Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Under the Weather?

Ever wonder where the expression "under the weather" came from?
With everyone waxing poetic about the beauty of fall, there is also a down side of this lovely season; it heralds the coming of the cold and flu season.  When we fall prey to these nasties, we tend to say that we are "under the weather".  Just this past weekend, I used that phrase myself and began to wonder of its origins.

The phrase "under the weather" dates back to the 1800s.  When sailors would become seasick, they would be sent below deck to get away from the weather, thus literally being "under the weather".  Author Donald Grant Mitchell was the first to use this phrase in his 1850 book Reveries of a Bachelor, and it has since been used for everything from being "ill" or "indisposed" to "financially embarrassed" or "drunk".

Some state that the correct term is "under the weather bow".  The weather bow is the side of the boat being hardest hit by the nasty weather.

Also there is the belief that the weather can affect one's health, so a sick person is deemed to be "under the weather".  From this theory, it stands to reason that the weather can also influence a person's mood, rendering them under the weather as well.  This is documented as SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, which I touched on last fall in my post Just Another Monday.

We all know the steps to staying healthy during the cold and flu season, but here's a recap so we don't have say, "Sorry, I can't.  I'm under the weather."

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water, or use hand sanitizer when you can't wash.
  • Do not touch your face - nose, eyes, mouth - that is the germ's way into your system.
  • Keep your distance from those are already sick.
  • In turn, if you do get sick, stay home away from others.
  • And of course, cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough.


  1. I love learning the origin of phrases we toss around without a second thought. Thanks, Linda. This was neat.

    I hope we all stay well above decks this year. It's not fun facing cold and flu season!

  2. Linda, I don't like Fall anyway, and you've just reminded me of another reason why. We all wander around healthy as clams (or sorry, happy as clams) for 3 or 4 months and then "wham"! Cold and flu season. Yuck!

  3. I am not looking forward to cold and flu season. I usually use the phrase under the weather when I am not feeling well but am not actually sick.

  4. Linda,

    I enjoyed learning about the history of "under the weather." I also get curious about certain phrases and why we say them.

    I appreciate the reminders about cold and flu seasons. I try to follow these rules as much as possible:~)

  5. Talon- Thanks, this was fun to do, and since I had just used that phrase, I thought I should find out where it came from.

    Linda- Sorry about the season, but take heart, soon it will change. ;) Yeah, I'm not a big fan of winter either.

    Anne- I guess when you're really sick, under the weather just doesn't cover it.

    Sara- We do use phrases and expressions all the time that we grew up with, but have no idea why. I hope we all stay well this season.

  6. Hi Linda.

    Sorry to hear you were under the weather, but glad you are feeling better.

    I enjoyed reading about how this phrase came to be. This would be a nice idea for a coffee table book you know? Researching today's commonly used phrases and their origins would be interesting.

  7. It's funny how we fall into the rhythm of the weather and colds, isn't it? I always expect a cold in fall, winter and early spring when winter is struggling to hold on.

    But if I get sick in summer I will complain loudly and often of the miscarriage of justice. I should never have a cold in 80 degree while the sun shines brightly. It's just wrong. Plain and simple.

    However, now that I'm thinking about it I don't believe I've ever had the flu in summer. Colds, yes, but never the flu. Man, I guess it really could be worse.

  8. Sorry - I'm a little late getting back here with the holiday and all.

    Davina- Thanks, all better now. Yes, this sort of thing would make an interesting book.

    Cardiogirl- Isn't it a bummer to catch a cold in the summer? Worse even on vacation? Yeah, the flu is not usually prevalent in the summer, but I guess it can happen, like last year.


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