C1 · Cultures, customs, tradition & religion · Word formation

Word formation C1: Why do Brits Talk About the Weather so Much?

People walikng in the rain with umbrellas, UK: Wet and windy weekend for Britain
Photo from The Telegraph

Is it actually true that the British spend a lot of their time talking about the weather, or this just another one of those beliefs like ‘we have to have tea at five on the dot or we’ll go bananas ’,  sort of stuff ?  And, if it is true, is this feature shared by other cultures?

Well, I must say that we are particularly fond of talking about the weather, although I would also say that  it’s  a common topic of conversation in Spain too. However, what I do seem to notice is that people from these countries have a different way to approach this subject even when both typically use it as an icebreaker.

Where I live, people usually make exclamations about it. Sort of like ‘Vaya frio! Where a Brit would most probably make a tactfully brief statement of one or two words and polish it off with a question tag, ‘Cold, isn’t it?

Looking into this aspect of British culture, I found this really interesting article  that I’ve used to create a word formation activity for higher levels of English (C1 more or less).

The  article is from the BBC by Linda Geddes

Read the text and focus on each blank  using the words in brackets.

Created by blogdeserena

C1 Word formation Why do the Brits talk about the weather so much?

Read the text and  complete with a form of the word in brackets 

Activity by Serena

Oscar Wilde said conversation about it was the last refuge of the 1. ... (imagine), while Bill Bryson noted that its most striking characteristic is that there isn't much of it. The weather - and the British obsession with talking about it- has been puzzling outsiders for decades.

According to recent research, 94% of British 2. ... (respond) admit to having conversed about the weather in the past six hours and a 38% say they have in the past 60 minutes. This means that at any moment, at least a third of the population is speaking about the weather, has just done it, or is about to do it. So why do the Brits do this? Is there something about the nation's weather that makes it 3. ... (worth) of discussion, or is it simply a cultural foible?

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One of the reasons is that Britain has a very 4.... (predict) weather and this is due to its geographical position. Britain's position is at the edge of a storm track. And then there is the Gulf Stream, which makes the British climate milder than it should be, given its northernlatitude, and the fact that the UK is made up of islands, meaning there is a lot of 5. ... (moist) in the air.

According to a research lead by Kate Fox, who performed the studies in 2010 for an update of her book Watching the English, British conversations about the weather are more associated to 6. ... (code) converstation'. Fox has eavesdropped on hundreds of weather-related conversations and concludes in some situations, weather talk is an 7. ... (ice) . In others it's used to fill awkward silences, or divert the conversation away from 8. ... (comfort) topics. Often it's an excuse for a good old grumble, which can be a 9. ...  (bond) experience in itself, but we can also use weather speak to gauge other people's moods: ‘Depending on their response to your weather greeting, you can tell if someone is in the mood for a chat, or is feeling grumpy and negative,´says Fox.

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