dry lightning

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Sun Jul 8 16:24:33 UTC 2007

At 7/8/2007 11:17 AM, Jon L wrote:
>OED mentions _heat lightning_ (the kind unaccompanied by rain in
>your vicinity) but offers no supporting cites.
>   My grandparents used _heat lightning_.
>   My reading of Springsteen's "dry lightning" is that it refers -
> poetically or not - to heat lightning. Reichmuth's definition is different.

OED2 has "heat lightning" under "heat" n. as *1834, 1849, and
1890.  The following, which I submitted to the OED in February 2007,
gives us a choice of two interpretations:

American Magazine of Useful and Entertaining Knowledge
II. 260
[edited for about 6 months by Hawthorne, but I do not recall if this
page is during his period.]

Heat lightning is ascribed by some philosophers to the electric
flashes of a thunder-storm, at such a distance that the thunder
cannot be heard . . . Others contend, that these flashes proceed from
electric discharges in the air, where there is no condensation of
vapour in the form of clouds.


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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