or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Cloudy with Chance of Snow

Here are a few sentences from a Slate article on the British artist John Constable:

Constable painted the first of his pure cloud studies on Sept.13, 1821, with the notation: "One o'clock. Slight wind at North West, which became tempestuous in the afternoon, with rain all the night following." Constable was understandably proud of his achievement in these paintings. "You can never be nubilous," he told his friend Archdeacon John Fisher in 1823. "I am the man of clouds."

Now, maybe you get out more than I do, but I had never seen the word "nubilous" before, and I love it. I think it's a word I won't get to use often, if ever, but I love knowing that it exists.

"Nubilous" comes from Latin "nubes", "a cloud", and it has a relative in English that you may not be expecting, because I wasn't. No, it isn't "nebulous", which also means "cloudy" (more or less) but is from a different Latin word ("nebula") and from a different Indo-European root altogether ("sneudh-", "fog", and "nebh-", "cloud", respectively). "Nubilous" is related to "nuance", because a nuance is a shading from one colour to another which clouds the distinction between the two.


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