I am very hot.
No, I am not making claims about my attractiveness. I am reporting the effect of sitting outside on a day when the temperatures have reached the official reading of Stupid Hot. I am in the shade with a pitcher of ice water and a pool at the ready, so the heat is not intolerable. Yet. I am a winter-lovin’ girl but I’m also open to having a more intimate interaction with the opposite extreme of a Northeastern summer heat wave. Of course, this is easy to say when relief is just a cannonball away.
The word heat is a Germanic word that used to be spelled hætu or hæto in Old English. The adjective hot comes from the same root, which goes all the way back to Proto Indo-European base word *kai-. The expanded uses of the word started as early as the late 14th century. There was its use to describe one stage of racing (late 16th c.), sexual excitement (late 18th c.), and trouble with the police (early 20th c.)
We get a lot of mileage out of heat. Sometimes the heat is on and pressure or troubles will build, but then, suddenly, the heat is off. We can give someone heat or take the heat ourselves. We do things in the heat of the moment or of passion. Rage is hot, passion is hot (or hawt), and danger is hot. Heat can refer to unwanted attention from the police or the police themselves. Heat can be intense, oppressive, stifling, crippling, suffocating, exhausting, and debilitating, but it can also be comforting, soothing, enveloping, and healing.
Writers seem to love playing with the imagery of heat:
- The days were like hot coals —Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
- A glaring, summery heat covered everything like a layer of glass —Jean Thompson
- The heat came down on you like a leaden mantle, stifling you as it did so —Dominique Lapierre
- [Midsummer] heat closed in like a hand over a murder victim’s mouth —Truman Capote
- Heat fell on her like a blanket —Julia O’Faolain
- Heat lay on the pavement like a tired dog in the doorway of a house —Aharon Megged
- Heat shimmered and bent the fields like the landscape was a reflection in an old mirror —Will Weaver
- The heat was like a tyrant who hated his subjects —William H. Hallhan
- The heat was like a wasting disease —T. Coraghessan Boyle
- Heat waves rose writhing like fine wavy hair —Wallace Stegner
As much of the eastern United States is under heat alerts for temperatures soaring into the triple digits, it might help us cope if we are mindful of what it is we are trying to embrace or escape. As I finish my fudgesicle and head off to dive into the pool, tell me: What is your favorite expression with the word heat (or some variant)?
Edited to add: Not that anyone is breaking down the door to get to the Like button ;) but if anyone happens to be looking for it for this post, I’ve disabled it. I just got what seems to be some spammers who ‘Liked’ this post – three people at the exact same time, all from Seattle, all with gravatars that included links to a phony site. Hrm….yeah, I think the odds are slim that those were real people ;) Also, in the process of trying to delete them somehow, I ended up Liking my own post. Hey, if I didn’t like them, I wouldn’t write and post them, but it does seem a bit narcissistic, no?