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In the bed of the river there were pebbles and boulders, dry and white in the sun, and the water was clear and swiftly moving and blue in the channels.

It's from A Farewell To Arms.

I know what the river bed is. I can't understand how can dry pebbles and boulders be in the river bed.

Does bed include shore? I can't find that meaning in English dictionaries.

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    In a fairly shallow river, the boulders could be big enough for their tops to remain dry. Mar 14, 2021 at 17:37
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    A riverbed is not always full of water at all times of year.
    – Lambie
    Mar 14, 2021 at 17:48
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    I think the comma after 'boulders' should be after 'pebbles'. I can't see swift water in drying out channels (ruts or trenches in the bed?), but in channels created by boulders (that are big enough to stick out of the water and remain dry on top) it makes more sense.
    – mcalex
    Mar 15, 2021 at 5:32

2 Answers 2

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No. Not only does bed not include shore, but we do not use shore to refer to the edge of a river: rather bank.

The meaning here is that it's a dry part of the year, and the river is not currently occupying the whole of its bed, but just some "channels", leaving the rest of the bed dry. At other times, the river would spread over its whole bed.

I'm not sure that I would refer to those dry parts as its bed, but the meaning is clear.

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    Shore applies to non-flowing bodies of water, like lakes and seas. But we have lake beds and sea beds :-)
    – jamesqf
    Mar 15, 2021 at 5:04
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    Just anecdotally, in some cases the bank of a large, slowly flowing river will be referred to as a shore, especially in cases where the river's 'use' by the public is similar to that of a lake - e.g. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perth_Water
    – Kayndarr
    Mar 15, 2021 at 5:11
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    ‘We don’t use shore to refer to the edge of a river’ Except, sometimes people do when talking in a generic sense (it’s never ‘river shore’, just ‘shore’ by itself, or occasionally ‘near shore’ or ‘far shore’ when indicating proximity to what’s being discussed). Such usage is less common in vernacular usage and more a literary/poetic thing, but it does exist. And of course, there’s the usage that Kayndarr points out where a large slow river is treated like a lake or other static body of water. Mar 15, 2021 at 11:45
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    Also, the use of ‘riverbed’ to refer to where a river would flow if there was sufficient water is accepted terminology among geographers and geologists. Such usage is most commonly seen when discussing deserts and other arid climates, where smaller rivers will often only flow after a heavy rain and the riverbed is dry most of the time. Mar 15, 2021 at 11:48
  • @AustinHemmelgarn Yes, riverbed is marked as slightly more technical in usage, as you point out. In that sense, bed of the river is more creative. Is is wrong? Is in inaccurate? No. Is it more poetic? Certainly. Maybe we should now turn to bed of the sea. Ha ha.
    – Lambie
    Mar 15, 2021 at 14:20
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The word is riverbed.

Then, this author became creative and said: the bed of the river i.e. simpler.

Here is what one poster used here:

Also, the use of ‘riverbed’ to refer to where a river would flow if there was sufficient water is accepted terminology among geographers and geologists. Such usage is most commonly seen when discussing deserts and other arid climates, where smaller rivers will often only flow after a heavy rain and the riverbed is dry most of the time. – Austin Hemmelgarn 7 hours ago

The bed here means:riverbed But bed of the river is more poetic or creative than riverbed.

the ground over which a river usually flows: a stony/muddy/dry riverbed

The bed of a river AKA riverbed may not completely be covered with water. Part of it may not be covered with water along the edges and there could be dry pebbles and rocks there.

             _______ **** _______

"Ernest Hemingway writing style tip #1: Use one syllable words more often than not. [...]

No matter how many times I read it, I’m still blown away…

In the late summer of that year, we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains. In the bed of the river, there were pebbles and boulders, dry and white in the sun, and the water was clear and swiftly moving and blue in the channels. Troops went by the house and down the road and the dust they raised powdered the leaves of the trees. The trunks of the trees too were dusty and the leaves fell early that year and we saw the troops marching along the road and the dust rising and leaves, stirred by the breeze, falling and the soldiers marching and afterward the road bare and white except for the leaves.” [Opening Paragraph: A Farewell To Arms [...]

One way to accomplish simplicity in your writing is to use more one-syllable words versus two and three syllable words."

riverbed is not as simple as bed of the river.

I called it creative, others call it stylistic simplicity. Whatever.

The bed is the "bottom" of the river and the "sides" are called banks.

shore is for the land along a seacoast OR the land along a lake.

Both those have shores.

https://www.honeycopy.com/copywritingblog/ernest-hemingway-writing-style simplicity

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    The OED records bed in that sense from 1655 (of the sea from 1586).
    – Colin Fine
    Mar 14, 2021 at 16:18
  • What sense? Just bed, sure, but not "river [space] bed". In any case, the bed of a river, is its riverbed. So, I believe I added some value here. I believe you can do that in English means that is how English works.
    – Lambie
    Mar 14, 2021 at 17:13
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    The 1655 example reads " Rivers..have still the same beds.". I wasn't responding to your "can do this in English" but to your "this author became creative".
    – Colin Fine
    Mar 14, 2021 at 18:50
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    -1 "bed of the river" is normal and correct usage, not something that requires creative license. Mar 15, 2021 at 6:43
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    Googling "bed of the river" (in quotes) yields about 10 million results containing that very phrase. I'm not sure to what extent using such a popular phrase amounts to being "creative"... It's not unusual at all. If anything, it'd have a smell of "trying too hard" to be "creative" but not quite getting there. Mar 15, 2021 at 13:23

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