Saturday, July 25, 2009

IT’S REALLY “BLANKING” RAINING TODAY


Some of you regular readers may recall that I like to make up my own words for things. Sometimes I make up new definitions for old words, like Humpty Dumpty in Through the Looking Glass:

“There's glory for you!”
“I don't know what you mean by ‘glory.’ ” Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don't -- till I tell you. I meant ‘there's a nice knock-down argument for you!’ ”
“But ‘glory’ doesn't mean ‘a nice knock-down argument,’ ” Alice objected.
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master -- that's all.”

Sometimes, I make up words for things that I wish to write about, but there simply aren’t any existing words for them. Coincidentally, most of the words I invent, either brand-new ones or those to replace existing ones that I don’t especially like, have to do with weather. Maybe it’s because I write a lot of poetry, but I find that the English language is really under understaffed when it comes to words for weather in general, and poetic words for weather in particular. We’ve all heard that northern aboriginal peoples have many words for snow, doubtless because of where they live, there's a necessity of knowing the precise conditions they’re venturing into at any given time.

One weather event that does seem to have good roster of terms is ‘rain,’ but though English gets points for having good variety, almost nobody agrees on what name goes with what level of precipitation, so we are all kind of left to our own Humpty Dumpty devices on a rainy day. Here, in no particular order of wetness, are some of the choices:

misting (or wee mist), drizzling, spitting, pouring, sprinkling
light rain, mizzle (mist + drizzle?), downpour, sheets, buckets, cats and dogs…

Finally, here is a word I made up replace the pre-existing weather term virga, which is rain you see in the distance that appears to sweep down like fringe, but doesn’t actually make it to the ground. Fringe of rain = frainge. Now, I realize that there is nothing wrong with virga, per se. In fact, it's a fairly common surname. But still, for fringes of rain in the sky, I thought we could do better. Feel free to use it to impress your friends…

You: “Oh look at that beeeyootiful frainge over the mountains!” (or wherever you happen to see it).
Friend: “Frainge? What’s that? Where?”
You: (feeling a bit chuffed) “You’ve never heard of frainge? Let me explain…”

Now, I just need to figure out what it's doing outside at the moment.


Virga photo from Wikimedia Commons

17 comments:

Rachel Fox said...

Ah yes, rain has been a feature here lately too! Sometimes it does feel as though it is making its own vocabulary as it falls...
x

Lin said...

you are too funny, I bet you'd write great children's book with your creative language. remember Dr. Seuss' made up words.

Sylvia K said...

You are a great one with words, Deborah! I can relate to today's word and picture, but fortunately today here in Seattle, it is lovely and I'm trying to "bloggle" some of it to you! I'm not ready for any more "blanking" rain right now!
Hope you get some better weather before the weekend is over!

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Deb, It's like me using the term "waterfalling" --when we go hiking. It's not a word---but should be (in my opinion)...

You are GREAT with words... Love your posts.
Hugs,
Betsy

Lorac said...

It's bee blanking raining here all day too! It seems that southern Ontario is having an "off" summer. More rain then sun. First summer I have been off for in 25 years and it rains all summer! That's blanking awful!

bobbie said...

I love the pattern of rain drops on your windows. And I love the frainge too.

Now I have to invent a word for the sight of rain several yards away, moving toward you across a field or a parking lot. That's neat!

SandyCarlson said...

I like frainge, and I saw quite a lovely display of it as my daughter and I rolled into North Carolina for a week of vacation.

You are right. We depend too much on our adjectives to help us out with the rain.

I enjoyed this post very much.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

I'd never heard the word 'virga'!

I love Gerard Manley Hopkins' poetry, and his own made up words too.

My parents had an old baker who used to deliver the bread to the door, and he had a great word for when it was absolutely pouring with rain: he used to say "The weather's really seleucious today." I thought this was a great word and very onomatopaeic!

Cloudia said...

I am not a native speaker, but love the beautiful language of the Cloud Messenger.
The Cloudia Messenger.....Aloha

Comfort Spiral

Phoenix said...

What a creative use of language... your post brings a smile :)

Indrani said...

:)
I love this creativity of yours with new words.

Dee said...

Excellent new word Deb! I see frainges all the time here in Arizona

Squirrel said...

super HUMID today here.

Rose said...

Frainge is a wonderful word and don't be surprised if I use it some day....

Kathiesbirds said...

Well, you would like our weatherman, for he does the same thing. His favorite word for a snow and rainy drizzle mix is snizzle, and yes, we do get snow and snizzle in the winter down here,though it's hard to believe at the current 100 degree plus temps we have been having!

Sue said...

good word for it. I'm always making up new words related to my dog Rosie. She still occasionally likes to chew on found items (tissues, sticks, etc.) and leaves behind lots of detritus, so the activity she engages in is "detritufication" and my cleaning up is "de-detritufication" and Rosie's opinion of my activities are "anti-de-detritufication." also when she gets rambunctious she's "bunctiating."

Eric Spears said...

I agree that there are some definite holes in the language. Here is one of my posts where I tried to elicit a new word for expressing sympathy without saying, "I'm sorry":

http://daisybrain.wordpress.com/2009/10/17/new-word-needed/

I also tend to come up with new words or new definitions for old words. Feel free to peruse my posts & see what you think. Or think what you see....