A Very British (and Irish) Obsession: the Weather!
If you happen to be planning a trip to the United Kingdom or Ireland this summer, and worry that you may not be able to talk to the locals, fear not. Apart from brushing up on phrases to help you order something to eat and drink, and get directions to where you’d like to go, there’s one set of vocabulary that will see you through a ten-to-fifteen minute chat, at the very least—the weather.
You may think that I’m exaggerating, but there are few countries where the weather would feature in the editorial of one of the country’s leading newspapers. Yet, that’s exactly what happened here today, when The Observer, one of the UK’s leading papers, published its editorial, ‘The weather: on the whole, we actually prefer a variable forecast—We find a consistently harsh climate, either tropical or arctic, strangely un-British’.
The article draws a picture of the visual and symbolic backdrop that the skies provide to our lives. We, both the British and the Irish, talk about the weather all the time. Any plans that we make consider the weather, such as what will we need: sunscreen, sun glasses and sun hat (generally unlikely), sweater (almost always), umbrella (yes, but what if the wind blows up?), jacket (probably should be waterproof, but what weight should it be – light for a warm day, medium-weight to hedge our bets, or warm and cosy, because it’s bound to get chilly later?).
When our children were young, we had so many ‘just-in-case’ items that it often felt as though we were going on a month-long trip when we went to the park for the afternoon. (And no, I wasn’t just a particularly paranoid mother!)
Not a day goes by when we don’t talk about the weather: what it was like yesterday and last night, what the weather forecast is for today, how likely the sun/rain/snow is to last for the rest of the week. We even use the weather as a greeting.
Meeting a total stranger walking down the street on a sunny day, we nod at each other and exchange a cheery ‘glorious/beautiful/lovely day!’, to which the reply will either be an echo of the adjective used by the first person, or a similar adjective used in agreement, ‘glorious/wonderful/gorgeous/beautiful/lovely/amazing/fabulous/ fantastic…!’
If the weather is ‘bad’ (in other words, normal), we are more likely to mumble quietly at each other, chins tucked down inside jackets or scarves, in a useless effort at self-protection. Then, the more subdued greeting will be ‘cooler today/chilly, isn’t it/changeable/weather’s turned/breezy/a bit brisk today/miserable day/freezing/ perishing!’
Right now, we are baking in an unusual heat wave, though that’s likely to change this week, with thunderstorms due to bring our more familiar rain, and associated problems of flooding. Great, lots more to talk about to the neighbours!
I hope that the weather is kind to you this week!
If you would like to read the article mentioned above, you will find it on The Guardian‘s (sister paper to The Observer) website: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jul/21/observer-editorial-extreme-weather-not-british?INTCMP=SRCH
Bye for now,
|obsession (C or U noun)||something or someone that you think about all the time|
|local (C noun)||a person who lives in the particular area that you’re talking about|
|fear not! / never fear!||(idiom) meaning don’t worry!|
|(old or humorous expression)|
|chat (C or U noun)||a friendly, informal conversation|
|exaggerating||to make something seem bigger, more important , worse or better that it is|
|‘to exaggerate’ (verb)|
|to feature (verb)||to include someone or something as an important part|
|editorial (C noun)||an article in a newspaper that shows the editor’s view on a topic of special interest ;|
|also known as a leader (C noun)|
|visual (adjective)||related to seeing|
|symbolic (adjective)||representing something else|
|backdrop (C noun)||the view behind something,|
|what is happening in an area or society generally when some particular events occur,|
|a large piece of cloth painted with scenes of the country, city etc. often used on a stage|
|to show where a play is taking place|
|to consider (verb)||to think about some particular issue when making a decision or judging something|
|waterproof (adjective)||not allowing water through|
|to hedge your bets||(idiom) meaning to protect against losses by supporting both sides (e.g., in a competition)|
|cosy (adjective) (UK)||comfortable and warm|
|paranoid (adjective)||feeling very worried and nervous (often because someone feels other people do not like|
|not a day goes by||(idiom) meaning it happens all the time|
|weather forecast (C noun)|
|to exchange (verb)||to give something to someone and to get something from the person|
|cheery (adjective)||bright, happy and cheerful|
|glorious / wonderful / gorgeous / beautiful / lovely / amazing / fabulous / fantastic|
|(adjectives)||all can mean very, very good|
|to mumble (verb)||to speak quietly and in a way that is not clear|
|to tuck (verb)||to push your chin down into your clothing|
|subdued (adjective)||not as happy as usual and quieter|
|self-protection (U noun)||keeping yourself safe|
|weather’s turned||‘the weather has changed’|
|changeable (adjective)||something that changes a lot|
|breezy (adjective)||windy, but in a pleasant way|
|brisk (adjective)||quick, lively, refreshing|
|miserable (adjective)||unpleasant and making someone feel unhappy|
|freezing (adjective)||extremely cold|
|perishing (adjective)||extremely cold|
|flooding (U noun)||when an area is unusually covered in water|