Time and the weather - are they the same?

"il tempo - (1) Time (2) Weather (3) Half (as in soccer) (4) Part (as in a film or a book, etc.)" Collins Easy Learning Italian Dictionary

In my Italian lesson last week it was mentioned in passing that il tempo in Italian means both time and the weather. Time in the abstract sense, not in the sense of the hours of the day - that's a different word altogether - l'ora. I thought no more about it, but as I lay in bed last night, pondering on what I was going to cook for lunch on Thursday somehow or other that fact about il tempo and le temps in French started to bother me.


I mean they are two different things aren't they? These days it almost seems that weather is more important than time as you can see from today's weather forecast as shown by Weather Zone - though all of the weather sites are similar. The time is indeed there but it's in small print. What matters is the weather. And besides, that time is not il tempo but l'ora.


It seems that it's not just the Italians and the French. Of course it's all the other Romance languages as well, but it's also a whole host of other languages.


Language is such an interesting and puzzling thing. Which is why it is so good to learn another language because it does somehow allow you a tiny peek into the psyche of another people.


So I looked at the Latin words from which il tempo and le temps come. Well there are actually two contenders as the root for them:

Tempestas - which means a storm or a tempest, although it also means weather, time, season period. And we English have hung on to this word as meaning a storm, or stormy - tempest, tempestuous maybe even temper in all its senses. Tempestas was a Roman goddess of storms - well it would be a goddess wouldn't it?

Tempus - the more obvious source, which also means time, storm, season, moment, period and opportunity. So still a weather connection and a stormy one at that. We English have hung on to this one for the use of tempo in music.

But I also assume that they must have both come from the same root originally.


So whilst tempus is more inclined to time in a general sense, and tempestas to a storm and/or the weather, they are obviously connected.


And yet.


I decided that we English were superior as we separated the two concepts out - we have two different words - time - and weather. Although I have to admit that on the other hand, we don't really separate out abstract time and the actual hour of the day. We use the same word for both. Context is all. Anyway I decided to look into the etymology of weather, and found that it comes, perhaps unsurprisingly from a Germanic word - wedder.


"The shape of the word weather has changed little since it was first attested in the year 795. In Old English, it had d in place of th; the rest, if we ignore its present day spelling with ea, is the same. But its range of application has narrowed down to “condition of the atmosphere,” while at that time it also meant “air; sky; breeze; storm.” Anatoly Liberman - Oxford University Press


Which is similar to the latin tempestas. Storms again.


"That word did not have the abstract meaning “condition of the atmosphere,” ... It must have meant “high wind,” “friendly breeze,” “a cloudless sky,” or something similar. The abstract meaning is the product of later development. For some reason, weather is one of the few abstract nouns in English that can never be used with the indefinite article. Many ways exist for expressing the idea of “storm.” On some quiet and peaceful day I will turn to the word tempest and its ties with temperature and temperament and the rest." Anatoly Liberman - Oxford University Press


Elsewhere in his interesting little article Anatoly Liberman poses the question of whether weather and the words meaning weather in other languages have always meant bad weather. Because it does indeed seem so. The association with storms is very common. Anyway it's all very interesting. Is good weather not important? Do we only notice the bad things, and not the good? Sometimes it seems to me that this a big truth - I mean just listen to the daily News. There is never anything good in it. Well almost never.


But what has this got to do with food? Well both time and weather have been weighing on my mind for the last few days as I tried to put together a menu for our lunch on Thursday. Time is important because it's lunch. Which, in fact, is always a bit tricky. How big a meal should it be after all? I could just go for a bread, cheese, and cold meat option. But that seems somehow lazy and mean, in spite of Elizabeth David and her ilk telling us all that this is indeed perfect. On the other hand if I provide a full on meal - three courses of cooked food it might be too much.


And this too is an interesting thing. In Europe lunch tends to be the big meal of the day. Well in France and Italy anyway. Then they have a siesta, although I suspect this is disappearing. Shops and monuments tend to be closed for two or three hours in the middle of the day, whilst the natives have lunch and a sleep. Lunch is important in England too in some ways. Think about school dinners and Sunday lunch - the traditional roast and all the trimmings. The times though are a-changing and probably more and more people are just snacking at lunchtime and relaxing over a bigger meal in the evening.


So that's problem number one about the time. The second is that it means that I have less time on the day itself to prepare, so as much as I can do in advance would be a really good thing. And indeed that is why I have indeed made a terrine (two actually - the quantities in the recipe were too large for my terrine dish). Nothing more to do to that except turn it out and serve it up prettily. I have also decided to griddle some vegetables and serve them alongside. With a few other little bits and pieces, so it will be a sort of compromise between a light lunch and a full-on meal.


The other concept - the weather - has also been a worry though. Because it's going to be relatively cool on Thursday and here I am preparing a cold meal. Nothing hot. Does it matter? Why can't we eat salad in the middle of winter and comforting stews in summer? And it probably means we shan't be eating outside. That is also something to worry about. Do we need to clean up the outside table and get out the chairs? Decisions, decisions. We shall wait and see, because one thing is for sure - there is no certainty about the weather.


Weather looms large in our lives doesn't it? Almost nothing affects our moods more. The sun shines and we smile. It rains and it's gloom and doom. Silly. Another thing we did in our last Italian lesson was an exercise in which we had to offer good things and bad things about situations we were given. The first one? Piove - It's raining.





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