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Word of the day: storm

It’s midnight and there is a calm before the STORM. It’s all so quiet. The weather forecasters have warned us: in a few hours a storm will be raging across the country. But now there is a ‘Stilte voor de storm’ (quiet before the storm).


Now it’s morning and I’ve just cycled to the institute. Against better judgement (‘tegen beter weten in’). I felt the wind’s push and pull. When I passed an avenue with trees, I heard the wind roaring and swishing through the leaves. I cycled through the fallen leaves which were whirling around. Several times I managed to avoid riding into a broken-off branch.

Early afternoon. The radio has just announced:
‘De storm van vandaag is de zwaarste sinds 1990. Op Vlieland is het een uur lang gemiddeld windkracht 11 geweest.’ (Today’s storm was the fiercest since 1990. In the northern island of Vlietland the wind had an average force of 11 for the duration of an hour.)

Force 12 means hurricane force. Code red. Trains have been affected. An Amsterdam lady was killed by a falling tree. There is no railway traffic between Amsterdam and The Hague, which means that our teacher Lieven cannot attend a diploma ceremony this afternoon. Too bad.

Storm appeals to the pre-civilised man in me. The invisible power stirs up deep fears that remind me of my early childhood when evil was almost tangible. Especially at night when it’s very dark and everyone is asleep, storm was a terrible nightmare.

Storm is a force but it is also an extremely powerful word which doesn’t allow to be meddled with. It is one of the very few words that have remained the same in meaning and form over at least ten centuries in many languages. From its earliest record in the Middle Ages STORM has combined the meanings of ‘attack’, ‘unrest’, ‘tumult’ on the one hand and ‘tempest’ and ‘fierce wind’ on the other as Nicoline van der Sijs points out in the Etymologiebank.

It is three o’clock in the afternoon, now. Time for Marloes and me to go to the ceremony. Thirty students have passed their examination. Six of them were excellent.

The radio tells me:
‘Eerste zware najaarsstorm voorbij. De windkracht neemt snel af en de windstoten komen nog tot 80 kilometer per uur. De problemen die door de harde wind zijn veroorzaakt, zijn nog niet voorbij.’ (First heavy autumn storm over. The wind-force subsides rapidly and the gusts of winds reach 80 kilometres per hour. The problems caused by the heavy wind are not over yet.)

Let’s go then. ‘De storm is gaan liggen.’ The storm died down. All is well that ends well. ‘Eind goed, al goed.’