Whether the weather be fine,
Or whether the weather be not,
Whether the weather be cold,
Or whether the weather be hot,
We’ll weather the weather
Whatever the weather,
Whether we like it or not!
Since the beginning of recorded history we have tried to forecast the weather. Today, we use sophisticated technology, but for centuries sailors, shepherds and farmers relied on weather lore to make predictions. Weather lore was based on clues in nature that indicated weather patterns. They were passed down over hundreds of years in the form of proverbs or sayings.
One of the most famous proverbs, used by both shepherds and sailors, is Red sky at night; shepherd’s delight, Red sky in the morning; shepherds take warning. In the northern hemisphere, weather usually moves from west to east, and a red sky at night seen through broken clouds indicates dry air to the west, meaning fine weather is approaching. Red sky in the morning may be due to illuminated clouds bringing bad weather.
Another proverb popular with sailors is Mackerel scales and mare’s tails, make lofty ships carry low sails. Mare’s tails are the wispy cirrus clouds and the mackerel scales are the small clumpy altocumulus clouds that resemble fish scales. These clouds signal an approaching storm and the sails needed to be lowered to protect the sailing ship from the high winds.
In our crosswords, some of our clues for weather are ‘climactic conditions’, ‘Ride out (a storm)’ and ‘Ill, under the …’.
When a sailor was unwell he was sent to recover below deck ‘under the weather bow’, the windward side of the ship that bears the brunt of the wind and high seas. This could be where the phrase under the weather comes from. Another seafaring term is to weather the storm, meaning to reach the end of a difficult situation without too much damage. It refers to sailing to the windward side of a storm and getting through it safely.
Fair-weather friends are those who are loyal or supportive only when it is convenient. The first record of this term dates back to 1736.
A weathervane is a revolving pointer used to indicate the direction of the wind. It usually has a rooster on it because a ninth century pope decreed that all churches should show a rooster on their spire as a reminder that Jesus stated the cock would not crow on the morning after the Last Supper, until St Peter denied being a disciple three times.
Luckily I don’t need to rely on weather lore to compile my crosswords, and you can still solve them – come rain, hail or shine!