Monday, 18 July 2011

It pays to enrich your word power

Heavy rain this afternoon
In his entry in Trad's Diary for 9 July, Hugh Johnson has coined a new word. He is, he says, a pluviophile, a lover of rain, and he extols the pleasures of watching rain. I'm also glad to think of myself as a pluviophile, enjoying both the spectacle of it falling and the effect it has.

Hugh also mentioned a related pleasure, the scent released by soil after rain. There is a word for this: petrichor, first brought to my attention by the American horticultural scholar Bobby Ward. It's a neologism invented by two evidently classically-minded Australians in 1964, from the Greek petra, rock, and ichor, the fluid flowing in the veins of the gods. They state that it's caused by aromatic compounds from plants being stored in soil and rock being released on wetting, which is presumably why it's so ephemeral. I think of it mostly in conjunction with the rain on parched African soil, a first  fine, careless rapture.

6 comments:

  1. After four weeks without rain and just having had a half inch of the glorious stuff... I am definitely a pluviophile... indeed a very thankful one at that!! Larry

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  2. The scent of rain is one of my favourites. In England it's a beautifully delicate scent, but when I lived in Namibia the first time it rained the scent was overpowering by comparison (and I was already feeling homesick). Thanks for the words!

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  3. Petrichor is such a beautiful word for a memorable fragrance we can smell as we talk about it. Noelle in Arizona is also petrichoring today ;~)

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  4. That photo certainly captures the beautiful way rain enhances colors and surface textures in the garden. Thanks for giving us the word pluviophile.

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  5. Thanks for enriching my word power!! What's the word, I wonder, for the scent of grass after it has been cut?

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  6. As a non-pluviophile, habitating in the rain drenched Pacific Northwest, I do miss the rich petrichor of a summer shower on a very warm day.
    The sensation is quite concular, considering our warmest days this summer have rarely been above 72-73F.

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