Cold Weather Blues

“Cold” is subjective terminology, at least as it is commonly used in general language.  When a person asks “is it cold outside?” and another person responds “no,”  neither person is referring to any definitive phenomena; they are each describing the way he or she experiences (or believes he or she would experience) the weather as an individual.  Although this type of language is useful for simple expressions and discussions, it fails to remain as effective in essays or rhetorical arguments.  Oftentimes, it is easy to confuse subjective speech with descriptive terminology.  When this happens, communication is not as effective and any arguments being attempted are likely to fall on “deaf” ears, so to speak.

Recently the weather has been very cold, but describing the conditions outside with this terminology does not really clue the reader in on any specifics.  If we describe the weather with more detailed terminology, such as the specific temperature, we can approach a more complete form of communication.  However, their is still a certain amount of subjectivity due to the way individuals process information differently.  For instance, 32 degrees Fahrenheit is to some a reasonable excuse to stay indoors and turn up the heat.  However, I work in a -10 degree freezer everyday, so for me, 32 degrees warrants a sweatshirt and a hat before spending the day outside.

Descriptive terms can allow us to communicate more effectively with one another, but sometimes even the most descriptive language fails to convey information that is directly relevant to the issue being discussed.  To use the example of cold weather once again, a specific description of the weather such as: 5 degrees Fahrenheit with 20mph winds and a wind chill of factor of -20 degrees, describes the outdoor climate with extreme accuracy.  However this information is not entirely useful without relevant information.

In my own experience, I saw the above weather description describing this past Tuesday night.  I know that water freezes at such temperatures and I was excited at the prospect of having a few people over to play a game of hockey on the freshly frozen pond.  What I did not know, is that such extreme temperatures can also cause pipes inside house walls to freeze solid and burst.  Perhaps, if information directly relevant to weather report was provided with it, than I could have prevented the disaster that I awoke to on Wednesday morning.  Of course, there is measures that can be taken to prevent this from happening, and my recent experience has allowed me to recognize the necessary steps to take in the event of inclement weather, but it did little to comfort me yesterday and today as I was cleaning up.

My hope is that this particular blog-post is able to effectively accomplish two things at once.  First, I wanted to describe the importance of using precise terminology and all relevant information in any type of essay or argument.  Secondly, I wanted to use the rhetorical technique of metaphor to illustrate the aforementioned idea.  I think language is very interesting and I am always striving for more clarity in my writing.  That being said, I do not want to write like a stuffy old philosopher (Immanuel Kant comes to mind).  I think that metaphors and other rhetorical techniques are useful tools for capturing and holding the readers attention; and in the case of the metaphor I used for this post, it allowed me to express my frustrations while illustrating my point.  In summation, I think a good rhetorical essay should be like a hammer: dense, heavy, symbolic and able to drive any point home.

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One thought on “Cold Weather Blues

  1. Josh,

    Having moved here from Wisconsin, and a week ago having been in a place where the windchill was -59 degrees, my understanding of cold and the understanding of the average Pennsylvania of cold are certainly different. On the other hand, I think the cold here at 25 is much worse than the cold in Wisconsin at 5. The cold here is damper and more penetrating. On the other hand, I remember getting 13 inches of snow in January of 2009 back there and the temperature was -39 and the windchill was -52. It was frickin’ cold, but I was sweating as I was snow blowing.

    I was at the last Packer game a week or so ago. It was -30 windchill and 77,000+ people were in the stands until the last whistle. Indeed, it was abnormally cold here last week too. That brings up an entirely different rhetorical argument. What about climate change or global warming or any other term one wants to use. The way rhetoric is used in the environmental process is pretty astounding.

    Dr. Martin

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