Monday, May 28, 2012

Barreling in lumberland, or vice versa

A radio news report this morning informed me that tropical storm Beryl was "barreling" across the Atlantic, but a later report changed the verb to "lumbering." Why? "Beryl is barreling" sounds like a reckless roller-coaster ride while "Beryl is lumbering" makes me think of stolid flannel-clad men carrying axes slowly through a dark wood, hardly the first image that pops into my head when I think of hurricanes.

Perhaps someone found the alliteration too silly for a serious storm, or perhaps the verb was changed in an attempt at greater precision, which raises the question: at what point does a tropical storm switch from "barreling" to "lumbering"? Does the distinction center upon speed or does steadiness of direction enter into the equation as well? "Barreling" suggests an out-of-control swerviness, while "lumbering" pursues the most direct line to the goal. Which would do more harm on landfall, a barreling storm or a lumbering storm? And how should one prepare?

I've got to admire whoever wrote the initial report. Whoever you are, oh nameless NPR reporter who wrote "Beryl is barreling"--you nailed it! 

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