Thursday, 20 October 2011

Does Largely Cloudy beat Mainly Cloudy?

We all drop our chins in wonder at the popular myth that the Inuit have 40 words for snow, but right here at home in Ireland there’s a subtlety to the vocabulary of our weather forecast that has me flummoxed.

Despite what you see as evidence here in this colyoom, I tickle fancies of being a man of words, but all my scribbly instincts and blathering verbals proved useless when I looked at the weather forecast in the paper on Tuesday (it’s broken down into Ireland’s four provinces, roughly west, east south and north respectively).

Connacht: Generally cloudy today with spells of rain.
Leinster: Largely cloudy today with occasional rain.
Munster: Mainly cloudy today with outbreaks of rain.
Ulster: Largely cloudy today with periods of rain.

You don’t have to be a meteorologist to know that for at least 300 days a year we enjoy a mixture of sunshine and showers, and this colyoom has in past years romped with agitation about forecasts predicting ‘Rain at times, sunshine in places’, because with the only details we actually need to know having been rather ingeniously omitted, we have no idea at what times it might rain and in which places.

But this is a different matter; a question of language. I need to understand words and their uses in my adopted home’s vernacular, and also I need to be outside for those brief periods when the sun might shine down on my sorry soul.

So, does Largely Cloudy beat Mainly Cloudy?
Or is Generally Cloudy the biggest baddest adjective in the Irish cloudy lexicon?

As for rain, are Spells of Rain shorter than Periods of Rain?
Do Outbreaks of Rain come less often than Occasional Rain?
I haven’t a clue. What the bloomin’ ‘ell are they on about?

Perchance the poor bored artisan who had to fashion something readable out of a messy map of uncertainty made their lot less heavy by entertaining themselves with a dash of creative flair, in an effort to help the forecast appear less dreadfully repetitive and oppressively rank.

Or maybe I just don’t understand the power order of the words.
Help me out. I need to know.
Or maybe I just need help...


Paz said...

bit like horoscopes innit ;), the Forer effect, AKA as the Barnum effect as in 'we have something for everybody'
covers all bases

Charlie Adley said...

Absolutely, and also there's that tiny matter of the forecasters not wanting to get anything wrong, hence their lack of desire to get anything precisely right either.

Paz said...

I know it doesn't help those that need to know if its going to be wet or dry. At work we have to use a combination of and to predict weather.