Sunny intervals

If you're working in English at this fairly advanced level, we assume you have covered the basic weather expressions (verbs, nouns and adjectives for 'rain' etc.) and are very possibly familiar, from reading or direct experience, with the British weather and its wonderful vagaries.

You may have listened to broadcast forecasts and wondered how some of the idiomatic expressions, shortened sentences etc. make sense. Here is your chance to grapple with some examples of such language, at your own pace!

  1. The forecaster warns of 'a cold front easing its way across the Midlands during the weekend, with a likelihood of isolated showers'.
    You have a choice of making a visit to some friends (and/or, perhaps, a local open-air place of interest such as a National Trust park or property) either on Saturday or Sunday. How will this forecast affect your plans?
    Answer 2 is the most positive and pragmatic!
  2. A British friend arrives to visit you where you are staying. Among the first things s/he says is the remark:
    'Bit parky out there this morning, isn't it?'
    What does this mean?
    'Parky' is a dialect word suggesting cold, dank, chilly 'put-on-an-extra-layer-and-don't-hang-about-in-it' weather; Chambers' Dictionary gives the word as 'origin unknown', but it has no clear or logical connection to parks (as in open tracts of land) nor the parking of a visitor's vehicle.
  3. It is a warm day in the summer holidays ~ yes, we do have these occasionally! ~ and the forecaster finishes a bulletin by saying:
    ' ... So don't forget plenty of sunblock, and pollen counts are likely to be high.'
    What, if anything, do you learn from this?
    Sunburn is always a risk for paler-skinned people when the sun blazes hot and strong all day; and in the dry air, flowering plants may give off a lot of pollen ~ which may spoil an otherwise enjoyable day out, for people who have an allergic reaction to that.
  4. A friend or neighbour comments to you in passing, 'Nice to see the sun again a bit at the weekend, wasn't it?'.
    Which of these is probably the most likely summary of the weather circumstances?
    Answer 2 confirms a very traditional British weather pattern!
  5. On an early spring morning, maybe a week or two before Easter, the forecaster speaks of 'daytime temperatures very possibly edging into the mid-teens' in your region.
    By British standards (rather than your own ~ if you, perhaps, come from somewhere rather warmer!), what is this probably supposed to mean?
    Answer 4 would probably be a hopeful exaggeration of what the forecaster meant. Answers 1-3 are all possible interpretations, but Answer 1 is probably the most likely.
  6. The forecaster says: 'Tomorrow is looking generally bright after the autumn storms; but if you're out and about, don't forget the wind chill factor.'
    What, practically, does this mean?
    However clear the sky may be (which is usually pleasant and welcome), the wind moving the air quickly will make it feel cooler than the thermometer may seem to suggest (this is due to the 'Wind Chill Factor', i.e. that air movement will make the apparent temperature colder).
  7. A forecaster describes rain as 'fring(e)ing into the south-west towards sundown'.
    Assuming you are in this part of the country: what, practically, is this likely to mean for you and your planned activities?
    'Fringeing in' suggests that the rain will be light (at least initially) and perhaps have some gaps in the cloud.
  8. A forecaster predicts 'pulses of rain over East Anglia in a chill north-easterly wind'; you are in London. How important would you reckon it might be for you to have a raincoat and/or umbrella with you today?
    If fairly heavy or sustained rainshowers are moving into East Anglia off the North Sea, that might well mean rain and/or cold in London later, so an extra layer would probably be wise!
  9. The 'early morning patchy hill fog' has all cleared ... and you have been able to undertake a long scenic walk in one of Britain's National Parks, such as the Lake District. You are standing at the viewpoint with magnificent countryside around and beneath you in every direction; and you have broken a bit of a sweat as you climbed the hill in the sunshine. Your British companion opens a water-bottle for a well-earned drink, and says:
    'Phew, what a ... ... !'
    Can you 'crown the occasion' by joining in with the standard word for such a hot day?
    (As in the phrase 'scorching hot', suggesting a brief burn ~ such as the scorch-marks if you leave a hot iron too long on a piece of fabric). It is a newspaper cliche to say 'Phew, what a scorcher!' as and when (for instance) there is a hot Bank Holiday ~ illustrated with pictures of happy young people sunbathing with ice-creams etc.!
  10. An evening forecast warns of 'temperatures dropping to single figures overnight, with a likelihood of ground frost on the country lanes and black ice at any higher elevations'.
    You have to drive over some hills first thing 'tomorrow' morning. What, if anything, is your response to this information?
    Even by British standards, Answer 2 is quite prudent enough; nobody has mentioned blizzards, snowdrifts or 'white-outs' (at least, not yet!).

Author: Ian Miles

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