Fallacy of the East Wind

Do you know, I never knew what direction an east wind came from?

Reading Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow, I found that Jerome K Jerome was talking about east winds basically in every other paragraph of the chapter On the Weather. I was very seriously annoyed with myself to discover that not only do I not understand what point he’s trying to make when he speaks of an east wind, but also I have no idea from what direction an east wind originates. It’s a very confusing term, “east wind”, because it is quite ambiguous; the two possible choices are very clear, but the term itself is very unclear.

The way I see it is this: when one says “east wind”, either one is saying that the wind is coming from the east, or one is saying that the wind is blowing to the east. Which is it? Upon thinking on this puzzle for a while, I concluded that the wind must be coming from the east – that makes the most sense.

Well, I looked it up. & to my disillusionment, I found that, no, when speaking of an east wind, it is actually blowing to the east.

Whoa, whoa whoa. I know. WEIRD, huh? So that means, if I’m standing in Alabama, & I say there’s an east wind blowing, that doesn’t mean that east wind blows from Georgia, oh no. When I say I’m standing in an east wind, it’s coming from Mississippi. Does that make sense to anyone on the planet? Not I, certainly. The wind originates from the west in this instance, & yet it’s called an east wind. ???

I liken this experience of winds to the problem I had when I played softball. For the life of me, I couldn’t work out which side was left field & which side was right field. My little 8-year-old head couldn’t wrap itself around the problem. After all, am I dubbing the left side “left field” when I’m standing on home plate, or should I be viewing left field from the perspective of someone at the back fence? If I viewed it from the back fence, right field would be left field, & vice versa. Now, this is a valid misunderstanding for an 8-year-old. I’m not suggesting we change the terminology, but it doesn’t make much sense.

But it made some sense. It’s at least more intuitive to think you’re naming left field from the perspective of someone at home plate. But the direction of an east wind is quite different. It just seems more intuitive to think the wind, if called an east wind, must be coming from the east. But alas, no! It just makes me mad. The meaning of the term almost degrades the identity of the east wind. It doesn’t actually belong to the east – in real life, it comes from the west, but it’s misclassified as an east wind.

Some people name things without thinking clearly. It’s deplorable. Because someone thought winds from the west should be called east winds, east winds are now eternally misnamed. From my ignorant perspective, I have to say I think it a mistake – though there could be a perfectly logical, scientific reason for it.

As I’m not well-versed in the ways of the winds, I personally think it a shame, & feel greatly sorry for all four winds.

~ ninniforlife

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