"Nor'easter" -- missing definition? and an antedating

Mark Mandel thnidu at GMAIL.COM
Tue Jan 19 16:53:10 UTC 2010

Merriam-Webster, and etymological discussion (with refs) from Wikipedia.

m a m

m-w online:
Main Entry:
Function: noun
Date: 1774

1 : a strong northeast wind
2 or nor'·east·er : a storm with northeast winds


University of Pennsylvania linguistics professor Mark Liberman has pointed
out that while the OED cites examples dating back to 1837, they represent
the contributions of a handful of non-New England poets and writers.
Liberman posits that "nor’Easter" may have originally been a literary
affectation, akin to "e'en" for "even" and "th'only" for "the only," which
is an indication in spelling that two syllables count for only one position
in metered verse, with no implications for actual pronunciation.[9]

However, despite these assertions the term can be found in the writings of
New Englanders going back at least to the 19th century. Thomas Bailey
Aldrich writing in his semi-autobiographical work The Story of the Bad
Boy(1870) "We had had several slight flurries of hail and snow before, but
this was a regular nor'easter."[1]. In "The Gray Goth"(1869) Elizabeth
Stuart Phelps Ward wrote "...and there was snow in the sky now, setting in
for a regular nor'easter."[2] Usage existed into the 20th century in the
form of current event description("In spite of a heavy "nor'easter," the
worst that has visited the New England coast in years, the hall was crowded"
- 1908 [3]), historical reference ("In December of 1778, the Federal brig
General Arnold, Magee master and twelve Barnstable men among the crew, drove
ashore on the Plymouth flats during a furious nor'easter, the "Magee storm"
that mariners, for years after, used as a date to reckon from."(1917)[4])
and ("common contraction for northeaster" (1959)[5] & "During this battle,
the dreaded, disagreeable and destructive Northeaster rages over the New
England, the Middle States, and southward. No Nor'easter ever occurs except
when there is a high barometer headed off and driven down upon Nova Scotia
and Lower Canada" (1878)[6]).


   1. ^ a b c d e f g Multi-Community Environmental Storm Observatory
(2006). "Nor'easters".
      . http://www.mcwar.org/NorEasters.pdf
      . Retrieved 2008-01-22.
   2. ^ a b Storm-E (2007). "Nor'easters"
      . http://www3.cet.edu/weather2/h17.html
      . Retrieved 2008-01-22.
   3. ^ How stuff works (2006). "What are nor'easters?"
      . http://science.howstuffworks.com/question595.htm
      . Retrieved 2008-01-22.
   4. ^ Weather channel (2007). "Nor'easters"
      . Weather Channel.
      . Retrieved 2008-01-22.
   5. ^ Ansted. A Dictionary of Sea Terms, Brown Son & Ferguson, Glasgow,
   6. ^ http://www.soundingsonline.com
   7. ^ "Talk of the Town"
      . The New Yorker, issue of 5 September 2005.
   8. ^ Jan Freeman, "The Word"
      . The Boston Globe, issue of 21 December 2003.
   9. ^ Mark Liberman, "Nor'easter considered fake"
      . Language Log, 25 January 2004.

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