Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Learning | Doldrums

If we are to believe the prognostication of a certain groundhog in Pennsylvania, winter will be here for another six weeks or so. Many people are sick and tired of winter, especially back East, where polar vortexes seem to send storm after storm. My best friend, Roberta, who lives in New Jersey, recently proclaimed, "Enough, already!"

Doldrums of Spring, from jonasflanken's photostream
on Some rights reserved.
We have finally started to get rain here in the Central Valley. We know we need the rain. Most people I talk to are really glad to see it. But if it continues, I wonder how long it will be until I hear library customers wishing for spring and sunshine.

There's a word for the melancholy feeling we get, when the weather has been gloomy for too long: doldrums.  Doldrums first appeared in written form in the late 18th century.  Its origins are murky; it seems to have come from the past participle of the Old English verb, dullen, which is dulled. Doldrum originally referred to a person who was dull, what is sometimes called a dullard. Scholars have speculated that doldrum was formed on the pattern of the word tantrum. (Now that's another interesting word! Nobody really knows its origin, either.) We use the word in its plural form, usually in the phrase, in the doldrums.

If you have young family members in the doldrums, you should consider reading Zoozical together.  This picture book by Judy Sierra, with illustrations by Marc Brown, should help cheer you both up. I think my favorite part of the book is the description of all of the despondent animals in the zoo in the middle of winter: "Little lemurs stopped leaping./Their yowling was keeping the wombats awake. Then the snakes (by mistake) tied themselves up in knots. Ocelots lost their spots." They're bored. Nobody wants to come see them, when it's cold and icy outside.  So, they come up with a plan: they'll put on a Zoozical! Okay, maybe the songs in the Zoozical are my favorite part. I can't make up my mind. But who can resist songs like "The Seals on the Bus," "For He's a Jolly Gorilla," or "My Darling Porcupine?"

Another meaning of doldrums is better explained by an encyclopedia entry in one of SSJCPL's databases, EBSCOhost. Doldrums is another word for an equatorial belt of calms, located slightly north of the equator between two belts of trade winds.  Some people have suggested that the phrase "in the doldrums"  comes from comparing one's mood to that of depressed sailors who are stuck in a vessel on calm waters.

Sunrise in the Doldrums, from Angela Huxham's
photostream on Some rights reserved.

What do you like to read, to beat the doldrums?  Many of us turn to cozy mysteries, like Nancy Atherton's Aunt Dimity series, or at least something light-hearted, like Ladies' Night by Mary Kay Andrews. Leave your suggestions below. Your fellow readers will thank you.

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