Magazine article The Spectator

Mind You Language

Magazine article The Spectator

Mind You Language

Article excerpt

I WAS wrapped up in a sort of horse blanket and standing in a field with Veronica by my side on the night of Thursday last week, ready to look at the spectacular shower of meteors in the constellation of Draco in the northwestern sky. We didn't see a single shooting star because of the cloud, but meteorology has been haunting my life recently.

On the last day of my trip to Spain accompanying my husband, who was attending a medical 'conference', I found myself sheltering from the rain in a shop doorway of an agricultural suppliers in Zamora. Next to a tin of 'Klerat' (`Un solo bocado basta') was a display of 'Cynamid', a zoopharmacological product designed to combat meteorismo in cattle and sheep. What could this alarming plague be, I wondered - an attraction for thunderbolts?

It was only on my return that I discovered the answer. Meteorismo (or French meteorisme) is the same as meteorism in English: `Flatulent distension of the abdomen with gas in the alimentary canal.' For all I know they speak of little else in Banbury or Chicago, but I can't say I've ever heard of it before. …

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