As I was slogging along the streets of Tillamook the other day, on my way back from lunch, the usual winter storm downpours and sideways rain attempting to soak me to the skin, I contemplated all the various words I have for the wet stuff. I’ve put up with the local weather for quite a few decades now and consider myself somewhat of an expert on the various types of rain and the words we locals have for its various forms.
There’s rain, downpour, drizzle, Oregon mist (actually a heavy rain), monsoon, and flood rain (rain that doesn’t let up for at least 24 hours and will produce one of our periodic lowland floods).
Storms have a few names, such as Sou’wester, pineapple express (very warm, wet, and windy), and Chinook. Chinooks are warm, wet, and windy storms, which can quickly melt any snowpack in the higher mountains in the Northwest, and will cause major flooding. We added “typhoon” several years ago, after two typhoons, rare in these parts, merged and attacked us for three long days, with very heavy rain and winds over 120 mph. The experience managed to knock out the electrical grid for nearly a week, and close all of our highways. Impressive, to say the least, and enough to add a word to our dictionary. We compare storms now with the typhoon, and, when wind is the issue, with the Columbus Day Storm of 1962, which was also a typhoon. Many of us are too young to remember 1962, so “typhoon” seems to be the new Columbus Day storm.
Yet, our vocabulary seems pretty limited to the ordinary days of wet around here, and our jokes are limited to referring to it all as Oregon sunshine. Frankly, we need to spice up our vocabulary, folks. We’ve certainly done that with coffee, and most of us know at least 30 words and phrases for the stuff. We pay more for it now, but being able to sound so smart with all those new words, well, its worth it, isn’t it?
And, I live in Tillamook, which means the “land of many waters”, so you think we’d have a pretty long list of weather words. But, we really don’t. Its time to educate ourselves a bit, don’t you think?
I recently came across an essay on Scottish weather words. They have a similar climate, and have been around for several millenniums longer than we Oregonians, and their vocabulary is impressively longer and more descriptive.
I offer these Scottish words to you, in the hopes we might adopt a few of the more descriptive terms for our own weather. And, maybe in adding these to our weather discussions around the coffee shop, we can spice up the conversation. If you try them with just a bit of a Scottish accent, you’ll gain a bit more attention to yourself.
Attery -- stormy
Blenter or flaff – gusty wind
Bullet stanes – hail stones
Dreep – steady fall of light rain
Dreich , a wet, dismal day
Dribble – drizzle
Fair jeelit -- cold as ice
Gab o’ May – stormy weather at the start of May
Gandiegow – heavy shower
Greetie -- showery
Grulie – unsettled
Haar – mist from the sea
Lauchin rain (or laughing rain). A long shower from an apparently clear sky
Leesome -- fine
Linn – torrent or waterfall
Littesdale drow – a wetting drizzle, named after a Scottish town
Mochie -- warm and damp
Plump -- downpour in a thunderstorm
Rainin auld wives and pipe staples (heavy rain)
Rumballiach -- tempestuous
Pirl – gentle breeze
Pishoot -- downpour
Plowtery – showery
Plype – sudden, heavy shower
Sclutter or slaister -- messy wetness
Smirr – light rain
Sump – a great fall of rain
Tousle – blustery wind
Watergow – fragmentary rainbow
Leaving us drowkt (drenched) and draggled (bedraggled).
Neal Lemery, January, 2010