Words for Wind-sounds

Jim Parish jparish at SIUE.EDU
Sat Jan 7 00:16:28 UTC 2012

On another list, the following question has been posed, and I was
wondering if anyone on this list has any suggestions.


If wind is blowing gently through trees (up to, say, Force 4 on the
Beaufort Scale) it is specifically said*to sough*. The noun has other
meanings, but the verb is pretty much restricted to the gentle sound of air
moving through leaves and branches (it can also refer to equally gentle
movement of water in a streambed, but nothing else, and I don't think I've
ever seen or heard it actually used in that sense). But there do*not*  seem
to be equally specific English verbs for the noise stronger wind makes
blowing through trees, either in (say) Forces 5-8 or 9-12. (Or I'm blanking
on them completely.)

Instead we get metaphors, with strong winds howling, moaning, shrieking, or
screaming. Writers of age-of-sail fiction are also fond of a musical
metaphor, referring to the 'threnody' of stormwinds in rigging -- but I'm
assured by one as knows that with the cat's-cradle of ropework on a
square-rigged ship a storm can produce a strange atonal chorus of noise,
and I take that phenomenon to be specifically marine. (The literal meaning
of threnody, a lament, may also make the metaphor attractive to the
age-of-sail writers, or they may just be following C. S. Forester and
Patrick O'Brian.)

What verb/s would you use to describe the sound of moderate and strong
winds through trees, or, I suppose, cabling&c. in more urban environments?
Pretty much everyone's heard those noises, but how best to write them down?

The breeze soughed through the trees.
The stiff wind ? through the trees.
The storm/gale ? though the trees.
The hurricane ? through the trees.


Jim Parish

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

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