Saturday, April 5, 2014

Why It's Called Hail

Exactly on cue, on April 1 it thunderstormed like crazy. The next day, 100 of us were at a meeting listening to a speaker through shattering bashes of thunder when a strange sudden sound came from the roof. It intensified. Then someone near a window said "Hail." We all groaned because nature, without a care as to who could afford the deductible and who couldn't, was wreaking hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage on our cars and we couldn't do squat about it. Politely waiting until the speaker finished, we then looked outside, marveled, and I photographed the hailstones for everyone who'd need to file an insurance claim.

I wondered why frozen rain is called "hail." As we know, in English "hail" can also mean "greet," "flag down," or "salute," and that particular "hail" is from Old Scandinavian--but "hail" meaning "frozen rain" is from Old English "haegl" from the Old German "Hagel," derived God knows how from a Greek word meaning "pebble," and there's a chance it's from a Sanskrit root meaning "cold."

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