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As of this morning, the snowman’s melted.

So, because this is really a weather post, we are under a winter storm warning until tomorrow. we’re expecting “thunder snow,” which, as you can probably guess, is a snowstorm with thunder. Thunder snow has always struck me as incongruous, and I just now (Just now!) realized why. Because snow, as a type of precipitation, is not compoundable with thunder. Precipitation like rain or snow is an effect of a storm, as too is thunder. Common usage is to identify a type of storm by what type of effect it creates: thunderstorm, rainstorm, snowstorm. But it is useless to compound two effects—you never say, thunder rain and expect that to mean “a storm in which rain and thunder are produced.” But that’s what “thunder snow” is.

It leads me to think that weathermen shouldn’t be allowed to name the weather patterns they are paid to describe.

What would you prefer?

Thunderstorm, of course.

Do you have any idea what would happen if you applied this level of scrutiny and logical consistency to all our words? You’d unravel everything! Imagine the bedlam of people leaving for work in the morning prepared for rain instead of snow because the weatherman said “thunderstorm” instead of “thundersnow.” Now take that bedlam and multiply it by several hundred thousand. That’s the world according to Greg, right there.

You talk as if we live in a world without context! Only the very stupid would say that a thunderstorm producing rain would happen if the temperatures were below freezing. Most men and women are better than that. Besides, the accoutrements of snow—galoshes and other waterproofs—are the same as with rain. The only chaotic event that might occur is that stupid men might be seen carrying umbrellas in a blizzard. That’s not bedlam—it’s funny. Are you so trapped by your semiologic systems that you don’t you believe in semantics?

Referring to precipitation without specifying its most salient quality (is it rain, snow, or hail?) is unprecedented in English, or any other language I’m aware of. There’s a reason for that: these three states impose fundamentally different requirements on the daily lives of humans. Thunder, by comparison, is almost incidental. Whatever solution you propose, if it is to be of any practical use, must specify somewhere whether it’s rain, hail, or snow. This is particularly true in many non-Iowa climates, where it is entirely possible for it to snow, rain, and hail within the same week.

And no one’s believed in semantics, since, like, the 80s, man. The discipline has collapsed on itself.

Calling it a “thunderstorm” does not preclude qualifying the fact that the thunderstorm will produce snow. If meteorologists happen to live where the weather is so variable, then let them talk about “thunderstorms that cause hail,” “tornado-producing thunderstorms,” and “dangerous winter thunderstorms” as the situation demands. In doing so, however, they should avoid the urge to construct poor compounds like “thunder snow.” English is many things, but it is not German!

I think you have been spending too much time around the FMRI. The truth that semantics matter is not a function of whether the linguistic discipline thrives. Hermeneutics depend upon semantics; without them, language would be without portability.

By portability you mean…?

Differently applicable according to situation and context. Metaphors are possible because of semantics.

Oh ok. Well, I agree that the portability of language depends in part on the fact that words can mean things, and that these meanings are to some extent decomposable (i.e. For the metaphor, “He’s a tornado,” we mean that he’s a person of destructive force, not that he’s a product of low air pressure and hot and cold wind). However it’s a long step from there to the proposition that word forms should map onto their meanings according to some consistent system (you + H.S. English teachers) as opposed to the random, push-and-pull of history (me + every other right-thinking person). This demand for consistency becomes especially Quixotic when you consider in this particular instance that your system, while logical on some level, results in words of either insufficient brevity, or descriptive power.

And I’m using MEG, not fMRI. MEG emits no magnetic energy; it only measures it. It’s safer than mothers’ milk.

It’s safer than mothers’ milk.

That’s what They want you to think.

Now you’re just reaching. In advocating for the abolition of thundersnow (I’m now using Wikipedia’s preferred spelling). I may be prescribing a remedy to a linguistic problem that only I see as a problem, but I am by no means imposing some arbitrary system on the language. Patterns already exist in the language. Words already exist to name weather patterns that cause precipitation. I am only advocating that we use those words in the interest of accuracy. Thundersnow is not significantly more brief than Snowstorm, for example—especially since the thunder is in fact incidental to the actual quality of the weather pattern—nor is it particularly more powerful than actually ascribing the quality of storm to a system of weather that produces snow. Your faith in lexicographic randomness is hardly warranted if efficiency and power are the only defense of thundersnow you have.

You’ve raised some good points, but I gotta go grocery shopping.

Newsflash: Snowman’s tipping forward. He looks like he’s examining something on the ground in front of him.

The thing about thundersnow is—at least as far as I’ve ever been able to tell—that the thunder really doesn’t change anything about what you’re expecting from the weather. Whereas hearing you’re expecting a “thunderstorm” rather than just “rain” means something in terms of potential severity, that doesn’t necessarily seem to follow with “snow” or “snowstorm” versus “thundersnow.” The thundersnow can be perfectly boring, whereas you can have a blizzard without thunder (I think). This is all anecdotal, of course.

Officially, a blizzard is a snowstorm with high winds that create blowing snow and whiteout conditions. This whole thundersnow business—our own current “winter storm warning,” for example—occurs when some of those conditions are met.

Anyway, I usually think a “snowstorm” is more severe than “snow.” Then again, I’m not from western New York.

Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that I think of “snow” and “snowstorm” as being the same, though now that I think about it, I’m not sure what I’d say the difference is. Higher winds and/or heavy accumulation in the snowstorm?

I dunno. Right now it’s snowing. Earlier, it was snowing a lot. I’ll leave it there.

Beside my cubicle just now:

“I read that we were supposed to have thundersnow.”

“We had thunderrain yesterday.”

Can’t you see what a bad precedent this whole thundersnow thing is?

So, what’s on the agenda for tomorrow? A post complaining about people splitting their infinitives? How about young people and their music?

Damn kids these days…