50 Words for Heat

It is said that Native Alaskans have 50 words for snow.  Flurries, blizzards, soft snow, hard snow, snow that dusts and snow that clings, snow that floats and snow that drifts. Likewise Floridians have a rich and diverse linguistic tradition for describing heat. Most of them contain the word “fuck,” leading anthropologists and historians into fierce debates regarding whether early Floridians had, at one time, a more intimate relationship with the sun. But I digress. If you are planning a trip to Florida, it would be wise to familiarize yourself with these terms as they may save your life. Here are some words and phrases that characterize the onset of summer.

From a meteorologist’s point of view, that would be the week or two when temperatures hit 88 degrees. Every. Single. Day. “Had a nice breeze this morning.”  This is a phrase which actually means, “but this afternoon was a bitch.” “Well, I guess summer is around the corner now.” This is an oblique reference to breaking a sweat while retrieving the mail. “Pretty warm today, eh?”  This phrase is usually aimed at sunburned tourists and spring-breakers who mistakenly thought that it is indeed possible to sit on the beach for eight hours with nothing but a case of beer without having your day ruined by vomiting, heat stroke and paramedics.

“Warm,” “almost summer,” “sweaty,” “tourist season,” and “paramedics” are all Native Floridian terms used to describe that pre-summer season when it is still possible to go outdoors during the day. When the mercury crawls above ninety, however, Floridians begin shedding the polite euphemisms. At the ninety degree mark, Floridians begin to use the word “hot.” At ninety-two, “hot” becomes “fucking hot.” At ninety-five, “fucking hot,” becomes, “You’ve got to be shitting me.” At ninety-eight, “you’ve got to be shitting me,” becomes, “Holy fuck. My spleen just melted.” (Melted spleens are a common health hazard in Florida. Know the warning signs.) And somewhere around August, “Holy fuck. My spleen just melted” becomes “If I have to outside, I’m going to shoot a bitch.” It is wise not to visit Florida in August. Floridians are dead serious about their heat-induced, sudden onset crime sprees. Dead serious. Really.

Interestingly enough, while the phrase “dry heat” is a term Floridians are familiar with, they believe it is a myth. That is because in Florida, this never happens. What happens instead is politely called “humidity.” Most Floridians do not use the term “humid” however. When both heat and humidity set in, Floridians begin making references to body parts that are equally as renowned for being dank and steamy.  Suffice it to stay that the armpits are simply a good starting place, but by no means are they the penultimate descriptor.

Now late May is a particularly interesting time in Florida as it has reached the “fucking hot” stage, however while rain may provide relief a bit later in the year, it is by no means a given in late May. Mother Nature is such a tease and so are sadistic bastard meteorologists. In late May, we find weather forecasters throwing out the “twenty percent chance of rain” prediction which typically means that a large thundercloud will form five blocks from your house. You will wait in breathless anticipation for a respite from the heat. The cloud will move in the opposite direction. It will dump six inches of rain in the Gulf of Mexico. The sun will come out along with a ravenous hoard of mosquitos and it will be at least twice as hot as it was before. You will become old and bitter and curse the sun, the bugs, the meteorologists, your ancestors, and every person who has ever forgotten your birthday or cut you off in traffic.

Today we hit “fucking hot” degrees. If you are planning a summer vacation in Florida, you can’t say you weren’t warned.