Talking about the weather—a lot

Britain really does get a lot of rain. Almost as much as people think it does. Enough that the vocabulary for rain is extensive and specialized. It’s raining stair rods. Or pitch forks. It’s chucking it down, or pissing down, or bucketing down, or mizzling—a lighter, mistier version of drizzling and a word I use sometimes for the pure pleasure of hearing it. In the U.S., it rains or drizzles or rains cats and dogs, but that’s about it. Once in a while, I guess, it mists enough to turn mist from a noun to a verb. But if it does anything else I can’t think what it is. We have words for different kinds of storms, from a shower to a hurricane, but for the rain itself? We haven’t been driven by the sheer indoor boredom of being stuck in the house on 356 consecutive rainy days to come up with new words and phrases.

Or maybe the words came from being out in the rain before the invention of anything that even semi-reliably kept a person dry. Naming the damned stuff could keep your mind off your misery. Or at least keep you busy while you were miserable.

A rare relevant photo: digging clams on a foggy day. Marazion.

A rare relevant photo: digging clams on a foggy day in Marazion.

Once you have a vocabulary, you have to say something with it, which is how we get to attitude. It rains enough here that people grow a kind of fatalism about the weather. I say “grow” because it creeps over them the way mold grows on damp walls. Sometimes it comes out as a wry fatalism and sometimes as plain old moaning. (When I lived in the U.S., a moan was nothing more than a sound. Here it’s transformed into an entire attitude, a form of not-gonna-do-anything complaint. A way of life, in fact.)

The content of wry fatalism and moaning is almost the same. It’s the attitude that makes them different.

“I guess we’ve had our summer,” a neighbor said on a gray day that followed some warm, sunny weather.

I knew enough to say, “Yes, and it was a beautiful day.”

He laughed and I congratulated myself: I’d played my hand in the game of wry fatalism. Not bad for a furriner.

On a different day—a sunny one—another neighbor said, “It won’t last.”

Same thought but pure moan. I wasn’t sure how to contribute. Maybe all I needed to do was shake my head mournfully and agree but I didn’t. What help can you expect of a furriner anyway?

Free of either fatalism or moaning (I think) is weather news. People trade bits of this the way American boys once traded baseball cards. A storm’s working its way across the Atlantic. An arctic front’s moving down from Iceland. A warm front’s bringing rain from Spain (really—no plains anywhere to be found but the rain falls anyway). You name it, we tell each other about it, especially if it’s bad weather. We listen to the weather on the TV. We check online. We get updates on our phones. Okay, I don’t. My phone is nothing but a phone, and I’ve given up on the evening news since I read the paper and enough already, how much weather (not to mention news) does one person need? So I’m using we loosely here. But every other single person in the country does all of those things, and every last one of them tells me about it. And as a result I can tell more people, who already know it and have already told me some version of it but it’s okay, this isn’t really about the information, it’s about talking to each other. We’re trading baseball cards. Baseball cards have no intrinsic value. They exist only to be traded.

No one’s weather news quite matches anyone else’s, but if it did what would we have to talk about?

61 thoughts on “Talking about the weather—a lot

  1. Yes, the weather is def. a hot topic here. Karen Carpenter would not have been a happy camper here with her dislike of rainy days and Mondays. Nice blog post. Also. Wait. Your phone is just a phone? Who are you? Not judging. ;)

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This is truly classic, Ellen! And oh, so very true… i was thinking along similar lines only this morning when sloshing around the chicken run in an inch of rain over 2 inches of mud, risking life and what remains of my limbs (story forthcoming), alternately searching for eggs and my naughty Apple Bunny, who has made another run for the border. Which border, im not sure… looks like rain in all directions. Meanwhile, it mizzles on… xx Mother Hen

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  3. An appropriate response to “it won’t last” would be “Make the most of it” – or a rueful smile. Raining Cats and Dogs is also used in England. Heavy rain sometimes results in the comment – “Even the Ducks are walking!” Thunder often results in the observation that “God is moving the furniture”. Amongst pilots (derived from the met code CB for cumulo nimbus clouds) storm clouds are often referred to as Charlie Bangers.

    There you go – some more anglo-vocab guidelines ;-)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hilarious. It’s much the same where I live. Everyone moans if it’s too hot, raining, snowing, blowing a hoolie or just because that’s what they’ve always done. I think we fair a little better over here in the East. I’m still running in my shorts; 12 degrees at 6am is impressive for November.

    I’ve always thought that on those dark, wet days, it feels a little Heathcliff and am justified in wearing my pj’s all day while reading a book and feeling smug with myself.

    Having said all of that, it is currently raining here, again.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and we used the expression “pourin down rain” to indicate that it was raining hard. When I say that here in Connecticut, I get funny looks, or snarky comments about rain never really going up. Maybe I’ll adopt some of these.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Having recently returned to the US from six weeks enjoying really lovely weather in rhe UK, including two weeks of sunshine in Cornwall, this blog post caused me much amusement. As usual, I heard many complaints about the weather – often while sitting outside a cafe having a cup of coffee in the warm (not hot) sunshine. ‘Twas ever thus.
    Random fact: I have heard that such places as Houston in Texas receive twice the annual rainfall that England does.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve seen much heavier rains in Minnesota, with much lighter consequences. The thing is, it doesn’t rain that much by volume, it just does it often. Two inches is a hard rain here. In Minnesota? That’s no big deal.

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  7. I considered myself a sun-lover, until I spent a semester in London in college. Then, I became a rain-lover. Gosh, it’s so beautiful, esp. those misty rains you spoke of, when they surround a green, enabling you to imagine all sorts of things there like dragons and knights or the ever present soccer players. I loved being in Southwark on such days, the wet cobblestones and dripping ancient buildings smelling of soot, sewer and freshness. It made me frisky, hopeful and ready for fun. Of course, I was only 21/22 so I always felt that way!

    Fondly,
    Elizabeth

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can’t help turning your “or” into an “and” so that I come up with “dragons and knights and…soccer players.” Yes, of course.

      Some of the most memorable walks I’ve taken here have been in wet weather, including one in heavy, heavy fog, which was just gorgeous.

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  8. I’m one of those odd people who have more energy and feel better when it rains. Drizzling is especially nice. But I think of lately, with all our colorful leaves on the backdrop of a bright blue sky, and I must say, Those are Beautiful Days. Maybe if my autumn was full of rain, it would make me feel dreary? I’ve always thought I’d enjoy the UK, with the rain and the green…
    I didn’t know how much I loved rainy days until I lived someplace with much less rain. So happy to be home.
    I don’t like to moan and I don’t enjoy being around those who love to moan. It gets to me, wears me out. I wonder if I’d be such a typical American, saying, “Cripes! It’s just weather!” lol Perhaps I’m better off here. ;)

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I love all the words for rain. They certainly came in handy for life in Argyll where it rains more often than not. If you’ve not already happened across it, I can add the Scottish phrase “pishing doon” to your rain phrase bank. I used it often in Argyll.

    I catch myself greeting people here with a hello and a comment about the weather. Even as I’m saying it, I think to myself, “Stop being so bloody British!” I wonder if I will ever quit the weather Tourette’s.

    One of the things I’m enjoying about life in America is how predictable the weather is: if the forecast says a brief shower of rain at 11 then that’s precisely what and when it happens. In Argyll, it was never particularly worth watching the forecast as it was rarely accurate. Any trip necessitated packing layers and always having access to waterproofs.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. In Ireland and Scotland they have “soft” days – that is, days when it drizzles all the time, but so finely that you don’t notice it until you suddenly realise you’re soaking wet!

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  11. We were lucky and had beautiful weather when we stayed in Marazion. However, my kids loved it when we went to Scotland where finally we had some rain. After a few years of California drought, they were happy to see some measurable precipitation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This reminds me of a young girl I saw, years ago, dancing in the rain that ended a long drought in Minneapolis. She had her arms spread and was turning in circles, face up to welcome the rain. She couldn’t have been more beautiful.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. My dearly departed used the (thoroughly politically uncorrect) raining pitchforks and n—– babies”. Then again there was raining like a cow pissing on a flat rock. Loggers have some pretty colorful phrases. Hope you’re not offended.

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  13. As something of a furriner myself — after passing more of my lifetime than anyone should have to in Texas, I relocated to the Northeast about 15 years ago — I am still baffled by most varieties of rain. (Not that we have “mizzling” over here; what a simply delightful word!) In the Texas of my formative years, we had drought and we had flood. That’s it. Rain was never so much “rain” as it was “sky transferring water from clouds to flood plains as fast as physically possible.” You didn’t drive when it started raining; you and every other driver on the highway just pulled over to the shoulder (or under an underpass, if you were lucky enough to be near one) until the water stopped.

    Which it would in about ten minutes. 15 at the most.

    If I was near home, the goal was to outwalk the rain: step lively enough to stay just ahead of the approaching sheet of falling water, and you can step in your house and shut the door just as the torrent arrives.

    This mid-Atlantic states thing of gentle but steady rain that just falls all day? Or repeats every afternoon for a week? Rain that (gods help us) PEOPLE GO DRIVING IN??! I’ve been up here since the dawn of the 21st century, and it still freaks me out.

    Liked by 1 person

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