Names for the wind

I recently found myself musing on names of winds, as I thought they might be suitable for a naming project that needed to evoke fresh air, the outdoor life and so on. I know, I know, but it was a brainstorm and we don’t judge – right?

I found this interesting page with names for the wind that someone had, somewhat obsessively, put together. It’s on a site about WindLegends TM (yes it’s TM’d – really!) novels that apparently involve “badass Alpha male shapeshifters with black hair and amber eyes that turn blood red when they are angry. Handsome, deadly men with tortured souls and the only thing that can tame them is the female destined to be their mate. Only she can save her warrior from himself.” Not really my cup of tea, but if that’s your thing, go ahead, knock yourself out.

Anyway, back to the wind page. There were all kinds of gems, which managed to distract me so completely that I was of no further use to the naming brainstorm.

For example, I’ve never really wanted to visit Arabia or Turkestan, and now I know why: it’s to avoid the Simoom – the searing “poison wind” of Arabia, and the Tebbad – the “fever wind” of Turkestan.

I also noticed that ancient Greece had a sultry wet wind from the east called the Euros. And today, Euros are still making everybody miserable in Greece.

Landlash is a wonderfully descriptive Scottish gale.

Willy-willy is the name for a hurricane that occurs in the seas north of Australia. Shouldn’t a terrifying and destructive wind system have a name that doesn’t make you snigger? Or perhaps that’s the idea: to make people less scared.

Yamo or “wind in a body” is the Ugandan name for a whirlwind. I do like the idea of a wind with a discernable form, but I must admit my first thought was that the proper name for “wind in a body” is fart.

But my two absolute favourites are Descuernacabras  ” the wind that de-horns goats” and the even more formidable Matacabras  “the wind that kills goats”. Probably best for you and your kids to stay indoors when those Spanish winds are blowing.


Inspector Sands and coded communication

As the escalator carried me down into the tube the other day, a dulcet BBC voice came over the tannoy: “Would Inspector Sands come to the control room?”

I was suspicious – surely it had to be pre-recorded? Only on later Googling did I learn that ‘Inspector Sands’ is a codeword for a fire or bomb scare. (The name derives from the buckets of sand used at theatres to put out fires.) If I’d known this, I’d have turned around and gone back up the escalator but, of course, avoiding panic is why they use a codeword in the first place.

This got me thinking about other mass communications that attempt to talk only to a specific audience. Lots of codes are used in hospitals: ‘code pink’ means a child’s been abducted, ‘code brown’ means what you’d expect. Apparently police use ‘There is a K’ to mean a dead body.

What about coded communication ‘above the line’? This sprang to mind:


But actually dog whistle messages are a slightly different thing, in that they’re supposed to have different meanings to different people. ‘Inspector Sands’ is designed to be heard as background noise by the majority and ignored. (Exactly like quite a lot of advertising, then.)

Some noddable new words

In a veritable flurry of neologism posts, here’s another. This time, with reference to this Guardian article by Andrew Kaufman, all about the importance of making up our own words.

By trying to crystallise our words it says, the dictionary is killing our historically fluid and adaptable language. Maybe there is some truth in it. I often think Microsoft is trying to murder my documents, with its little serrated stab marks under any rogue spelling. Quick, get the paddles! My copy is redlining!

We enjoy the occasional vocabularic trespass at the Dept. of Words. “Noddable” is one of our favourites. As in, ‘that’s a noddable bit of logic that’; sensible, strong, yes I’m nodding along. We also like “copybuffering”, which means not sending your copy over until 5.30pm, even though you finished it before lunch. But we hardly ever use that one. *Clears throat*

We’ve got nothing on the Swedes though. Here are some lovely examples from the talented Scando word crafters. Enjoy.

Neologism – like or unlike?

There’s an interesting article on the BBC news website by Tom Chatfield, who is a commentator on digital culture. Normally I would run a mile from such a person, following exposure to a self-styled web expert back in the nineties when I was trying to get a website built. I remember thinking, “Just shut up and build the bloody site!” but I had to sit through him spouting on about how the Internet was a “campfire culture”. This apparently meant that you can get really involved in the web, sitting right up close to the glow of the fire and chattering away with likeminded folk through the night, or you can sit back in the shadows and observe quietly – it’s up to you. Which is just as vacuous and useless an observation today as it was in the nineties. Anyway, Tom’s not like that, his article is interesting.

It’s about why people can get so annoyed about tech neologisms – that’s newly coined words or expressions to you and me.

While irritation at Internet and tech-related new words may be a modern phenomenon, it seems that irritation at neologisms isn’t. He gives examples from the 16th and 19th centuries to illustrate this, and introduced me to a lovely term I hadn’t come across before: ink-horn. It comes from an inkwell made of horn and has been used as a term of gentlemanly abuse for words used by scholarly writers but which are unknown or uncommon in ordinary speech. Ink-horn. I like that.

I can’t imagine Tom’s article would go down well in France, where they’re not exactly big fans of neologism, especially when the words are foreign (the French Government has even banned the word hashtag in official documents), but it went down well with the neologists here at the Dept. of Words.

Read it here: