Monday, February 13, 2012

And on the Subject of Good Words/Phrases...

See temperature at top of screenshot

We have now had over a week of double-figure minus degree C temperatures here in Deepest Bavaria, all thanks to a Russian high (if that's a high, I'd hate to experience a low). The most minus last week was on Monday with a stinging minus 20°C, plus the gentle breeze chill factor = -27°C. I missed my tram that day and decided to walk the 4 km to the lesson I had. This was an error. It was like pushing your way through a rarified form of ice. The air felt frozen solid.

Now, I mentioned "bleak" last time but that wouldn't have fit in this case. However, there is a fine expression in German for this kind of cold, klirrende Kälte.

Translated into English you have something like "freezing cold" or "biting cold" but klirrende Kälte has much more going for it. First of all, there are the alliterative Ks which lend each word an onomatopoeic "crack" and then the double R in klirrende which, if you roll them slightly, elicit a similar effect to the universal human vocalisation for cold "brrrrr!!"

Klirrend normally means "clashing/clattering" so it also gives the cold an acoustic value - the coldness of crystal shattering on a cold stone floor - I suppose "clattering cold" or "jangling cold" would sort of approximate it, if we said that, but we don't. And anyway, klirrend even has something slippery and skiddy about it when you pronounce it; your tongue slithers from the front of your mouth to the back and then forward to your teeth again...

So, great descriptive expression, "klirrende Kälte".

As far as I am concerned though, to be rather more Saxon about this, this cold weather can fuck off!!

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Bleak, bleak, bleakity bleak. If ever there was a morning which defined bleak then this was it out in the railway-bus exchange suburb Feldmoching...a thin layer of evil snow, leafless, lifeless puny newly planted trees, white tower blocks with feeble early-morning lights dimly glowing through some of the windows, cloudy anonymous sky, cold air...well, not just cold, more like fucking freezing air... -15°C and a little whiplash of wind to chill that minus 15 to minus goodness knows what...

Bleak is a good word though; only 5 letters but so's a good-value word - there's a whole load packed into that one little syllable.

If you're British and a product of my generation, or one before or after, you probably made the acquaintance of bleak in the Xmas carol "In the Bleak Midwinter" when "frosty wind made moan, earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone..." Aye, that's bleak alright...and made tangible at 7.00 in the morning by a little insignificant suburb in Deepest Bavaria.