An Observation About The Observation

A spirit thermometer reading a temperature well below zero.

The recent cold snap and “arctic temperatures,” has prompted weather reports citing readings of “negative 9” or similar figures.

For those over the age of 40 there is a slightly unfamiliar ring to these NEGATIVE numbers. For the older set it was always “nine below” or “nine below zero,” even though you didn’t need to include the zero.

Today it became apparent why the younger set keeps referring to the “negative nine.” Their reference is to a DIGITAL thermometer that shows a -9. Oldtimers used mercury thermometers or the red alcohol gauges which displayed a vertical scale which on very cold mornings indicated. “9 below 0.”

Those same youngsters have never “dialed” a phone either. They “press” the numbers. The time is cited as “Nine fifteen,” rather than the old fashioned, “quarter after nine.”

Amazing what comes to mind when you get snowed in.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. This is same as Minnesota winter now. I never remember that kind of cold or much snow when I was working at the Statesman and living on Sixth Street in the 1960s. Keep warm!

  2. Thermometer?
    Jan 9, 2017, 4:33 pm

    I went to a local high school and have never heard of this ‘thermometer’ you speak of.

  3. It’s fun to think about how these persist in language and culture, even while the actual ‘thing’ changes. I’m old enough to remember why we “roll down the window” with a press of a button, or what the “save” button on MS Word is a picture of (a floppy diskette), but my youngest sibling is not!

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