"The weather becomes a symbol for how we feel and express ourselves"Jasmine Charles for Varsity

I read an interesting article called ‘Why do Brits talk about the weather so much?’ by Linda Geddes recently, in which she writes that: ‘according to recent research, 94% of British respondents admit to having conversed about the weather in the past six hours, while 38% say they have in the past 60 minutes.’ As I am and always will be obsessed with the weather (and I am apparently not alone in this), I thought that I’d take this otherwise uneventful evening to write an article to try to get to the bottom of why we talk about it so much.

Oscar Wilde’s comment that ‘conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative’ initially inspired me to write this article. His comment is close to home because, if we are to believe the research, then most of us fall into this unimaginative category. I know that personally, without talking about tea and the weather, there would be little left to fill the void. However, I also think that talking about the weather can be perfectly imaginative, as the more you talk about it, the more words you have to find to describe it in a fresh and new way … right? Perhaps I am just being defensive because I am potentially extremely unimaginative, but if this is the case, then I may as well attempt to defend the refuge of the unimaginative. It can be a fun thinking exercise, if nothing else.

“Talking about the weather is a way I can express myself and how I feel without directly referencing it”

Seeing as I have easily spent the last five months or so complaining non-stop about the rain and grey skies, I thought that I’d take a more positive spin today. Spring is finally coming. And I know it’s a little premature to get excited about it, but it’s hard not to when I can sense it in the air. I have just come back from a wonderful blue-skied walk through Cambridge which has left me in a peculiarly positive mood. In fact, it’s hard not to be positive when everybody seems to have a new spring in their step. It is also nice to know that this winter won’t actually last forever – which is a fate I had resigned myself to until this time last week.

This past winter, I have finally understood the true depths of ‘seasonal depression’, a term which was previously alien to me. Lockdown combined with constant darkness is an absolutely deadly combination, and one which we will hopefully never have to experience again. When it went dark before 4pm in December time, I found it extremely difficult to stay positive and optimistic. I rarely wanted to go outside because it was cold and unpleasant, while staying inside all the time wasn’t particularly great either. I’d also sleep in a lot which meant that on some days I woke up just as it was getting dark outside. All of this basically added up to a general and lingering sadness. So the debut of the blue sky over the past few weeks has cheered me up no end. Now, I actually want to go outside because it is appealing and genuinely pleasant to do so. Walks are no longer things which I make myself do, but things which I actively want to do. And as the weather is so unpredictable here, I want to make the most of this taster of spring while I can.

I think that part of the reason why we talk about the weather so much is because it really does impact how we feel from day to day. If I feel sad, I am much more able to pick myself up on a sunny May day than on a piercingly cold mid-December one. So talking about the weather is a way I can express myself and how I feel without directly referencing it. Talking around the point is a stereotypically ‘British’ thing to do, and one which may not be particularly productive, but it is nevertheless an interesting thing to think about as it is a form of expression with different layers to it. Of course, talking about the weather is a good filler and small-talk technique too. It is something which everybody can have an opinion on and as such, it can be used as a tool to never have an awkward silence again. And practically speaking, the weather impacts us because it determines what we can and cannot do on a given day.


Mountain View

The importance of taking breaks

This makes people talking about it inevitable, to the extent that ‘at almost any moment in this country, at least a third of the population is either talking about the weather, has already done so or is about to do so.’ If talking about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative, then, it also requires a lot of imagination. The weather becomes a symbol for how we feel and express ourselves. And with the weather being varying and unpredictable as it is, there are new things to say about it each day. This is why I will continue to be a proud advocate of talking about the weather. It may not be the most thrilling conversational technique, but at the very least, it is one which we can all rally around.