Word of the week

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climate: noun. 1: The meteorological conditions, including temperature, precipitation, and wind, that characteristically prevail in a particular region. 2: A prevailing condition or set of attitudes in human affairs: a climate of unrest. (Etymology: Middle English climat; from Old French, from Late Latin clima, climat-; from Greek klima, surface of the earth, region.) - American Heritage Dictionary.

THE United Nations Climate Change Conference met in Montreal this week to discuss global warming. I was once in Montreal during December. I awoke on the first morning to cloudless blue skies. Much cheered after escaping perpetual Scottish winter darkness, I dashed out of the hotel only to discover my ears and nose had no feeling after ten nanoseconds. It was many degrees below freezing and the climate was giving a good approximation of Antarctica.

The good folk of Montreal have adapted to their inhospitable winters by building vast underground shopping malls which are linked together via the metro. I expect that for six months of the year they live as troglodytes. Quite how all this will affect the UN deliberations on global warming, I'm not sure.

Speaking of Canada, the second largest country in the world, the Canadians decided to call a winter general election this week. The name Canada has its origins in the American Indian word "kanata", which in Huron means "village". You heard it here first, folks, Canada is just a big village. Jacques Cartier, the famous French explorer, adopted the word and used it to refer to the land around his settlement, now Quebec City. From there it just grew.

The week also saw the publication of new scientific research indicating that the Gulf Stream is going to shut down, turning Britain into the equivalent of Montreal in December. By the time the Executive has agreed to building underground shopping malls between Edinburgh and Glasgow, we will all have frozen to death. For what it is worth, the English word "gulf" comes by a circuitous route from the Greek kolpos, meaning a woman's bosom. I'll let you work it out.

The word "independence" also made it back into the vocabulary this week with the launch of the Scottish Independence Convention at Dynamic Earth, in Edinburgh. The Convention plans to write a Scottish constitution and campaign for a referendum on independence. The American Constitution is a masterful piece of English prose. It will be a test to see if the Convention can get anywhere near it in elegance, brevity and emotional power.