it’s ‘brygga’
    They call it a jetty, I’d call it a landing stage.
    Perhaps we’re down to different dialect meanings for the same words.

  55. David Marjanović says

    Cold? In Mali? At night, I guess…?

  56. I think that was a joke.

  57. Trond Engen says

    Freezing is a no-Mali.

  58. The anomaly, if any, is in the name then.

    “Kayes is nicknamed the “pressure cooker of Africa” due to its extreme heat; the town is surrounded by iron-rich mountains which contribute to the temperature. The town has been described as the hottest continuously inhabited town in Africa.”

    Did you know, Trond, that a quay comprising sheet piling along the water edge and a concrete platform supported by piles is sometimes called a “Danish quay” (“quai danois”) in French? I wonder what the Danes did to the French for that kind of civil engineering works to be called this way. A typical section can be seen on the last page of this pdf: http://www.planete-tp.com/IMG/pdf/Ouvrages_d_accostage_sur_sol_de_faible_portance_cle23ad19.pdf

    Languagehat might like to know that there are British standards for maritime structures (BS 6349) that provide a series of definition in the beginning. Part 2: Code of practice for the design of quay walls, jetties and dolphins:

    3.1.13 jetty
    structure providing a berth or berths at some distance from the shore
    NOTE – A jetty may be connected to the shore by an access trestle or causeway, or may be of the island type.
    [Siganus: I never thought a jetty could be an island, i.e. be disconnected from the mainland. I’m willing to learn though.]

    3.1.15 marginal berth (or quay)
    berth (or quay) parallel to the shore

    3.1.16 quay
    berth structure backing on to the shore or reclaimed land
    NOTE – This is also known as a wharf.

    3.1.17 pier
    structure projecting from the shore at which berths are provided

    3.1.18 relieving platform
    platform built below deck level and supported on bearing piles, the principal function of which is to reduce lateral soil pressures over the portion of an embedded retaining wall below platform level.
    NOTE – A relieving platform is usually supported on the retaining wall.

    I wonder if all that helps at all…

  59. Siganus Sutor says

    “May 7, 2017 at 11:11 am – Your comment is awaiting moderation.”

    I’m just gonna sit at the dock of the bay
    Watching the tide roll away,
    Ooh wee, sitting on the dock of the bay
    Wasting time

  60. What I want to know is, can a relieving platform be used for relieving oneself?

  61. Siganus Sutor says

    Only if you are buried in a cavity underneath. (Provided the quay is in-continent and not part of an island.)

  62. Are there diapers available (Brit: nappies I think) for incontinent quays? Enquiring minds need to know.

  63. I have looked up jetty in the OED. It records two rather different nautical uses of the term:

    2a. A breakwater, pier, etc., constructed to protect or defend a harbour, stretch of coast, or riverbank. Also: an outwork protecting a pier (ca. 1425).

    2b. A landing stage or small pier at which boats can dock or be moored (1830).

    The OED definitions of quay and wharf describe more or less the same thing, except that the concept of quay seems to be a little more general (and the structure itself more solid):

    A substantial structure of timber, stone, etc., built along the water’s edge, so that ships may lie alongside for loading and unloading (since Old English). [Often with prefixed n., as fish-wharf, gun-wharf.]

    A man-made bank or landing stage, typically built of stone, lying alongside or projecting into water for loading and unloading ships. Also in extended use (1399).

  64. What a mess!

  65. I realize now that in my mind the Otis is singing “… top of the bay”, which makes a lot more sense to me. Mondegreen par excellence.

  66. Sorry to come so late to this, but I just discovered it. As a Navy brat, I want to join jb in agreeing with and approving the distinctions on which this thread comments. They are useful and cover most of the berthing structures one is likely to encounter, although there are plenty of complications. That a wharf is built on piles and a quay on fill, and that both are more or less parallel to the shore line, is pretty unproblematic. Pier and jetty are messier, mostly because the terminology was fixed (sort of) late (19th century) under heavy influence from landlubbers. It would have been more consistent to call the solid wall a ‘pier’ and the platform carried on piles a ‘jetty’, but we got the opposite. If you check older sources, you will find that ‘pier’ formerly designated usually a solid masonry structure. . A pier of a bridge or a church (Romanesque churches are good places to look) is a massive piece of masonry. There is an old coastal time, its name and location I do not recall, that centuries ago had a quay that played an important role in the town’s economy, and was called ‘the Pier’. If you examine old dictionaries you will find the ‘pier’ formerly designated usually some such solid structure. As some contributors to this thread noted, structures extending out into the water are built for various reasons, often to provide berthing for vessels but also to form artificial harbors, to prevent siltation or erosion of sand from beaches, to provide anglers access to deeper water than they could cast to from shore, &c. There are some names in addition to ‘pier’ and ‘jetty’ to designate structures intended for particular purposes. In the early nineteenth century, it became fashionable to go on holiday to coastal towns, which began to profit handsomely from the tourist trade and look for ways to encourage it. One device to that end was what its developers, not seamen they, chose to call the ‘pleasure pier’. Typically these were structures carried on piles, too high off the water to be of much use for the berthing of vessels, ending in a pierhead adorned with a ‘pavilion’ (not the p- alliteration in all this, a likely reason why ‘pier’ was the preferred term). The pavilion sometimes looked like a castle of sorts, and contained various amenities for vacationers. I believe that it was not before the pleasure pier became popular that the convention of designation a structure built on piles as a ‘pier’ became usual. That left no general term for the structure built on fill but ‘jetty’ (etymologically, ‘*jet*ty’ could have been applied to any thing that pro*ject*ed out into the water). I recommend that you adopt and apply the distinctions. If you have not differentiated such structures previously, you will sharpen your powers of observation by drawing the distinction. You will also be less likely to make the near-universal American blunder of call any and every berthing structure a ‘dock’.

  67. Thanks very much for that well-informed comment!

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