Everybody knows what I mean by four-letter words, the words used for swearing and cussing. Nearly all of them are off-color words related to sex and biology. Those aren’t the words I want to talk about. I want to talk about a class of four-letter words that, when spoken with emphasis, come close to swearing. This word group describes the weather.

Winter is fast approaching or already here in some places. So let’s start with it. “Snow” is a four-letter word. Some people like snow, but they are a minority. Most people don’t. It doesn’t snow very often where I live, and most people hate snow. People tend to spit the word out, like it leaves a bad taste in their mouth. Those prone to using colorful language combine it with the f-word to form a compound cuss: “F…ing snow.”

“Cold” is another wintry word. I don’ need to elaborate, that one syllable tells you everything you don’t want to feel. It’s contrary is equally true. If you live in the south, say Texas or Arizona or the equatorial regions, you probably detest the summer “heat” as much as northerners do the winter cold. Personally, I can’t tolerate either condition.

Another thing I don’t like is rain. I live in the northwest, close to the ocean, and rain defines the climate. One night my car broke down when it was raining so hard the raindrops were bouncing off the pavement almost up to my knees. You can probably guess what I was muttering: “F….ng rain.”

I’m not fond of “wind,” either. A breeze on a warm day can be pleasant, but a wind is not. Wind is emphatic. It affects the weather, and spreads the climatic miseries around so no one is spared.

The English language has many words for extreme winds. Tornado and cyclone are of Spanish and Greek origin, respectively. Hurricane is a Spanish word for a violent storm, accompanied by extremely high winds. It generally refers to storms in the Caribbean. A typhoon refers to similar storms in the Indian Ocean and the western Pacific. My dictionary says typhoon originates partly from the Arabic language and partly from a dialect of Chinese. On the North Pacific Coast and in the North Atlantic the word mariners fear is “gale.” Gale is a four-letter word that blows right out of the English language’s roots with the force to snap your mast and sink your ship.

None of the four seasons is a four-letter word, although autumn is often called fall. When it arrives you know the weather is going to get worse, fast. Which brings us back to winter. Time to close the windows, turn up the furnace and open my favorite four-letter word: “book.” I can hear my family swearing hundreds of kilometers away.

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