Friday, February 22, 2008

Inclement weather

"Inclement weather": such a dowdy term. Does anyone outside American education use it?

The oddity of inclement just prompted me to look it up. From the Oxford English Dictionary:

Not clement.

1. Of climate or weather: Not mild or temperate; extreme; severe. (Usually applied to cold or stormy weather; rarely of severe heat or drought.)

2. Not merciful or kindly; pitiless, harsh, severe, cruel. Obs.
No. 2 is the older (1621) meaning of the word. The first sample sentence for no. 1 (1667) comes from Paradise Lost: "To shun / Th' inclement Seasons, Rain, Ice, Hail and Snow." So it appears that we may credit John Milton for the anthropomorphized weather that results in school closings unto this day. (Thanks, Milton.)

And to Winter, who has been showing us no clemency this month, I say "Mercy, Sir!"

comments: 6

lesle said...

The Federal Government will let employees go home early, or not come in at all, due to "inclement" weather.

I believe the Pope is sometimes called "your Clemency."

Michael Leddy said...

I should've thought of government language re: "inclement."

I didn't know about "Clemency" as a form of address. Another "inclement" OED sentence, 1621: "Pope Clement the fift, was inclement and cruell."

Geo-B said...

When I was in elementary school, in the 1950s, there was a walk-in closet type of space at the back of the classroom, called the "cloak room." At the end of an inclement day, the teacher would say "put on your cloaks and prepare to go home." Even for a kid, it made me think of capes and deerstalker caps.

Michael Leddy said...

Brooklyn, 1960s: we had a cloak-room too. I remember my second-grade teacher removing her high-heels and throwing them into the cloakroom to quiet us down. (Yes, she had problems.)

It sounds as if your teacher must've had a dry sense of humor, George. Or am I being too optimistic?

JuliaR said...

We have had over 8 feet of snow so far this Winter and cannot plead for clemency, as we are buried by it. Which makes me think of another word I like - "harbinger". I saw 2 cardinals on the weekend and they are harbingers of Spring.

Michael Leddy said...

I look at the new growth on trees, another harbinger — "the reddish / purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy / stuff," as William Carlos Williams called it — and remind myself that spring is coming.

Eight feet! By Canadian standards, my Illinois winter is just nothing.