In the old proverb:
Time and tide wait for no man.
Our first record of the proverb is from St Marher in 1225:
And te tide and te time þat tu iboren were, schal beon iblescet.
When it was already considered ancient. As near as I can make out, the Middle English proverb quoted above means:
“And the tide and the time that you were born shall be blessed.”
Thanks to this answer for pointing out the correct translation, and also for pointing out that this is just the oldest tide and time reference, not an actual translation of the whole proverb.
Even though that does not have the “wait for no man” aspect to it, nonetheless the modern proverb is always traced back to the St Marher quote in any source I consulted.
But what is the difference between tide and time? To me, time and tide seem to mean the same thing: see yule-tide and Christmas-tide. (Then again, “good tidings” and “good times” now mean different things.)
But why are they repeated in the proverb then if they are not different? What aspect or nuance does one of time and tide possess that the other does not? Or was this somehow done for poetic effect?
Apparently, Barrie’s idea of this originally being a rhetorical duplication of the same thing that counts as the same thing has some currency. It turns out that there are plenty of mentions of the proverb with singular concordance, as in:
- Time and tide waits for no man.
That shows that the speaker thinks of them as one lexical unit, as in:
- Our new President and CEO is John Smith.
- Peanut butter and jelly makes the tastiest snackwich.
- Early to bed and early to rise, / makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.
However, in modern times, there are more instances of the proverb with plural concordance than with singular, which I suspect helped the reänalysis of the two words meaning essentially one and the same thing into two words meaning separate things.