Friday, August 21, 2009

weather linguistics

Different regions of the U.S. have their own particular weather patterns and their own culture around their weather. For example, Alaska has many different names for snow, from what I've been told. They have a lot of snow and there are different conditions for and types of snow. Here in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, we have only three (I was going to say that Oregon in general only has three types, but I'm not sure that's accurate for southern and central Oregon): snow, flurries, blizzard/whiteout.

Another example is right here in good ol' Oregon. The weather phenomena we have multiple names for is: rain. I have visited other cities where their "rain" list is like our "snow" list: short and simple; one even has simply: light rain, rain, heavy rain.

But we also have another weather condition which we divide into minute distinctions. When I saw droplets on my window that were a little bigger than a dense fog and recalled no rain in the forecast, I decided to take a look. I pulled up the prediction for today and clicked to see the details of their forecast. I looked at the "conditions" row and this is what I saw:

2 AM = Mostly Cloudy
5 AM = Overcast
8 AM = Overcast
11 AM = Partly Cloudy
2 PM = Mostly Cloudy
5 PM = Partly Cloudy
8 PM = Partly Cloudy
11 PM = Mostly Cloudy

When I looked at them, I thought about the difference between "mostly" or "partly" cloudy, and how "overcast," which means clouds in the sky blocking the sun, is different from mostly or partly cloudy. Is "overcast" a synonym for "we don't know how much but it will be cloudy?"