Archive for January 2012

Feeling Under the Weather

January 20, 2012

In the middle of the week, while not feeling well due to some nasty bug that I had caught some place and which grounded me at home, I had to excuse myself from a couple of meetings.

“I am a bit under the weather” I declared, knowing that I would be understood with no further explanation. By stating this, I also excused myself for not finishing some tasks as I had planned. I felt relieved and pardoned for being a bit lazy for a couple of days and having more time for sleep and for reading in bed. In truth I almost welcomed it – it felt a bit like a mini-vacation – feeling free from all kinds of responsibilities.

I bet many people are “under the weather” at this time of the year, especially where it is cold and nasty. Suddenly I was puzzled why am I saying this, here in Tucson where the sky is blue most of the time and the sun’s intensity is as strong in winter as on Cape Cod in summer?

Why do we use this phrase “under the weather?” After all, weather is always upon us – sunshine, rain or snow – we are always under some kind of weather. The more I thought about it, the more intrigued I became. I wanted to know the origin of this idiom. And where could I find the answer for it if not on Google, right?

From I learned that this colloquial expression for sick or ill originated on British sailing ships. “When a sailor became ill he was confined below deck out of the weather, so it was said that he was under the weather.”

One of the Yahoo! ® ANSWERS informed me that the correct term is “under the weather bow” and referred to feeling adversely affected by bad weather. The explanation is that the weather bow is the side of the ship “upon which all the rotten weather is blowing.” This is according to the book Salty Dog Talk: The Nautical Origins of Everyday Expressions by Bill Beavis and Richard G. McCloskey.

I found a couple of very different explanations in answerbag ®.

By Anonymous on April 24th 2008:

“The phrase under the weather originally had nothing to do with weather. The correct phrase is under the wether. It refers to the fact that female sheep resist the efforts of the castrated male sheep to mount them. When the female is so ill that she cannot resist the wether’s attentions, she is literally under the wether.”

By joeymanos on April 16th 2010:

“I have heard that it comes from Maritime language. Apparently, when the captain of a ship wrote his log, he recorded the names of ill crew members directly beneath his description of the weather that day. Hence, ‘under the weather’.”

For me the first explanation of a nautical origin for “under the weather” is most convincing.

Ship on stormy waters

I was tempted to search and write about the expression “it is raining cats and dogs”

Raining cats and dogs

or “it was cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey”

Three brass monkeys

but I encourage you to find them yourself, while I sit on our sunny deck under Tucson’s blue sky trying to get rid of this “under the weather“ condition of mine.

Umbrella, roof and sky

Till the next post of my blog, warm greetings – Alicja

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Text copyright © 2012 by Alicja Mann. Image sources:

  3. enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey.html
  4. Alicja Mann Photography
  5. jonnytbirdzback on YouTube

The Cards of Life

January 6, 2012

I love all kinds of celebrations and New Year’s Eve is one of them. I am almost superstitious, believing that not celebrating that night might bring you bad luck.

Last year such a celebration took the form of a large party in our home with plenty of friends to warm up the coldest night of the year in Tucson. This year, after several months of racing with time to meet some important deadlines, I had the mood to celebrate the end of this year in “a bit” more glitzy way. So I persuaded David and a couple of friends to go (elegantly dressed) to one of the plushy resorts hidden in the foothills of Tucson’s Catalina Mountains that offered such a possibility. The fact that it promised to be a relatively inexpensive event and that one of my new “Jazz” friends, jazz musician George Howard, and his group would perform was a decisive factor.

The resort was surrounded with cool lights and we walked into the “Parisian night” theme of its lounge where the tables were decorated with red roses. The waiters in black and wearing characteristic French berets were cruising among the guests. Wow, that was exciting! I felt like a little kid ready for fun and adventure.

Lights for New Year's Eve

Lights and water, and Hello Paris

It was a night with the moon high in the sky and big stars on the ground (including George).

Stars, moon, George Howard

It was a night of elegant details in the clothing, which I found to be delightful.

Elegant details: shoes and stockings

It was crowded, it was noisy and it was fun — in my book.

Alicja Mann and George Howard

That was New Year’s Eve, but then came New Year’s Day and a predictable reflective mood arrived dimming my sunny morning. That happens usually after some important celebrations like anniversaries, Christmases or birthdays.

My reflective mood usually brings some dark thoughts for a while. Memories of tragic events, images of people I miss, thoughts about unfulfilled promises or dreams that did not materialize crowd my mind. An image of myself emerges — identical to the real me, but much darker. That darkness is similar to the reflection of any image on a shiny surface (except a mirror) — a pool of water, a window or a very shiny table like the one I was sitting at on New Year’s Eve.

Thinking about this, playing cards came to my mind and I created one for myself. I made the choice of an ace of hearts. I like the hearts on it. I also like that it is the highest card, but can also be the lowest one! There is a challenging duality in it, just as in real life.

The playing cards for bridge or poker have mirror images on them — so identical that the way one holds a card does not matter. However, the cards of life, like mine, have to be handled with great care. If not, they might flip around and their dark side would be up and dominate.

Have a good year of 2012 — play your cards of life the best you can!

Two Ace of Hearts cards from Alicja Mann

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Text and images copyright © 2012 by Alicja Mann.

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