I have been told that I have made a serious mistake in my previous blog post. The weather situation that caused massive damage to marinas and boats at Elephant Butte Lake this past weekend was NOT a “storm.” It was a “non-thunderstorm-related wind event,” according to official accounts. There may have been one or two additional nouns pressed into use as adjectives to modify the phrase further.
A quick search of the Internet shows that “wind events” happen frequently on Mount Washington, in New Hampshire, and that in California, fire-fighting crews are especially wary of “Santa Ana wind events” that might aggravate wildfires.
To my mind, the term event carries positive connotations – a special occasion, a celebration, a party. Something that involves destruction, whether of boats and marinas, or of property in the path of a wildfire, shouldn’t be characterized as an “event.”
But then, my semantically inclined mind wandered farther … what’s the origin of the word “event”? It has vent in it, the Latin for “wind.” Is a “wind event” simply a “wind wind”?
Nope, it turns out that’s not the case. The vent in event comes from the Latin venire, “to come.” So it wasn’t a wind wind, it was a wind that came.
Still, the use of the term “wind event” definitely reduces the perceived severity of what happened. Imagine this in an insurance claim form: “A wind event resulted in the involuntary conversion of the watercraft.” Sure sounds better than “The storm blew my boat onto the rocks, where it got smashed to bits.”