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Lexical Leavings

by Tom Gally

The other day, I was asked about the following two example sentences proposed for a learners' dictionary (the asterisk is supposed to indicate unacceptability):
(1) What will the weather [*climate] be like tomorrow?
(2) I moved to California because the climate [*weather] is mild.
I replied that I found (1) acceptable--that is, "climate" would not be used in that context--but that it was wrong to exclude "weather" from (2) because "weather" is sometimes used in the meaning of "climate."

English dictionaries don't seem to agree with me. Those I checked give only a restricted meaning of "weather":
weather n. 1. The state of the atmosphere at a given time and place, with respect to variables such as temperature, moisture, wind velocity, and barometric pressure. (American Heritage Dictionary)

weather n. 1 the general condition of the atmosphere at a particular time and place, with regard to the temperature, moisture, cloudiness, etc. (Webster's New World Dictionary)
But I'm sure I've heard "weather" used in the meaning of "climate" many times, I've probably used it that way myself, and it's not hard to find examples on the Web:
As for Seattle, I like it because the weather is mild, there is tons of stuff to do (although I have no time to do it), and the people are laid back.
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
...I also live along Lake Superior. These areas are good for me to live because the weather is mild and I am surrounded by food, such as nectar, sap and insects.
British Columbia is a nice place to own a bike. Because the weather is mild, I can ride pretty much all year round.

"When the movie business started and moved to California because of the weather" she says, "it meant we had 3,000 miles between theater and the other culture, which is film and television."

In case you're wondering, I'm British but recently moved to NZ because of the weather! :-).
Despite what the English dictionaries say, I recommended that "weather" not be indicated as unacceptable in example (2).
(April 17, 2003)