You Don’t Say – Vol 28– by Ray Hudson
While you’re enjoying (or not) the wonderful stretch of hot summer weather, you may be interested in some of the words that make the season all the more interesting.
Popsicle: Few childhood memories rival the joy of staining one’s mouth orange, green or purple with orange, lime or grape popsicles, on a hot summer day. It was invented in 1923, by a Frank Epperson, who claimed to have left a glass of flavoured water (pop) with a stir stick in it, on his porch. It froze overnight and the Epsicle was born. When he sold the rights to another firm, it was renamed Popsicle – much more suave I think.. The name was so popular and so widely used to describe iced treats, that the product name became genericized. Never-the-less, “Popsicle” remains a trade name and was joined by the Fudgecicle, Creamcicle, and many other summer-beating products.
Mirage: Have you ever been traveling along a road and seen a car or truck in the distance (or a forest, or a lake, for that matter) appearing to be suspended in the air? This is a mirage (meer-ahj) and it happens, mainly in hot weather, when a road, sheet of water or flat land distorts light to create a mirror-like affect so that something on it’s surface actually appears to be floating in air. It has been known to occur over snow and cold water as well. Sometimes this condition can reflect features that are much farther away than they appear.
Muggy: You’ll be used to this term if you come from eastern Canada, the tropics, or anywhere else when the air becomes saturated with moisture. The term is unpleasantly hot and humid. The origin of muggy is in ‘mug’ which referred to mist or drizzle. Another source suggested it meant stupid. I can tell you after some extreme days in South America, Ottawa or Washington DC (where I experienced it raining and 38 degrees) one feels slow, sluggish and even stupid. Especially if you don’t find somewhere air-conditioned.
Virga: With a tip of the hat to Mark Madryga, this is rain that you can see falling out of clouds but never reaching the ground, because it evaporates before it gets there. Often in hot summer weather I remember seeing rain clouds forming over Okanagan Lake in the afternoon, and seeing the precipitation streaking down from the clouds to disappear before getting to the surface.
Hammock: This is the ultimate tool for a lazy summer afternoon. Originally it seems to have been developed by natives in North and Central America, who strung ropes and fabrics between two points – trees generally. Brilliant! You can take your bed anywhere and grab a little kip (nap) up a tree away from most of the forest’s animals. It’s also good for avoiding lawn mowing duties on a hot afternoon in the suburban back yard. Just don’t forget the….
Sun Screen: Think this is a modern invention? Early civilizations used a variety of products to protect the skin including mud, olive oil (Greeks), jasmine and lupine plants (Egyptians), and even zinc oxide – which is still in use today. For the most part, the modern stuff is nicer to wear, smells great and is very effective in protecting lobster-boy (me) from many a burn unit.
So grab a Popsicle (anyone ever try beersicles?), and on the next muggy day, hide the mower and climb into your hammock, slap on the sunscreen and watch the Viagra….I mean virga drift across the summer sky.