11 thoughts on “Outside my office

  1. Mum taught me a lot of sayings like that. Our version is “Red in the morning, shepherds’ warning. Red at night, shepherds’ delight.” My first memory of the saying was when I was sheltering from a thunderstorm, aged around five, and could see that the western sky was red.

    There are some other changes, like “I couldn’t care less”, whereas Yanks say “I could care less” and “Preaching to the converted” instead of “Preaching to the choir.”

    1. “I could care less” doesn’t represent a change exactly, since both expressions are current. Trouble is, in the US, at least, “I could care less” has become an idiom, an inherently illogical expression whose meaning most people nonetheless readily understand. That is, “I could care less” and “I couldn’t care less” mean the same thing. Originally, the first expression was sarcastic. Now it’s simply taken to mean the opposite of what it says. It’s similar to “Tell me about it,” which means the opposite: “*Don’t* tell me about it [because I already know].”

      As Michael Quinion says in World Wide Words, “There’s a close link between the stress pattern of ‘I could care less’ and the kind that appears in certain sarcastic or self-deprecatory phrases that are associated with the Yiddish heritage and (especially) New York Jewish speech. Perhaps the best known is ‘I should be so lucky!’ in which the real sense is often “’I have no hope of being so lucky,’ a closely similar stress pattern with the same sarcastic inversion of meaning.”

      1. I was brought up on “I couldn’t care less” and I assumed “I could care less” meant, “I could care less, but not much”, or something along those lines. I didn’t hear it until maybe 5 years ago though.

      2. Re: “I could (not) care less.”

        One day a chum said, “I could care less.”

        I replied, “Well, then, do so.”

        From Navy days, a couple I remember, concerning the lights various types of vessels display:

        “Red over red, captain is dead.” (dead in the water)

        “Red over green, sailing machine.”

        “Red over white, trawling at night.” (?)

  2. Our family used the same as Jerry’s dad, but we dropped the sky. My wife’s more poetic family used “Evening red and morning gray, sends a sailor on his way; evening grey and morning red, sends a sailor home to bed.”

  3. There’s an Italian version as well: “Rosso di sera, bel tempo si spera; rosso di mattina, brutto tempo si avvicina.” Less poetic, no shepherds or sailors, and only hope (“si spera”), not certainty of good weather with a red sky.

  4. All of these are from European sailors and fishers, and refer to those who travel in the trade winds, the area of Hadley cells, where weather comes from the east.

    The sky is redder when the Sun’s light shines through moisture in the air. In the trade latitudes, when the western sky is red at sunset it means the storms are west of us, and when the eastern sky is red at daybreak, it means storms are heading toward us.

    Chicago is in the Ferrel cell, so our winds are westerlies, and the process is exactly the reverse. A red morning sky say the storms are east and past us, bothering Indiana or Michigan, whereas an exceptionally red sunset suggests storms overnight or tomorrow.

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