This pretty much says it all about weather forecasts

Bill Duncan<br>


For the Capital Press

There is no other way to say it, we've had some ugly weather of late, ripping wind storms, snow, hail, rain, sometimes all within a matter of hours.

What amazes me is the TV meteorologists insist on calling this constant battering "pretty." Nightly, I hear those weather prognosticators say the weather is "pretty much" this or that. I even heard one weather person in Eugene say the weather was "pretty bad." She was half right. The weather was bad, but it wasn't pretty.

It is enough to cause Edmund Newman, who wrote the book "Strictly Speaking," in which he said America would be the death of English, shake his head from the grave. Newman devoted several chapters to the misuse and overuse of "pretty" in common speech.

Newman followed that book with "A Civil Tongue," again chastising writers and speakers of the English language for their careless use of their most precious commodity, the mother tongue.

If Newman, a soft-spoken TV commentator, were alive today, he could write volumes about the English gaffes in the print as well as the electronic media. In that regard, you might say, the word "pretty much" is endemic to our way of writing and speaking.

One night while surfing channels I listened to weather reports on four different channels. I counted the times the weather person used "pretty" to describe the foul weather. In one broadcast the word was used 11 times for weather in the region.

If I understand the word pretty correctly, as far as the weather is concerned there is nothing pretty about the winds uprooting trees, ripping off roofs and sending one of the panels on my greenhouse into my neighbor's yard.

Pretty is an adjective meaning pleasing or attractive in a graceful or delicate way. Its synonym is beautiful. That should be a warning sign to all those careless speakers that weather can't be pretty and bad at the same time. Oh, we could have a beautiful day, but of late there haven't been many of those.

Pretty comes from an Old English word "praett," which in those times meant a trick. To all those talking heads on TV, this Old English word, if put in the idiom "pretty much" fits what the weather is playing on us this late April.

I think we must remember what Patrick Young said about weather forecasting, "It's right too often for us to ignore it and wrong too often for us to rely on it."

Or that sage advice from Mark Twain: "It is best to read the weather forecast before praying for rain."

Bill Duncan can pretty much be reached by writing to P.O. Box 812, Roseburg, OR 97470.

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