August 24:  Meteorological Metaphors Day

Today is the anniversary of an editorial by Charles Dudley Warner published in the Hartford Courant in 1897. The subject of the editorial is long forgotten, but one line from the article lives on as a famous quote: Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.

Although many credit Warner with the funny line, some argue that it really should be credited to Mark Twain, who was a friend and collaborator with Charles Dudley Warner. Ralph Keyes, the author of The Quote Verifier, comes down on Twain’s side, saying that the wording of the editorial reveals that Warner got the quote from Twain: “A well known American writer said once that, while everybody talked about the weather, nobody seemed to do anything about it” (1).

Weather or not Twain said it (pun intended), there is no doubt that weather has rained down on the English lexicon. Many of our everyday idioms are weather related, and some of our common words have meteorological origins:

Astonish: Being struck by thunder would certainly be an astonishing experience. This word comes to English via the French estoner which in turn was derived from Latin ex = out + tonare = to thunder. Thus the literal translation of astonish is thunderstruck.

Window: This word comes from the Norse vindauge which comes from vindr = wind + auga = eye. Thus a window is the “wind’s eye.”

Lunatic: For centuries people have considered the effects of the moon on the weather and the varying moods of earthlings. Because the moon does affect ocean tides, it does have an indirect impact on the weather. There is less evidence, however, to prove the moon’s relationship to the human psyche. Nevertheless the word lunatic is derived from Luna the moon goddess, who in myth would sometimes toy with the sanity of mortals.

Here are a few example of weather idioms, where weather is used as a metaphor for some aspect of human experience:

A port in storm

Chase rainbows

Cloud nine

Cloud of suspicion

Fair-weather friend

Head in the clouds

Greased lightning

Shoot the breeze

A snow job

Steal someone’s thunder

Tempest in a teapot

Under the weather

Forecast Calls for Neologisms
The nouns below probably do not look familiar. They are all neologisms, new words that have appeared in print but that are not yet in the dictionary. See if you can match up the words with their definitions below. For more details on each word visit Word Spy, a site devoted to neologisms.

geomythology

weather tourist

weather bomb

megacryometeor

gigantic jet

tornado bait

space weather

season creep

  1. Earlier spring weather and other gradual seasonal shifts, particularly those caused by global climate change.
  1. A person whose vacation consists of tracking down and observing tornadoes, hurricanes, and other severe weather phenomena.
  1. A massive and powerful storm that develops quickly and without warning.
  1. One or more mobile homes or trailers, especially when located in or near a tornado zone.
  1. A massive lightning flash that extends from the top of a thundercloud up to the ionosphere.
  1. Electrical storms generated when the solar wind emitted by the sun interacts with the Earth’s magnetic field.
  1. A large chunk of ice that forms in the atmosphere and falls to the ground.
  1. The study of past earthquakes, volcanoes, and other geological events that combines the analysis of both physical evidence and the myths and legends related to the events.

Today’s Challenge: “Over the Rainbow”
What are some songs that talk about weather either literally or figuratively? What would you argue is the single best weather-related song?  Brainstorm a list of songs that deal with weather, and select your favorite.   Make your argument by explaining what makes the song great and by explaining how the lyrics reflect the weather, either literally or figuratively. (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

For example, in the Beatles song “Good Day Sunshine” the sunny weather parallels the sunny disposition of the singer who is happily in love:

Good day sunshine, good day sunshine, good day sunshine

I need to laugh and when the sun is out

I’ve got something I can laugh about

I feel good in a special way

I’m in love and it’s a sunny day

Quotation of the Day: Weather forecast for tonight:  dark.  -George Carlin

Answers: 1. season creep 2. weather tourist 3. weather bomb 4. tornado bait 5. gigantic jet 6. space weather 7. megacryometeor 8.geomythology

 

1 – Keyes, Ralph. The Quote Verifier: Who Said What, Where, and When. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2006.

2 – Funk, Wilfred. Word Origins and Their Romantic Stories. New York:Grosset & Dunlap, 1950.

3 – http://www.wordspy.com/index/Science-Weather.asp—-