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The Public Shaming of England’s First Umbrella User (atlasobscura.com)
244 points by coloneltcb on July 28, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 150 comments

"But the famous ‘insularity’ and ‘xenophobia’ of the English is far stronger in the working class than in the bourgeoisie. In all countries the poor are more national than the rich, but the English working class are outstanding in their abhorrence of foreign habits. Even when they are obliged to live abroad for years they refuse either to accustom themselves to foreign food or to learn foreign languages. Nearly every Englishman of working-class origin considers it effeminate to pronounce a foreign word correctly."

From George Orwell - England Your England http://orwell.ru/library/essays/lion/english/e_eye

Reminds me of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hudson_Taylor#First_visit_to_C...

Basically, missionaries were having a hard time converting Chinese to Christianity, as nobody would listen to them. He started wearing their clothes, and suddenly people started listening to him.

Reminds me of the Hornblower books, where Hornblower has to pronounce French cities and landmarks with the mangled British pronunciation rather than saying them in the French. The books repeatedly make a point of him doing it, along with Hornblower's annoyance at having to do so.

There are a whole set of naval names for places, like Leghorn. They are falling into disuse now though.

I love listening to the English butcher (assimilate?) loanwords. Sure, other English-speaking peoples do as well, but the English in particular do it with gusto. Even McDonalds gets 'filet' mostly right.

It's kind of strange how the US pronounces French words more correctly than us Brits - I assume it's partly due to our historical disdain for those on the other side of The Channel.

In the UK it's called a 'fillit of fish' and a car with 2 doors (coupe) is called a 'koop-ay' as if there was an accent on the e

There is an accent on the "e": https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/coup%C3%A9#English

The accent is a reflection of the British pronunciation; note the original French never had an accent either. It is absolutely incorrect in America and implies a different pronunciation than anywhere but Britain.

EDIT: I am wrong.

> The accent is a reflection of the British pronunciation; note the original French never had an accent either.

The French (which is referenced in that wiktionary article) does, in fact, have the same accent.

I have never seen such an edit on the internet before.

I am amazed.

This is why I love HN.

Hah, I guess the accent got lost crossing the Atlantic then

There was an interesting piece on the local public radio station a few months back about the pronunciation (in the US) of "pecan". One of the things they talked about is that in English, words with 2 syllables generally have an emphasis on the first, while French is the other way. When we borrow a French word into English, it starts with the emphasis on the second syllable and over time it migrates to the first. For some reason, this process tends to happen faster in UK than in US, and this explains pronunciation differences in words like "garage".

In French you don't really stress individual syllables at all. According to Wikipedia [1], "only the last word in a phonological phrase retains its full grammatical stress (on its last syllable unless this is a schwa)."

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_phonology

Funny you mention pecans - Americans make a fuss when they hear my British pronunciation of 'cashew'

> fillet. Origin: Middle English (denoting a band worn round the head): from Old French filet ‘thread’, based on Latin filum ‘thread’.

If this is correct then it's not a French word, it's an English word that was long ago inspired by a different French word. So the US pronunciation is a hypercorrection.

I mean, even Americans don't pronounce gullet as "gullay".

Or "herbs". Americans say "erbs", approximating the French while the English say it like something owned by a guy named Herb.

My Australian relatives have this smelly herbal stuff they put in bowls which is apparently called 'pot poorey'...

I guess a silly joke I like won't work in the UK.

What do you a chicken coop with four doors? A chicken sedan.

First that came to mind is niche.

One thing that really surprised me was when I first started watching Top Gear: they pronounced "Mazda" and "Bugatti" with flat As (that is, they used IPA [æ] for the first occurrences of 'a' in both words). I was really taken aback by how aggressively anglicized those names.

I've noticed many Canadians do this as well with words like 'pasta' or 'lava.'

They do the same thing with Obama's first name. Along the spectrum of preserving the original pronunciation, they seem to be firmly at one end.

That's brexit right there.

What's worse, that or not speaking a perfect Frankish language of when in the land of Franks? At least the English tolerate all kinds of foreign mangling pretty well.

Depends on which land of Franks you're talking about, but in most places the Franks eventually adopted the local language of the place they ruled (which is why French is a Romance language and not a Germanic one).

I suppose you've been to Paris :-)

I was there, too, and I got the same impression as you. What a surprise when I later discovered how warmly welcomed you'll be anywhere else in France!

Very true, once you get out of the island of France region, and specially the south, people are very welcoming.

> At least the English tolerate all kinds of foreign mangling pretty well.

That's because they mangle their own language awfully enough.

I'm not a native English speaker but I've heard quite a few native Englishmen and their accents are horrible. Received Pronunciation is obviously nice to hear and quite clear, but those local accents... oh my!

I'm not saying that my accent is any better, but at least I try to make my sounds be as close as possible to the actual letters used in the word! :)

There's no letter-to-sound correspondence in English. English probably - at least compared with other European language - is one of the most irregular languages in terms of pronunciation:


This is simply due to the language having been heavily influenced by a host of other - quite different - languages over the centuries, Old Norse and French in particular.

There's also the interesting fact that as the first human language in history English is spoken by more non-native speakers than native speakers. Some linguists say we might very well see some sort of International English that's highly influenced by foreign accents.

In fact there already is such a variety although it's only used by a rather small group of people: The kind of English used by the European Union, its officials and bureaucrats. EU English is littered with bureaucratic expressions, loan words and false friends (particularly from French).

When ever the English language and its appropriation of other words come up I cannot help but think of this quote from James Nicoll:

"The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary."

This is simply due to the language having been heavily influenced by a host of other - quite different - languages over the centuries, Old Norse and French in particular.

It's actually worse than that. I see that the Great Vowel Shift[1] has been linked to, but it's probably not immediately clear why that was significant.

What happened was that "between 1350 and 1600.... all Middle English long vowels changed their pronunciation". Unfortunately this occurred just as spelling was being standardised, so some spelling was standardised using the old pronunciation (which then shifted) and some with the new.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Vowel_Shift

> There's no letter-to-sound correspondence in English.

There is, it's just very complicated (hundreds of rules), as well as accent-dependent, and there are lots of exceptions.

With only 56 somewhat complex rules, you can pronounce things correctly 85% of the time!


Remember phonics for kids learning to read? And "just sound it out"? I try that from time to time on ESL friends, and the looks I get... I think that is the difference between years of passive intelligible input vs. starting from scratch.

It's backwards to say the pronunciation is irregular. Spoken language is more fundamental than written language. The pronunciation is fine; it's completely arbitrary, like that of any language, and no way is inherently better than any other.

It's the spelling that is irregular.

There's pidgin English in Nigeria.

When you first hear it you think it's a different language.

There's all kinds of pidgin Englishes (and Frenches and cetera...)

In fact, it's almost impossible NOT to spontaneously invent a pidgin when there's a language barrier between two people or peoples. When I was in Vietnam, my friends and I adapted our English ad-hoc depending on who we were speaking to. With merchants with very little English, we'd speak only in numbers and yes/no, and maybe say please/thanks in each others' languages. With our tour guides who were much more fluent, we could speak in complete sentences, but still tried to keep things in present tense, and tended to ask questions by using a declarative word order with a rising tone ("we go to the hotel now?").

And we did this all instinctively--it's easy to see how well-defined pidgin languages can arise from this sort of linguistic adaptation between two or more populations.

The pidgin ("business") English that has official status in New Guinea is a different language, recognizably derived from English but different.

Which kind talk be dat?

Na craze talk be dat

English was not "influenced" by Old Norse, rather, they are siblings

Actually, its both. Old English is related to Old Norse as modern German is to modern Swedish: They're similar but not as close as German and Dutch or English and Frisian, for instance.

However, in the Early Middle Ages English was also heavily and directly influenced by Old Norse because Vikings at that time not only more or less continually invaded the English east coast but also settled and established their own jurisdiction (The Danelaw) there.

And it gets another dose after 1066 because the Normans were really former Vikings who adopted a Romance language and the Norman language contains a lot of Norse words in addition to Latinate ones.

Also practically the same alphabet (Futhorc rather than Futhark)

International English does exist. It's basically American English. Every international school around the world and English Cram school is Asia uses it.

Oh heaven forbid someone speaks to you in a regional accent, how awful it must have been for you. I'm so sorry we don't all speak like the queen, you must be lucky to come from a country where there are no regional accents or dialects of your native language.

> sounds be as close as possible to the actual letters used in the word

So you'd pronounce "ghoti" as "fish" then?

Well, this got downvoted into the ground by people who aren't familiar with https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghoti

The point is that the "letters used in the word" are a really bad guide to pronunciation of English. They're not consistent across words or the place of the letter within the word. It's just consistent enough to make people think that might be the case.

Then you get placenames like "Loughborough", "Worcester", "Bicester", "Cholmondeley", and "Slough".

Where the letters ARE in the word does have meaning and makes them a better guide to the pronunciation of English than you're letting on, in my opinion. The wikipedia article agrees:

> However, linguists have pointed out that the location of the letters in the constructed word is inconsistent with how those letters would be pronounced in those placements, and that the expected pronunciation in English would sound like "goaty"; [ˈɡəʊti].

See, for example, Mark Rosenfelder's attempt to algorithmically describe the pronunciation of English [0]. In his introduction, he takes ghoti to task:

> Whenever the subject comes up, someone is sure to bring up all the words in -ough, or George Bernard Shaw's ghoti-- a word which illustrates only Shaw's wiseacre ignorance. English spelling may be a nightmare, but it does have rules, and by those rules, ghoti can only be pronounced like goatee.

[0] http://zompist.com/spell.html

ghoti actually can't be pronounced like "goatee", since the only way to pronounce the former is by stressing the initial syllable.

Well, start like "ghost". And end like "veni, vedi, vici". So I'd say more like "goati" than "goatee".

Maybe "goaty" would be better.

"Worcester" makes more sense if you split it up and pronounce it as "Worce ster". And remember that RP is non-rhotic; that'll help too (so "Worce" ends up being pronounced like "wuss").

I recently had to put up with a satellite navigation system mispronouncing around 90% of place names. The (mis)pronunciations were clearly based on spelling, but the system developers weren't trying very hard, or didn't know the spelling-sound correspondences or how to encode them. A rule-based approach would get it right most of the time, and exceptions can be handled by table look-up. (Obviously you check whether it's an exception first before applying rules.) I've done this before, for words rather than place names.

Google maps giving turn by turn and trying to say Maori words is downright hilarious. Personal favourite was Oratia (pronounced Oratee a)which got an Orwellian sounding Orasia.

> The point is that the "letters used in the word" are a really bad guide to pronunciation of English.

But it's the only available clue, so people will use it!

Accent preference is subjective. There's nothing intrinsically pleasant about RP - it's just more likely to be heard on broadcast media than other accents. In Great Britain and Ireland, there are many different accents, some of which might make it difficult for someone not used to them to understand the speaker.

"Whenever any Englishman opens his mouth, he makes some other Englishman despise him" – Professor Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady.

Some of those "horrible" accents are some of the oldest accents in the UK.

And as we all know, backwards compatibility is a bitch!

Gan canny woer Geordie!

Why aye man! Ya dinae what yet torkin aboot!

What the fuck? I don't come on a message board in your language and tell them people from the town they're from speak their language wrong. Delete this comment.

I guess that I could demonstrate my American superiority by going to the Capitol cafeteria to order some "freedom fries"--or has that term been quietly dropped?

"In the minds of many Brits, umbrella usage was symptomatic of a weakness of character, particularly among men. Few people ever dared to be seen with such a detestable, effeminate contraption. To carry an umbrella when it rained was to incur public ridicule."

This sentiment is very much alive today. I'm always surprised how I seem to be the only person carrying an umbrella in London when it rains. Especially bankers seem to prefer getting soaked.

> I'm always surprised how I seem to be the only person carrying an umbrella in London when it rains. Especially bankers seem to prefer getting soaked.

If you're a banker in London you're inundated with free umbrellas, as they're the gift de-facto on attending any kind of event. Nice, big, very big, very good quality, umbrellas (with said host company's logo).

You're also probably wearing a decent wool suit, and decent wool suits, Super-100s and above, not that expensive, and by design of nature, are completely shower-proof. Not rain-proof, but shower-proof. When getting to the destination, they just need a bash to bounce off any droplets that have stuck to the exterior (don't wipe, doing so will force the droplets into the fabric).

In Dublin, I think it's considered, if not rude, at least not the height of courtesy, to use an umbrella in dense areas where you will be bumping in to people and essentially pushing your water on to them.

However, my feeling is that the real lunacy here is having very narrow pavements (sidewalks) carrying dozens or hundreds of people while having streets, which might be carrying ten or twenty people along the same stretch of road in taxis (which most cars are in Dublin city centre on a weekday morning), get 8-10x as much space. (I am much more sympathetic to buses).

The same crowded street problem happens where I live in NYC, but it generally works out as people get into a rhythm of either raising their umbrella up over the level of the other person's umbrella or lowering it down below the level of the other person's umbrella.

But then in NYC you develop a much closer "personal bubble" when you have to endure being crammed onto the train like a sardine during rush hour, so in comparison a little umbrella bumping is barely noticeable.

Screw the personal bubble, I'd prefer it if short people would avoid stabbing me in the head with the ribs of their umbrella. If you can't lift your umbrella high enough to go over the tallest person in the crowd, you should buy a rain coat instead.

yes agreed everyone should cater to you specifically in life.

ISTM "refraining from stabbing" isn't really the same as "catering".

I think the other guy was right, I'm being very selfish. It's really my fault that my glasses have been scratched by the ferrules on the ends of umbrellas.

Funny cuz in Tokyo everyone uses an umbrella, the reasoning I heard from a co-worker being if everyone else rain jackets the trains would be a mucky mess

And there, you've got hundreds of African men yelling "kasa kasa!" any time a sprinkle starts, selling super-cheap 500 yen umbrellas. It was odd to see, when I visited a few years ago.

Hah, yes! Theres nothing more annoying than someone sauntering along with their umbrella held low in a crowd. They rarely even apologise after smacking you somewhere with it.</rant> ;)

as a tall person walking around in NYC during the rain can be somewhat dangerous. Thankfully I wear glasses so there's one level of protection but people are generally selfish and self-absorbed. They'd rather keep their umbrella low and not get a few drops of rain on them rather than avoid hitting your face.

I doubt that it's to show ones manliness. When you are used to rain (I bet everyone that lived in London for more than a week is), you know when it's not strong enough to get you wet and when it's really time to take your umbrella or get a shelter. I usually carry an umbrella, but use it only when I see that otherwise I'm going to get soaked. Walking down a crowded street with an umbrella is often simply too much of a hassle.

When you've lived long enough in Bergen, Norway you realize it rains very few other places in the world. It's just that locals around the world whine a lot ;-)

I love this (presumably automatic) characterization from:


"A lot of rain (rainy season) falls in the months: January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November and December."

Yeah, sounds about right.

I love the rain, so I'm now considering moving to Bergen. Thanks :)

Driving in my naked Jeep in a warm summer rain is a delight. Sadly, I doubt Bergen has a lot of warm summer rains.

The thing is it doesn't actually rain that much in London.

I mean it rains a bit but reputation for rain is far in excess of the reality if you were to compare it with many north American cities.

Have a look at http://www.worldclimate.com/ to compare. London is pretty dry.

Where I live now, in China, I don't carry an umbrella. When it rains, it pours. For ages. So an umbrella is little help.

In London, rain is much lighter, but much more frequent and much less predictable. So carrying an umbrella is a must.

I forgot this on my last trip to London. It was sunny when I got on the underground at Heathrow. By the time I got to central London, it was pouring, and I was soaked by the time I had walked to the office.

It's not the total amount of rainfall but the number of rainy days. IIRC it rains about 30% of days in March.

The same is true in Seattle which has similar weather.

Coats, hats, and hoodies are much more common than are umbrellas, unless it's raining cats and dogs.

I live in Seattle and I agree: the umbrella shame is real.

"I do not believe the presence of moisture in the air is sufficient reason to overturn society's usual sensible taboo against wielding spiked clubs at eye level.”

China Mieville - Un Lun Dun

The recent thread on height had a discussion about the pros and cons of being tall. The only con I agreed with was discomfort while flying. However umbrella injuries are another. Society tries to blind the tall when it rains.

> In the minds of many Brits, umbrella usage was symptomatic of a weakness of character, particularly among men

Why isn't driving a car, or any motorized vehicle, similarly seen as a weakness?

>> "I'm always surprised how I seem to be the only person carrying an umbrella in London when it rains."

Weird, I'm always surprised at how almost every seems to have an umbrella ready to use in London.

Yeah, working in central London and there's always an abundance of umbrellas in use when it rains, really not sure what this commenter is talking about.

Do they have tour company logos on? In some parts of central London, there's an abundance of rain ponchos, but that's unusual clothing for a Brit.

I think to really get a representative feel of average London, it's necessary to survey somewhere like Ealing or New Cross.

It's definitely not tourists, it's usually business people. I'm also rarely in central London these days, and in the east (Zone 2/3) umbrellas are a common sight. I know because constantly manoeuvring my own to dodge other people's :)

British comedian, Jimmy Carr:


l'm not gay. Unless you're from Newcastle, and by "gay" you mean "owns a coat".


It's inconsiderate to use an umbrella in a densely packed city like London. Get an overcoat.

Reminds me of my chemistry professor who spent time teaching in Japan. He didn't carry a brolly, much to the surprise of local residents, who would ask him "what do you do when it rains?". Answer: "i get wet".

This just isn't true, I work in central London amongst the bankers and they're usually the first to get out a bank branded umbrella, usually obnoxiously huge ones too.

This is definitely alive in Portland, OR. There's a pride in handling the rain.

Portland and Seattle are interesting though. It rains a lot, but it never seems to rain on you.

I walked to work in Portland for two years, and while the streets were normally wet and it had clearly been raining recently, there were only a handful of days where I actually got wet during the half hour I was walking. I never carried an umbrella.

Compare that to England, where the rain will wait until you're a few hundred yards out of your house, then attack from otherwise sunny skies to blast you from dead sideways with that particularly English tiny-dropped dense-yet-light-seeming rain that soaks your clothes completely in two minutes flat. Then it will stop and let you carry on to your destination wet.

You can never leave the house here unprepared.

> Portland and Seattle are interesting though. It rains a lot, but it never seems to rain on you.

That's right, it's a constant drizzle, but rarely anything more.

Lived there for just four months, but it was the fall "rainy season", and I barely ever used my umbrella.

If Portland is anything like up here in Seattle, it also doesn't actually rain that much (usually). More just a continuous drizzle for 8 solid months.

Yeah, I moved to Seattle about 6 years ago from the Midwest and was teased often by some Seattle natives for having an umbrella, which seemed to be fairly arbitrary to choose to pick on given that rubber rain boots were common enough to have fasionable variants made. Not everyone, of course, but quite a few of my colleagues would try to make it a point of pride.

Tangentially, most Seattle-lites also didn't understand what I meant when I said Seattle has a lot of drizzle, but it doesn't have rain; growing up in the midwest with midwest thunderstorms, a lot of them didn't seem to understand what I meant by the smell of a storm or the greenish color of the sky as a thunderhead approaches.

We all get prideful for various things, I guess though...I know far too many folk from back in WI who insist they can drive perfectly in any weather, despite having wrecked multiple cars in winters past.

Seattle can get some bad soaking storms in October/November. Portland also! Umbrellas are taboo because you can't use them easily on your bike, so a nice rain coat (was gortex?) works better. If we did use an umbrella, it was usually the collapsible one that you could fit in your bag, full size British/Japanese style umbrellas were rare.

Nothing as bad as my mom's hometown a bit further to the north (Ketchikan).

I don't see umbrellas on bikes too much in the Netherlands, but when I do they're often this type of aerodynamic shaped umbrella: http://www.tudelft.nl/en/current/dossiers/archive/senz-umbre...

Nike sells a Portland themed T shirt with "Shut Your Umbrella" below its logo.

Along those lines, an umbrella is not to be used in (US) military uniform.

This was alive and well in my small Caribbean country. When I went to secondary school I would rather get soaked than to ever carry something as "girly" as an umbrella. Most of my classmates felt the same way. It wasn't something limited to only secondary school boys but also younger males.

I have long since matured past that and it seems like within the past decade things have changed a bit here

for some reason its difficult to even imagine two male bankers sharing one umbrella together

Steve McClaren was the first England football manager to use an umbrella in the dugout. It didn't go down well. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2236344/St...

As a former pedestrian commuter through the City, I'd love to see the goons who think a golf umbrella makes a suitable and sociable rainscreen pelted with fruit.

I almost considered setting up a Tumblr of ridiculously oversized umbrellas at one point, knocking people off pavements.

I'm with you - I'm tall enough that the little metal tips of most umbrellas are usually at eye-level, and have received many uncomfortable jabs to the eyeballs (and more often than not people are annoyed that their umbrella was nudged, instead of being sorry)

"I do not believe the presence of moisture in the air is sufficient reason to overturn society's usual sensible taboo against wielding spiked clubs at eye level.”

In medium wind, the most practical umbrella is the clear plastic dome-shaped kind that you can hold in front of your face but still see through. Maybe there will be a new Jonas Hanway who pioneers men carrying this style of umbrella.

I used to think that men wore whatever was practical and only women were bound by fashion. This may be true of shoes, but this style of umbrella revealed to me that it isn't true in general. Men (including myself) will eschew practicality for our own fashion. I'll keep carrying my impractical black umbrella for now.

Both are bound by fashion. But since somewhere around WW1, mens fashion have been somber and largely static (the largest change being the reduced use of hats since JFK).

I think the crystallised male fashion is a massive cultural achievement. Right up there with shaking hands, sending letters and using cutlery. Shame about the loss of hats.

Cabbies. They probably deserved umbrellas then as much as they deserve Uber now.

Umbrellas are still taboo in some branches of the US military. The local paper a while back had an article about this. The Air Force wouldn't let some officer carry an umbrella to the Pentagon, but it would pay to replace or repair his hearing aids when they were damaged by the soaking.

Those of us who live in Seattle tend to feel the same way. If you see someone carrying an umbrella here you can bet they're a tourist.

There's more than just the person getting rained on getting wet. They show up all wet at some place and then get that place all wet. That's seems pretty selfish.

My dad lives in Seattle. I brought him to Japan. Him and my stepmom bragged they didn't need an umbrella when it was raining. Watched them walk into a store and drip on books and magazines destroying merchandise.

Not cool

Seattle and Portland don't get the same kind of rain as lots of other places (such as Chicago or Boston). In the Northwest the most common rain is a light drizzle, downpours are very rare. Whereas in many parts of the country a normal rain storm would be considered a downpour in the Northwest. For that reason people in Seattle and Portland can get through the entire winter wearing a light jacket or even a cloth hoodie. Even though hoodies aren't waterproof, being exposed to the rain for a couple minutes will only make them slightly damp, rather than sodden through and through the way they might be if one attempted to use them in other rainy cities.

An umbrella is a bit of false protection from the rain as well. It's a nuisance to carry so often given that it will save you only from a mild inconvenience on most days. And as often as not it'll end up being a hindrance as you fight it from being destroyed or carried away by the wind.

Portland as well. It's seen as a sense of pride, probably because the rain here is light.

I think the reasons are more practical. It's rare that it rains very hard in Portland. Carrying an umbrella throughout six to eight months of the year just in case is inconvenient, and you'll probably end up losing it anyway. A light rain jacket is easier to deal with and also blocks the wind. I don't think pride has much to do with it.

There may be a significant difference, though. I haven't used my umbrella since moving to the Seattle area 24 years ago, but I don't recall feeling any kind of social pressure to not use it. I didn't use it because there just wasn't any point to it.

That will probably sound strange to people not familiar with Seattle, considering Seattle's reputation as a rainy city, but the truth is that in terms of total amount of rain Seattle is not actually a very rainy city.

Here are some cities that have about the same annual rainfall as Seattle (37.7 in), within 10%:

  Austin, Texas (34.2 in)
  Buffalo, New York (40.5 in)
  Chicago, Illinois (36.9)
  Dallas, Texas (37.6 in)
  Kansas City, Missouri (39.1 in)
  Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (36.5)
So why is Seattle the rainy city instead of one of those? Or one of the cities that gets a lot more rain, like like Miami, Florida (61.9 in)?

I think there are two reasons Seattle gets the rainy label.

1. The Seattle rain is more spread out. Seattle gets its 37.7 in spread out over 149 days. Compare to Dallas which gets its 37.6 over 81 days. The weather stats folks count as day as a rain day if it gets 0.01 in or more of rain.

Seattle's rain is fairly evenly spread among those 149 days. There will be a handful of times each year when there is a brief moment of heavy rain, but for the most part it is a fairly steady light rain.

In most of the other places, it is much less uniform. They get a handful of big rainstorms, and several fairly rainy days, and many "rain days" that are just small amounts.

2. There is no really bad weather in Seattle most of the time. Some of those other cities with similar total rain also like to dump tons of snow on you, or hit you with hurricanes, or temperature extremes.

Take Buffalo. 40.5 in of rain a year, over 167 days. Sounds like a better candidate than Seattle for the title of rainy city (although I haven't looked at the distribution to see if it is spread out like Seattle's)...but Buffalo also dumps 93 inches of snow a year on people. I think anyone cares about rain when they are getting 93 inches of snow.

Putting these together, Seattle has the perfect combination of many days with enough rain for you to think "it's raining", and a lack of anything else that distracts from the rain, so the rain becomes its characteristic weather feature.

So why are umbrellas kind of pointless here? It rains so often that you'd pretty much have to carry the thing with you all the time to keep completely dry. Eventually you'll forget it, and find yourself having to go out in the rain...and you'll find that it is no big deal. The rain is mild enough that unless you are out for a long time you just get a little damp. Damp hair can be a bit annoying, and if you wear glasses those getting wet can also be annoying...but both of those problems can be dealt with by wearing a hat with a brim, and that doesn't require dedicating a hand.

On those handful of times a year when we get an actual intense rainstorm, you can usually just wait it out. They tend to only last a short time, and then go back to the normal mild rain.

Pretty similar in Vancouver too, although I'd say "from Eastern Canada" rather than "tourist" -- the main tourism season is in the drier months.

I never noticed any such thing in Vancouver. When it rained, we carried umbrellas. Unless you forgot, in which case you're gonna get soaked. Maybe that was only in east van?

Having developed a mobile app called "Umbrella" for Security management, this headline nearly gave me a heart attack... :)

Someday, maybe it's already happened, someone will market an umbrella drone that floats above your head. And something similar will happen.

The Slack ad :-)

I've always found umbrellas annoying. When walking down city streets they get in the way of trying to pass people. Sometimes people unfurl them without looking to see if there's enough space, and people let them dry off on public transit seats, making them a soupy mess for the next rider who wants a seat.

Maybe this is the origin of the prohibition of male American Marines from carrying umbrellas. I always wondered why the accessory was permitted for female Marines, but not for males.

That said, the trench coat (All-Weather Coat, Pewter Gray) is very water repellant. And Marines in utilities can wear the Gore-tex or poncho.

"The British also regarded umbrellas as too French"

I guess it was a very bad thing at the time :D

Still is. Brexit, don't ya know.

I think there is more than insularity/xenophobia going on here. When faced with an unpleasant situation, there is some benefit in taking pride in one's ability to cope. It can easily be taken too far, however, leading to an aversion to doing something about it, and antipathy towards those who do. It is as if getting soaked by rain became part of Britain's tribal identity.

Umbrellas are pretty effective against rain, and I think it is amusing that they were invented to protect against the sun by providing shade.

It says that umbrellas were seen as effeminate, and identifies him in the article as the first man to use one--was he the first umbrella user in England, or just the first male one?

There's still a traditional prejudice among some Englishmen against non-clergymen using umbrellas in the country (as opposed to in town).

The popular kind is still a boring, awkward black gamp. To counter the effeminate charge I assume.

I wonder whether anybody called umbrella users umbr-holes…

What are the English 1750s umbrellas of today?

Google Glass. Even without the camera controversy, wearing anything on your head is hard to pull off. Bluetooth headsets approached acceptance at one point but have gone back to serious fashion faux pas.

Or to take the other angle of it, anything remotely "feminine" is still violently opposed for the modern man at least in the U.S. Although the way I read it, umbrellas were rejected as "feminine" but weren't really allowed for women either.

Declaring yourself a conservative in online tech circles, or in Hollywood.

Folding umbrellas.

i wonder what they'll say about the first city enclosed in a climate-controlled glass dome

I still internally laugh at men who use umbrellas.


Because anoraks are the height of sartorial elegance.

I honestly don't know. They're very practical.

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