Adage: climate is what on an average we expect, weather is what we actually get (1902)

Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jun 13 07:04:53 UTC 2012

Not earlier, but highly relevant:
Scribner's Magazine. Volume 42 (5). November 1907
English Weather. By Louise Imogen Guiney. p. 630/1
> As a small child once remarked, philosophizing, "Weather is what
> happens, and climate is what goes on all the time." It would be hard
> to name any country where both are objects of such contempt as they
> are in England.

This one /is/ earlier. The requisite phrase in in the last sentence.
Self Culture. A Magazine of Knowledge. Volume 6 (1). October 1897
Inquiries Answered. p. 72/2
> [Q]        I should like some points for an essay on the difference
> between Weather and Climate. Will Self Culture kindly help me?
> Climate depends upon fixed conditions of latitude and solar heat, and
> the modifications resulting from such fundamental facts as the earth's
> annual and diurnal motions, the distribution of land and water, the
> physical and geological character of the land and its elevation above
> the sea. Climate is thus the broad result of all the agencies
> influencing the atmospheric variations at the locality under
> consideration, while weather has a much more limited meaning, and, as
> popularly used, has reference merely to a particular phase of these
> atmospheric changes at a particular time.  Practically, for point and
> brevity it is difficult to improve on the schoolboy's definition that
> "Weather is what we have to-day and climate is what we have all the time."

These two are actually suggestive. There is absolutely nothing humorous
about these explanations and the reference to "schoolboy" and "small
child" suggests that this is the kind of folk distinction that might
have actually been taught.

An entirely different, but related statement falls in between these two.
Puck. Volume 55 (1429). July 20, 1904
The Difference. [unmarked page, but Google URL gives p. 383/1]
> Little Rodney. -- Papa, what is the difference between climate and
> weather?
> Mr. Wayout (of Dismalhurst-on-the-Blink) -- Climate, my son, is what a
> locality has when you are buying a home there, and weather is what it
> has afterwards.

[This is reproduced in the December 1 issue of the Christian Advocate  p. 1965/1]


On 6/13/2012 2:20 AM, Garson O'Toole wrote:
> A climate scientist asked me about a saying attributed to Mark Twain
> and Robert Heinlein:
> The climate is what you expect; the weather is what you get.
> Heinlein did include a version of this aphorism in his 1973 novel
> "Time Enough for Love".
> I hypothesize that the expression was credited to Twain because of
> another statement about climate that he wrote in an article published
> in 1887 titled "English as She is Taught". This humorous essay
> contained a large number of ostensible examples of errors made by
> students. Here are three:
> Cite: 1887 April, The Century Magazine, Volume 33, Number 6, "English
> as She is Taught" by Mark Twain, Start Page 932, Quote Page 934, The
> Century Company, New York. (Google Books full view) link
> [Begin excerpt]
> The imports of a country are the things that are paid for, the exports
> are the things that are not.
> Climate lasts all the time and weather only a few days.
> The two most famous volcanoes of Europe are Sodom and Gomorrah.
> [End excerpt]
> The second remark about climate and weather presented contrasting
> durations. Since "climate lasts all the time" it is what one would
> "expect". Yet, "weather" lasting "only a few days" might be what one
> would "get". The semantic overlap is sufficient that confusion is
> possible between Twain's remark and the saying under investigation.
> The comment in Twain's essay was strictly speaking attributed to an
> anonymous student. However, the words should be credited to Twain
> because the "mistakes" were actually concocted by Twain. Indeed, in
> the section of the paper where Twain explained how the examples were
> collected he signaled their fictional nature by referencing a famous
> work of unintentional humor titled "English as She is Spoke".
> The earliest evidence I have located of an expression closely matching
> the questioner's quotation was dated 1902. It appeared in the review
> of a textbook called "Outlines of Physiography".
> Cite: 1902 February, The Geographical Teacher, Volume 1, Number 2,
> Recent School Text Books and Readers by E. R. Wethey, [Book review of:
> Outlines of Physiography by Dr. A. J. Herbertson of Oxford. (Arnold
> 1901)], Quote Page 95, (Google Books full view)
> [Begin excerpt]
> ... smart and neat such dicta as "climate is what on an average we
> expect, weather is what we actually get"; ...
> [End excerpt]
> The textbook containing the saying was published in 1901, but I have
> not yet located a first edition of that textbook. Here is the data for
> an undated third edition.
> Cite: Undated, Outlines of Physiography: An Introduction to the Study
> of the Earth by A.J. Herbertson, [Third Edition Revised], Chapter 12,
> Page 118, Edward Arnold, London. (Internet Archive full view) link
> [Begin excerpt]
> By climate we mean the average weather as ascertained by many years'
> observations. Climate also takes into account the extreme weather
> experienced during that period. Climate is what on an average we may
> expect weather is what we actually get.
> [End excerpt]
> Earlier evidence for the expression would be welcome. Also, evidence
> that some of the examples in Twain's essay are "real" would be
> welcome. Thanks.
> Garson
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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