Journalism in the freezer

Thursday 25 November 2010, 09:42

Simon Ford Simon Ford

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A screen grab of a BBC story about wintry weather in the United Kingdom.

We know what Cock Robin does - he hides his head under his wing - and who can blame him. Journalists in the UK, on the other hand, have an unfortunate tendency to seek solace in seasonal clichés. How many of the following have you noticed, or used?

Big freeze/chill

Big compared to what and according to whom?


Biting wind

Gnash! Descriptive but overused.


Bitter/bitterly cold

Pint or half? Descriptive but overused.

Blizzard/blizzard conditions

The etymology of the word 'blizzard' is interesting. There's also an official definition of one: "A violent snowstorm with winds blowing at a minimum speed of 35 miles (56km) per hour and visibility of less than one-quarter mile (400 metres) for three hours."


Prefer disruption, because you can increase or decrease the degree of disruption.


Anywhere indoors with heating.


Assumed to be the experience of all children.


Assumed to be the experience of all adults.


Since the freezing point of water is 32 degrees Fahrenheit, I assume, along with the rest of the journalistic profession, that this is a reference to the freezing point of water in either Celsius or Centigrade.

Treacherous roads/pavements

Why do we insist on attributing human qualities to the climate?


Unlikely in the United Kingdom; more frequent in the Arctic or Antarctic. It's when a snow storm makes the land indistinguishable from the sky.

Winter Wonderland

Spare me!

Finally, just to show I'm a humourless old curmudgeon with a broken boiler, here's my favourite cold weather expression from my native Nottinghamshire: 'T'grittuzizahrt' translates as 'large, yellow lorries are spreading grit and salt on the roads'. Or, put another way, 'It's going to be ruddy cold tonight!'

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