Weather: Hurkling in a jouk from the willy-willy

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The English language is rich in weather words that we rarely use. Here is a glossary to prepare you for the season of storms.

As parts of the country are being hit by severe storms (see Weather Wise below for details) words may seem inadequate to describe the conditions. Unless, of course, one has prepared oneself with a detailed browse through the stormier passages of the Oxford English Dictionary. Here are some of the useful terms to accompany a cloudburst:

blout, n Scottish: The sudden breaking of a storm; a sudden downpour.

bub, n Scottish: A storm or blast.

ellipsone, n Scottish: A revolving storm like a cyclone, but following an elliptical path rather than a circular one.

fire-flaught, n Scottish: A flash of lightning or a storm of thunder and lightning.

gowk's storm, n: A storm of short duration, particularly a spring storm that arrives at about the same time as the first cuckoo (or gowk).

hurkle, v dialect: To contract the body like a beast in a storm. The word appears to be a variant of hirple (or hurple) which means to walk as if with a limp.

jouk, or jook n Scottish: A shelter from a storm; a place in which one may dart for safety.

orage, n: A violent wind or storm. ("Whiche knightes beyng ... upon the see, were sore vexid ... with great orages and tempestes." Caxton, 1477)

peeler, n US: An exceptional or noteworthy example of anything, specifically a violent storm.

procelle, n (obsolete): A storm.

ripsnorter, n originally US: Something or someone exceptionally remarkable in quality or strength, specifically a storm or gale.

stickle, adj dialect: Sharp or severe, of a storm.

tourbillion, or tourbillon, n: A whirlwind.

tourmente, n: A whirling storm.

tumblification, n humorous: The pitching and rolling of a ship in a storm.

walter, n obsolete: The rolling of the sea in a storm.

willy-willy (also willi-willi), n: A cyclonic storm in north-west Australia.

Finally, have you ever wondered about the difference between "sunny with scattered showers" and "showery with sunny intervals"? Well "scattered showers" are (by the Met Office definition) geographically well spread, with around a one in 10 chance of any specific place being showered on. "Sunny intervals" are broken sunshine lasting, in total, for less than half of the theoretical maximum for the day. "Sunny periods" (or "sunny spells") give us sunshine for an hour or two at a time, with more sunshine than cloudiness throughout the day. And if the shower lasts more than 20 minutes, it's probably not a shower at all, but rain.

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