bellwether » bellweather

Classification: English

Spotted in the wild:

  • “”Bellweather” election? I can live with that. … this Congressional race Big Time, even dubbing it a “bellweather” for the upcoming 2006 elections. …” (link)
  • “Recession: Is auto still a bellweather industry ?” (link)
  • “Bilingual bellweather? BY: Sherry Bebitch Jeffe California Journal January 1998, p. 39. Orange County has provided an early peek at how the issue of …” (link)

Analyzed or reported by:

  • Brian Kane (Usenet newsgroup soc.motss, 16 August 2005)

The fact that the “wether” in “bellwether” refers to a castrated ram (which leads the flock) is lost to almost everybody these days (few of us are farm folk), so the word is open for reinterpretation. And, goodness knows, people have reinterpreted the word in favor of “weather” (raw Google webhits: ca. 17,600 on 20 August 2005 — vs. ca. 662,000 for “bellwether”). “Weather” is connected with prediction, so the semantic shift is unsurprising.

| link | entered by Arnold Zwicky, 2005/08/21 |

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