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CINDY DAY: In a lurch over lurcher

Environment Canada
Environment Canada - Contributed

I do my very best to reply to all emails and queries that come my way.  Sometimes a few can fall through the cracks, especially if they happen to come in on a particularly busy weather day. 

Last week I received this email from Eloise Lemire: 

“Hello Cindy.  Now, I know that I’ve emailed before to ask this but still, I really would like to know.  What does the word “Lurcher” (SW) mean in your Marine forecast?  I am a linguist and am both puzzled and interested.  My dictionary and Internet searches have turned up no explanation for how this word gets into this use, or even as to its meaning there.  Please tell me!  Eloise Lemire” 

I apologize for not attempting to answer this one sooner.  Quite a few people have asked about it.   I have been digging around rather unsuccessfully.   

The first definition I came across pointed to man’s best friend.  Many dictionaries define lurcher as the offspring of a sight-hound mated with another breed, most commonly a pastoral breed or a terrier-type of dog.  The lurcher seems to be a lot like the greyhound except the lurcher was more likely to be a poacher’s dog.  

However, the archaic meaning of the word lurcher is: a prowler, swindler, or petty thief.  I don’t think we’re getting any closer, are we? 

Now, the verb lurch means to lean or pitch suddenly to one side – a sudden tip or roll to one side, as of a ship.  Ah, now we’re cooking. I don’t know if you recall my column about the great fall of 2018 but I would say the sailboat definitely lurched that day! 

There might be a connection between the action of a ship lurching in rough seas off the SW tip of SW, and the moniker that marine district has taken on.   If you happen to know more about “lurcher,” please drop me a line at weathermail@weatherbyday.ca

Come to think of it, I am heading to Clark’s Harbour on March 4, to celebrate the town’s 100th anniversary.  I bet someone there will know. 

I’ll keep you posted!! 

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