An English friend of mine, during our emailing back and forth, replied to my description of Mother Nature’s menopausal fluctuations of weather, ranging from 52 to 82 all within a couple of days, with a description of her own after suffering high winds, snow showers and hail:
“We’re having Equinoctial gales!"
Not since I heard Mike Sidel from The Weather Channel casually toss out the word, 'tornadic,’ as a warning for impending threatening weather, have I ever squeaked with pleasure to learn a new meteorological phrase that was perfect for descriptions of epic proportions.
Did I mention I loathe the word, ‘epic?’ Because everything now is labeled epic. An epic sunrise, an epic taco, an epic NASCAR finish. Really, in my mind, only Ben Hur and The Odyssey are epic. Everything else should remain ‘awesome.’
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But tornadic, as in “This cold front, colliding with the warm air already in place, could result in tornadic activity” simply swept me off my feet and I waited all week long, baiting Paul with loquacious behavior until he descended into irritated replies, so that I could use it, quite dismissively, with the air of an Oxford English professor:
“Really, Paul, why such a tornadic response to being asked if you’d seen my cell phone?” and “If you insist on adding more hot peppers to that recipe, don’t blame me when your colon wakes you with tornadic upheaval in the wee hours.”
But now I have something new and shiny to trot out: Equinoctial gales. Having no idea what it meant, but thinking horses might be involved, owing to the ‘Equin’ part of the word, I googled away and found, “Term derived from the popular misconception that gales are more frequent at periods close to the equinoxes.’ Now, that definition was from the Dictionary of Science, which tends to base all its findings on, well, science, but there are those like my friend that do raise an eyebrow when wild gales come out of nowhere as the sun crosses the celestial equator (I had to google this part, too) when day and night are of equal length, about September 22 and March 20.
I mean, it is a bit of a coinkydink.
And even though science denies it over and over, all of us who resided in California always stocked up on bottled water and gluten free spelt loafs (we’re not really bread and milk people) whenever the temperatures became terribly hot or full moons appeared because it seemed to happen with suspicious regularity that an earthquake would blow at the same time. The thinking among those of us that frequented The Bodhi Tree was that the full moon affected the tides and the weight of an incoming tide upon the earth’s surface would cause a fault to explode. The heat part, none of us knew why, but scorching temperatures seemed to go hand and hand with tremblors. However, Dr Lucy, the bored and overworked seismologist, to whom the news stations always cut to after the smallest rumble, would shake her head pityingly at the camera with a sardonic smile and reply to the question asked of her, ad nauseam, “Dr. Lucy, did the full moon have any responsibility for last night’s 5.2 quake?” “No.” “What about the heat wave we’ve been experiencing?” “Absolutely not.” “What about the traffic backed up on the 405 for 6 hours last night?” “Nope.” “Have you any advice for our nervous viewers?” “Move to Seattle.”
But as exciting as an earthquake, or the term, tornadic, is, they aren't nearly as wild and romantic as the term, equinoctial. It rolls of the tongue poetically, being pronounced, ekwe-nak-SHel…go ahead, all together now, ‘EkwenakSHel. I haven’t heard a lovelier sounding word since syphilis. But I don’t intend on using that one, if I can help it.
The frustrating thing is that I can’t use equinoctial the way I can use tornadic, because it so specifically deals with an area, time and climate. So it looks as if I’ll have to wait until Sept. 22 and cross my fingers for a storm so that I can condescendingly remark to all within earshot, “This weather appears to be Equinoctial!”
And people, in turn, will look at me as if I’m epically stupid.
Reach PAM STONE at email@example.com.