"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

It's just thunderful!



Storm a'coming. Watercolor

Thor’s angry.
You can hear his hammer this morning. The first time he used it, before daybreak, the windows shook.
Thunder! What a wonderful word, actually onomatopoeic. It’s a noun and verb at the same time, a sound of power, of a storm coming.
I wondered where we got that word, so I looked it up in my Oxford English Dictionary, and it goes back to an Indo-European base, plus Latin, but it first came into our language in Old Saxon, Old Norse and Old Frisian in the 8th Century, probably with the Viking invaders of “Angle land.” So it’s Germanic, and the word sounds like it, doesn’t it?
It’s amazing how thunder has caught the imagination of people through the years, from Thor’s hammer, to the American Indians’ thunderbird. What got me to thinking, besides the wonderful thunder and lightning and rain, were comments made by friends, some about the poetry of thunder, by my wife’s nickname of Stormy, and by Richard Mize referring to thunder as the “tater-wagon.” Never heard of it, I thought. I wonder how many other regional names there are for thunder? And then, early this morning, I remember from my deep dark recesses as a little boy, my Mom used that description too! A loaded wagon rumbling along cobbled streets.
Two favorite songs are “Thunder Road”…”thunder, thunder, over thunder road”; and “How Great Thou Art”…’’’when I hear the rolling thunder.”
Today we speak without thinking of thunderhead, thundercloud, thunderclap, thunderbolt, thundershower, thunderstorm. We describe people are thunderstruck, loud noises as thunderous. If I yell at you, you say I thundered. If I upstage you, you say I stole your thunder.
I see in the dictionary that thunderlight is another name for lightning. Hadn’t heard that. Others listed are thunder-plant, thunder-plump, thunder run, thunder-flash, thunder-drum, thunder-gust, thunder-blast, thunder-bearing, thunder-axe, thunder-dint, thunder egg, thunder-drop, thunder bug, thunder-box, thunder-dart, thundercrack, thunderboat, thunder-sheet, thunder-snake, and thunder-stone.
Isn’t that thunderful? Yes, it’s a word. Look ‘em all up.
I guess you could say I was thunderstricken.

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