Monday, October 26, 2009

A word chiefly used for the weather...

Last night my friend Sam asked me to blog about the rain. 
Given the darkening thundery sky and violent flurries of stinging raindrops marching like frenzied tin soldiers out of kilter across the roof, she may have imagined poetry.
But it made me think about weather reports. And more specifically the question: Do you ever hear the word ‘chiefly’ used anywhere except in weather reports?
A trough sweeping across the east is generating areas of rain and storms over NSW and southern QLD. A high is pushing cool southerlies and a few showers into the southeast, chiefly along the coast. A trough over the west is generating rain patches and a few storms.”
That happy gas bloke who reads the weather on Channel 10 often says it too.
It’s gonna be drips and drops across rooftops chiefly up and down the beaches tonight folks, so if you’re heading out on the town to flick a hoof don’t forget your brolly!”
The Bureau of Meteorology website has a page called Weather Words where it carefully and specifically outlines conditions that require particular word usage.
For example: ‘Drizzle: Fairly uniform precipitation composed exclusively of very small water droplets (less than 0.5 mm in diameter) very close to one another.’
In the absence of direction on when to use the term ‘chiefly’, I’ve concluded that this word is a throwback from the days when the Queen’s English was the common vernacular in the Commonwealth. Before newsreaders started joking about what they had for breakfast on the 6am national broadcast and kids created an entire new electronic language where digits and consonants jockey for position and vowels have been excluded all together.
I quite like it. ‘Chiefly’. It has a ring of authority and confidence despite, or perhaps in spite of, the BOM’s inability to predict the weather with regular accuracy.
Conviction is key when imparting important information. Whether the weather is written or spoken it’s all, chiefly, in the delivery.

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