The language of rain

Moored off Tobemory

I am a self-confessed weather geek.  All matters meteorological fascinate me.  My sister teases me about my daily habit of checking the weather, even when it makes no difference to what I’m doing.  Today, for example, I shall be mostly researching, yet I know that an Atlantic frontal system is crossing over Cornwall, probably the warm front has passed (I bet it feels warm outside, but haven’t tested that), and that a BIG weather system is waiting in the wings to make a grand entrance on Sunday, deepening and occluding as the morning goes.  I know all of this, because weather fascinates me.   I was just looking out of my window and I remembered the photograph I took from Whinchat a few summers ago, at the top of this post, when weather did matter.  Getting to the point, I also remembered a fascinating conversation I had with my good friend Ochaya Robert, in Uganda… and that’s the musing of the day.  Language.

There is a kind of urban myth that the Eskimos have many words for snow – is it 50? – I believe because of the work of an Anthropologist in the late 19th century – at this point I could google it, put up a link, but it’s not the point here.  The point is that they must really know snow, and one word mightn’t suffice, rather like the English and rain. They have a Polar Climate, we have a Temperate Maritime one.  On the last trip I made to Uganda (a Tropical Climate), Robert was my guide on safari in Murchison Falls, and I had turned tourist to teacher.  Robert has an insatiable thirst for knowledge about the world, and this one-time Geography student was happy to oblige.  It was October in Uganda, the beginning of the wet season, and the roads were claggy from a lot of rain.  “It’s been chucking it down”, I said.  “What?” or probably “Waatt?”, closer to his dialect, came the response.  There evolved a brilliant conversation about the words that we use to describe rain, with Robert’s laughter growing ever louder.  In Uganda, it just rains or it doesn’t, but we have….

Pouring, coming down like stair rods, raining cats and dogs, torrential, deluge, downpour, tipping it down, pissing it down, chucking it down, spitting, drizzle, mizzle, dank.

So, whether or not the Inuit have several words for snow, on the basis of the richness of the English expressions for rain, it’s not unreasonable to me.  Anyway, time to go and get the paper, and I’ll forgo the umbrella, as it’s a bit blustery…. oh wait, another whole topic… wind!

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