Minor British Institutions: The weather

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The Independent Online

The British habit of talking about the weather is usually taken to be a special way for strangers, particularly, to strike up a conversation on a neutral subject about which everyone can take a view.

It is, in other words, the mechanism universally adopted to overcome the national tendency to reticence, though that latter characteristic may have eroded over the years.

Still, opening gambits such as "funny old weather we're having", "lovely day!" or "parky, intit", may lead to acquaintanceship, or even marriage, though documented cases of the latter are rare.

The more sophisticated bring in, say, wind-chill factors, high-pressure zones, or fronts coming in from Iceland, but they are missing the point.

The British Isles' peculiarly changeable weather patterns have also played their part in framing this linguistic sub-culture, though no one has yet thought of a phrase to describe hailstones followed by bright sunshine followed by heavy rain.

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