middle ground

Ground need not imply dry land. Its original meaning was closer to “bottom.” Thus ground fish, like cod or haddock, are species that feed on the seafloor. The grounds of coffee are the dregs, the sediment that settles from the brew. Middle grounds are sandbars or mudflats found in the middle of a tidal channel; water flows on either side of them. They characteristically occur near the entrance or exit of a constricted passage. They are sedimentary deposits, like coffee grounds, and are precipitated by eddies and counter-currents. They may or may not be visible at low tide, but, at some stage of the tide, they are near enough to the surface for vessels to run aground on. The politician infallibly steers for the metaphoric middle ground, the shifting shallows created by current events. Not so the honest sailor.

Franklin Burroughs