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Friday, November 20, 2009

Newspaper Column for November 2009

The Greatest Show on Earth... the weather?

I’m beginning to wonder if Ringling Bros, Barnum and Bailey are running the schools attended by aspiring meteorologists. I’m sure you too have noticed a trend toward dramatic and entertaining weather forecasts.

On numerous channels, watching the weather person give the forecast reminds me of watching a performer in a three ring circus. The ringmaster (aka meteorologist) conducts the show with theatrical gestures that would earn a guest spot on any soap opera... arms wildly waving (think "Wax on, wax off" from the movie The Karate Kid), exaggerated body motions and facial expressions (mute the sound sometime and just sit and watch), and conspicuous emphasis on certain words and syllables. Next time you watch the weather, notice the forecaster’s enunciation. Recently I heard one guy get his money’s worth out of the word "minor." "It’s a ‘myyyyyyyyy-nor’ chance of rain." he said, his voice rising in pitch as he mercilessly stretched the first syllable. I could have gotten in at least three words in the time it took him to say the "mi" from minor.

But the thing that gets my attention the most is the hand motions. My husband has a quick, quirky sense of humor and his comic timing is impeccable. He would have fit right in with Moe, Larry and Curly. One night as we were seated on the sofa being entertained by the antics of a particularly animated weather person, my husband suddenly jumped up, and stationing himself to one side of the TV, began mimicking the meteorologist's dramatic gestures. "There’s a cold front coming in from the North, folks," boomed the weatherman with a grand sweeping flourish, indicating to us clueless masses where North is, then another arching swirl of his hand indicated where we are on the map. My husband, with comical facial expressions, was following along, making wild arcs and pointing to The North and then to North Carolina. "He looks," said my husband, "like someone using a hand crank to start a tractor." I giggled… the image fit perfectly.

But there’s more! Not only do the forecasters use hand motions enthusiastic enough to gladden the heart of any first grade teacher, at times they also have animated graphics following those motions. Yes! A weatherperson waves their hand across the northern part of the U.S. (the Northern Part of the U.S. is again indicated to us), predicts snow, and with a sweeping curve a picturesque flurry of snowflakes magically issues forth from their hand. They can do rain and wind too.

But there's still more! Besides the torturously stretched syllables and expressive body language, we also have a new breed of terminology used by weather people. Here, for your perusing pleasure, are a few gen-u-iiiiiiine expressions gleaned from various unsuspecting meteorologists:

- "About the middle of the week we’ll have a rain event."

Ah, I love this one. It used to be simply "rain"; now it’s An Event. Wonder if they’re selling tickets?

- "I can’t guarantee you sunny weather this weekend."
Ah, well, actually we didn’t expect you to. I assume there are still some things in this world that are not under human control.

"We’re going to ramp up the forecast for the next few days."
Ramp up? Sounds more like directions onto or off I-40 than the weather.

"Folks, there was a small gustnado over Kansas yesterday."
A gustnado? I don’t know what it is, but I don’t like the sound of it. Turns out a gustnado is a tornado plus a gusty wind. Oh.

There is a wealth of sayings, quotes and folklore about the weather that go back for centuries, so perhaps it should come as no surprise that forecasting has become as entertaining as it is informative. I picked out a few weather sayings you might enjoy reading….

- Evening red and morning grayhelp the traveler on his way.
Evening gray and morning red
bring down rain upon his head.

- Clear moon, frost soon.

- Red skies at night, sailor's delight.
Red skies at morning, sailors take warning.

- Smoke curling downward, poor weather.

- When a cow endeavors to scratch his ear,
It means a rain shower is very near.
When he thumps his ribs with an angry tail,
Look out for thunder, lightning and hail.

- When the stars begin to huddle, the earth will soon become a puddle.

- When your joints all start to ache, rainy weather is at stake.

- If February brings no rain, 'tis neither good for grass nor grain.

- A wet January, a wet spring.

- A year of snow, a year of plenty.

- If Candlemas Day (February 2nd) be fair and bright,
Winter will have another flight:
But if Candlemas Day be clouds and rain,
Winter is gone - it will not come again.

- A wet May makes a big load of hay.
A cold May is kindly and fills the barn finely.

- A dry May and a leaking June,
make the farmer whistle a merry tune.

- A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay.
A swarm of bees in June is worth a silver spoon.
A swarm of bees in July is not worth a fly.

- If there's ice in November that will bear a duck,
there'll be nothing after but sludge and muck.

- If a cat washes her face o’er her ear,
‘tis a sign the weather will be fine and clear.

- Fish bite least with wind in the east.

- When the wind is out of the east,
‘Tis neither good for man nor beast.

- If your corns all ache and itch,
The weather fair will make a switch.

- Trout jump high when a rain is nigh.

- Onion skins very thin
Mild winter coming in;
Onion skins thick and tough
Coming winter cold and rough.

- The first snow comes six weeks after the last thunderstorm in September.

- If February brings drifts of snow
There will be good summer crops to hoe.

- When sheep gather in a huddle,
tomorrow we will have a puddle.

- If woolly worms are dark, the coming winter wilt be severe.

- When ladybugs swarm,
Expect a day that’s warm.

This brings us to the end of our perusal of the weather forecaster’s art. I could just write, “The End,” but in keeping with our topic I’ll take my cue from the forecasters and finish with a more entertaining “Th- th- th- th- that’s all folks!”


sue said...

Very amusing!!! :o)

I'm flying South tomorrow morning to enjoy some Winter sunshine on Fuerteventura (Canary Islands) - we have a little house on the island and escape there as often as possible to escape the horrible English Winter weather!

Be back in a couple of weeks!

Cathyann said...

Entertaining, Teresa and yes...I would love to earn the money these "forecasters" earn wouldn't you...you can be right or wrong and still get paid. Apparently being full of visual antics and an entertainer is a major requirement.
LOL 'rain event'...George Carlin would have loved that.

Jack is looking grand btw.

Candy said...

I'll take the sayings, quotes and folklore over the gustnado, rain event and ramped up forecast any old day:)

Jo Castillo said...

Ah, Teresa how times have changed. Our weather forecaster in Albuquerque used to draw his own graphics on cards and stick them on the map .. before velcro, wonder what he used? My mom always used the Red skies at night, sailor's delight ... saying, and it seemed to work at the ranch. Hmmmm. Thanks for the entertainment and memories. :)

Simone said...

Great observations of weather forecasters! In England we say 'red sky at night shepherds delight, red sky in the morning shepherds warning.'

Rosie said...

Wonderful, Teresa - so funny and yet so true - we have presenters like that too over here in the UK - we have a particular political/financial reporter for the BBC who uses the exagerated word thing and plenty that use their hands to distract the viewer from what they are actually trying to say:) Simone has said above what I was going to say about our saying over here re the red sky:)

knittingdragonflies said...

Thanks, I think I refer to these, probably as "right" as the weather man.
I remember some of these from my grandmother, but I've not heard of a lot of them

Kelley Carey MacDonald said...

I love your blog! Jack is very well done, thanks for the progress view! And my own personal favorites with weather reporters:
" We'll be having a bit of 'sky-brightness' this afternoon (uh.. sunshine?)" and
"We'll do our best to clear these clouds away by mid-morning..." (Really? What's the plan for THAT?)

Seriously, love your work, and the way you think!

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