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Dr. Goodword
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Postby Dr. Goodword » Tue May 03, 2011 10:46 pm

• tornado •

Pronunciation: tor-nay-do • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A violent whirlwind, a rotary windstorm forming a funnel that sucks objects upward from the ground when it touches.

Notes: Today's Good Word is eerily apropos in light of the horrendous trail of tornadoes that recently swept across the southern US states. We wish all the best to those who lost their homes in this catastrophe. You may form the plural of this word with or without an E; tornados is just as good as tornadoes. The scientific world uses the adjective tornadic when an adjective is needed, as tornadic weather or winds. Others have used tornadoish, though not often.

In Play: Today's meteorological term usually refers to a severe storm with spinning wind patterns that literally suck large objects up from the ground: "Tornadoes wreaked havoc across several states, killing over 200 people and destroying small towns." Since the aftermath of a real tornado is a ravaged landscape, this word is often used metaphorically to refer to things in complete disarray. What mother hasn't said this more than once to her child: "Your room looks like a tornado struck it!"

Word History: he origin of today's Good Word would seem to be Spanish tronada "thunderstorm" from tronar "to thunder". The best guess is that English borrowed tronada, then subjected the R and O to metathesis either under the influence of Spanish tornar "to twist, turn" or English turn. Spanish tronar comes from Latin tonare "to thunder". The same root that produced this word produced English thunder (from Old English thunor) and German Donner. English blunderbuss is a revision of Dutch donderbuss "thunderbox", based on the Dutch word donder "thunder" from the same source. (Let us all thank Chris Berry, a Grand Panjandrum in the Alpha Agora, for suggesting today's Good Word and wish him a tornadoless life.)
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Postby tapoensgen » Wed May 04, 2011 4:21 am

I am not so sure that I can totally agree with some of the word history here. English thunder and German donner originate from the Nordic / Germanic god of thunder Thor / Donar. Of course we still honour this particular god every Thursday / Donnerstag / Donderdag.
This origin clearly pre-dates the Latin tonare and it would not make much sense that tonare be the root word. However, there is clearly an etymological connection and I would even suggest that tonare has its root in the Germanic word.

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Postby bamaboy56 » Mon May 09, 2011 12:27 am

Thanks for your good wishes, Doc, for those that were affected by the tornados that hit the South. I have two daughters that live in North Alabama where, thankfully, they escaped major harm. They were both without power for several days, which was minor compared to the terrific losses suffered by so many others. Both of them related to me the awe of seeing a tornado with their own eyes. I personally have never seen a tornado (except on television or film), although once about nine years ago, before a hurricane was due to hit, I heard a tornado pass over the house. I didn't actually see it because at the time I was under a mattress with my wife and in-laws praying and, yes, it DOES sound like a freight train. Tronar is the Spanish word for "to thunder"(the verb), while trueno is the word for thunder (the noun). Tornar does mean "to twist", although it doesn't seem to be used very often. Perhaps this is how the word "Twister" came to be another word for tornado. Finally, tornillo is the Spanish word for "screw", the mechanical device turned by a tornillador (a screwdriver), perhaps referring to the twist or spiral configuration of the device. Did not know that Thursday was named after the god Thor, although it makes sense. In Spanish, the word for Thursday is Jueves, which pays homage to the god Jupiter, the Roman god of natural disasters. In mythology he was known to throw lightening bolts when angered. All very interesting.
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Twistin' and turnin'

Postby MTC » Mon May 09, 2011 9:03 am

You folks are all wet (ahem) with your etymology of "tornado."
It's as unmistakable as the tail on Donald Trump's rump that "tornado" derives from O.E. teran "to pull apart," pp. toren, whence "torn-a-do," a violent storm that pulls things apart.

Posters, this is the chance of a lifetime to jump on board a Folk Etymology as it leaves the station. All aboard!

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