The big breakers came in slowly; their shoulders growing tall and green.

I'd like to know whether "their shoulders" in this sentence is used correctly. Does the word "green" mean "full of energy"?

  • What is the source of this sentence? Can you give more context? Commented Sep 5, 2015 at 15:03
  • These sentences are taken from the story "Dreams Do Come True" by Jim Bishop.
    – yethu
    Commented Sep 5, 2015 at 15:24
  • And the context? I suspect here that breakers are ocean waves, and that shoulders means "a wider part of the wave just below the very top", analogous to the shoulders on the human body. But without context I cannot be sure. Commented Sep 5, 2015 at 15:49
  • @NateEldredge: You got it right, I think. Commented Sep 5, 2015 at 15:50

3 Answers 3


I think it's a metaphor.

A wave coming ashore rises slowly and before it breaks (crushes down), it might seem to somebody a hunched giant whose neck is bent down, and only the shoulders and the back are visible. The rising of the wave is like growing of that hunched-over giant, with the shoulders slowly getting higher/taller and the water turning a bit more translucent on the top making the "shoulders" turn green.


Yes, this is correct. Not a metaphor, the reference to a shoulder is simply a less common use of the word.

The definition of shoulder in Merriam-Webster (one of the most accepted English Dictionaries) includes this: an area adjacent to or along the edge of a higher, more prominent, or more important part [such as] the part of a hill or mountain near the top.

Using this definition, the shoulder of a wave is simply the portion near the top.

  • You should probably edit to add the link if you have one. Commented Sep 5, 2015 at 17:30

"Shoulder" is used to refer to a portion near the crest of the wave, but lower. It's a part which hasn't broken yet. (Breaking is when the water comes apart and appears white.)

Here's a link and here's another. The second notes that a shoulder may also be called a corner in surfing jargon.

http://www.alohasurfguide.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Wave-Anatomy-1-1024x594.jpgenter image description here

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