UK Weather Terms: What are Dull Skies, Hurly-Burlies?
July 27, 2012
By WeatherBug Meteorologist, Seth Carrier
Although most American and British citizens speak English as their primary language, at times the two dialects can seem worlds apart. While an American rides an elevator to the tenth floor, a Brit would say that he`s taking the lift. In the U.S., cargo may be delivered using a truck, while in London it arrives on a lorry. As you might expect, a similar situation could occur when discussing the weather for the 2012 Summer Olympics. While some terms span both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, others are distinctly British and (literally) foreign to most Americans.
The agency responsible for producing weather forecasts for the United Kingdom is called the Met Office, and in their official products one can find references to "dull skies," which is another way to say "overcast". Met Office products also refer to "heavy thundery downpours," which may seem a bit redundant to an American used to seeing the term "thunderstorm."
In foggy conditions, drivers are reminded to use "dipped headlights" instead of "full beams" to improve visibility. For winter travel, drivers should remember to pack their vehicle with a torch and spade (flashlight and shovel), and keep a safe distance from plows that are "gritting" the roadways.
Many British weather terms take on a local and colloquial flavor that often incorporate geography or historical references. A few of the most interesting include:
- Ban-gull: A summer sea breeze common in Scotland
- Candlemas Eve winds: High winds occurring in February or March (Candlemas is February 2)
- Cat`s nose: A cool northwest wind
- Cow-quaker: A May storm (after the cows have been put out to pasture)
- Dimpsey: A Cornwall term describing cloudy, damp weather where drizzle is common
- Flanders storm: Heavy snowfall arriving from the south
- Hurly-Burly: Another name for a thunderstorm
- St. Swithin`s Day: If it rains on this day (July 15), folklore says that it will continue to rain for 40 more days
- Raining stair-rods: An extremely heavy rain
Other British idioms seek to forecast future weather conditions based on specific days or seasons, similarly to how Punxsutawney Phil is thought to predict when spring will begin. A couple of the most colorful British sayings include, "If there`s ice in November to hold up a duck, for the rest of the year there will be slush and muck", and "A wet May brings a load of hay."
Even Prince Charles had his time in the spotlight dealing with Scotland`s notoriously gloomy weather, when he presented the forecast
during a visit to the BBC studios back in May. Olympic organizers will certainly have their fingers crossed that the London forecast features much more sunshine than London`s typical gray or is it grey weather during the games!
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