"Blue Northern" [was "Nor'easter"]

Geoffrey Nathan geoffnathan at WAYNE.EDU
Wed Jan 20 11:14:54 UTC 2010

Some of you may remember the use of the phrase "Blue Norther" in Ian Tyson's _Someday Soon_:

So blow, you old Blue Northern, blow my love to me
He's ridin' in tonight from California
He loves his damned old rodeo as much as he loves me
Someday soon, goin' with him someday soon

Clearly also a wind, but not associated with the Northeast.  I'm a little surprised that everyone didn't simply know that a Nor'easter was a major snowstorm that rolls up the east coast, hitting New York, Boston, Maine and then the Maritimes.  I thought it was just standard English. Certainly CNN and The Weather Channel use the term all the time.  Here's a definition:


The word is polysemous for me, simultaneously meaning simply a wind from the North-East, and in that case it has no specific latitude and longitude.


Geoffrey S. Nathan
Faculty Liaison, C&IT
and Associate Professor, Linguistics Program
+1 (313) 577-1259 (C&IT)
+1 (313) 577-8621 (English/Linguistics)

----- "Wilson Gray" <hwgray at GMAIL.COM> wrote:

> From: "Wilson Gray" <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
> Sent: Tuesday, January 19, 2010 8:37:19 PM GMT -05:00 US/Canada Eastern
> Subject: Re: "Nor'easter" -- missing definition? and an antedating
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: "Nor'easter" -- missing definition? and an
> antedating
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Has anybody here been to sea or know anyone who's been to sea and,
> therefore, might know what contemporary seafarers, at least, say? I
> read Jan freeman's Boston Globe article, which, for me, is the last
> word on the subject of the *word* _nor'easter_.. As it happens, I
> have
> a brother who spent years on an aircraft carrier and, later, on a
> destroyer, as both EM and officer. Unfortunately it has never
> occurred
> to me , before now, to ask him about the nor[th]easter, he being of
> somewhat-waspish temperament, with nothing much more than contempt
> for
> the ignorance of others.
> IME from living in Boston, I consider a "nor[th]easter" to be a
> full-blown (no pun intended) storm and not merely a wind. However, I
> have no vested interest in this. So, it's fine with me, if others
> choose to believe otherwise.
> WRT "blue norther," Kelli's mention of this storm is the only other
> time that I've come across it, since that time when Sky King and his
> sidekicks were trapped by a snow-bearing one in an episode of the old
> radio show, back in the '40's. There's nothing like that in East
> Texas, just eye-blasting, eardrum-shattering thunderstorms.
> There was an odd local(?) belief: if you made any kind of loud noise
> during such a storm, you would call down the lightning onto wherever
> it was that you were sheltering. I recall talking in whispers and
> walking on tip-toe, during such storms. As a child, I really wanted
> to
> see whether a thunderbolt could actually set a house afire, when it
> was pouring down rain. So, I always kinda hoped that some neighbor
> would make a loud noise and cause his house to be struck by
> lightning,
> so that I could see whether the crib would consequently burn to the
> ground, despite all the water falling from the sky.
> -Wilson
> On Tue, Jan 19, 2010 at 1:51 PM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at att.net>
> wrote:
> > ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> > Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> > Poster:       "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
> > Subject:      Re: "Nor'easter" -- missing definition? and an
> antedating
> >
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> >
> > At 1/19/2010 01:25 PM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
> >>Literary? Then how explain customary nautical pronunciations
> "nor'east,"
> >>"nor'west," "nor'nor'west," etc.?
> >
> > The highly-educated seamen and fishermen of pre-colonial, colonial,
> > and early Republic New England?  :-)
> >
> > Joel
> >
> > ------------------------------------------------------------
> > The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
> >
> --
> -Wilson
> ���
> All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"��a strange complaint
> to
> come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
> �Mark Twain
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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