When I saw Watching the English began with a chapter on talking about the weather, I was not enthused. From my perspective, talking about the weather seemed to be a universal small talking point – it certainly is in the United States. However, as I read further I see it is a much more nuanced topic of conversations.
When I think about our interactions with local tour guides and Sara, some mention of the weather almost always starts off their spiel. At work, a comment is made either to me or out loud on multiple occasions. Most strikingly, I had a ten minute walk to the tube station with a coworker and our conversation only covered the weather in London, the weather back home, the weather in Florida, and the weather in different countries in Europe he had been to.
I thought the weather as a member of the family was a particularly astute observation. The weather as a family rule speaks to the subtleties of English culture in contrast with the volume focus of American culture.
Fox is correct in saying English weather-speak is a form of code, used to overcome our natural reservations, but that does not explain why it is so prevalent here. I disagree with her dismissal of Jeremy Paxmann’s theory. He says that the English fixation with the weather is a product of the variation in weather. I think to a certain extent talking about the weather’s popularity is certainly related to the volatility. I can’t imagine the consistent sunshine of the beaches of Spain is a popular talking point. London is by no means a tropical paradise and the fluctuations must contribute to their propensity to bring up the weather.