Under the weather

Having been “under the weather” for several weeks, it made me wonder about why we use that phrase as an idiom for illness.

A bit of Internet research uncovers two origins. The first from boat travel: When sailors felt seasick, they would head below deck to get away from the elements, hence under the weather. (Sidebar: Any salt worth his salt will tell you that’s the worst place to be when seasick).

The second answer is attributed to American author Donald Grant Mitchell who supposedly coined the phrase in his popular 1850 book, Reveries of a Bachelor. The sites I found that made this reference did not explain the use of the phrase in the book, simply that the phrase started there. I found a copy on Google books, and a search for the phrase in the book “under the weather” returned nothing. Short of reading the book in its entirety, I may not get the answer.

What I learned, rather what I had reinforced, is that the Internet is full of unverified information and attributions (imagine that!) including stories that should have passed editors’ eyes who’d demand better sources… not just good ol’ Wikipedia.

Despite all that, I’m quite ready to be “above the weather” again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *