For folks in the Northern part of the United States and in other countries, "freezing" is the point where water becomes solid. This happens at 32 degrees Fahrenheit or 0 degrees Celsius, depending on your national or scientific affiliations.
In the American South, you have "freezing" and you have "phrasin.'" "Freezing" is what you do with the catfish after you clean them.
"Phrasin'" is a measure of weather. "Phrasin'" does not only mean that the temperature is below the ice-making point. "Phrasin'" means that the wind is blowing, and/or that there is some sort of precipitation, and the house is drafty, and the kids are running around outside without their coats on and will catch their deaths, because it is phrasin.'
This means that it is definitely cold enough for a coat and sweater, and possibly long underwear as well. For example, "Russell, put your coat and sweater on , it is phrasin' outside!"
Phrasin' is always uttered in bold paranthesis, with an exclamation point after the sentence in which it is used. If it's phrasin' and the wind is blowing and it is also sleeting, it becomes a three-syllable word: "Laurie, don't you dare go outta this house without a hat on, it is fuh-raisin' outside!"
This is the time of year when I wonder:
Just exactly at what point do you folks up North think it is phrasin' enough to wear wool?
How deeply cold does it have to be?
I see y'all carrying on about this on the KnitList and KnitU all the time, just fretting away like a mockingbird who's discovered the rubber snake you put in the pear tree:
"Dear fellow knitters, I hope you can help me. I have a friend who lives in Mississippi and she wants a sweater for Christmas but I don't know what kind of yarn to use because you just can't ever wear wool down there because it never gets cold. I have no idea what to knit for her, whatever shall I do? Thanks so much, Judy in North Dakota"
Dear Judy in North Dakota: I am in Baton Rouge, about 45 minutes south of the Mississippi border. Right this very minute, we have a stiff wind from the North and ice crystals are forming in the water dish we keep outside near the food for the feral cats we manage. It is phrasin.'! So you go right ahead and knit your Mississippi friend a wool sweater, and in a few minutes, I will put on a sweater so I can begin a Southern ritual called:
Running The Pipes
If you're not from here, "Running The Pipes" might sound vaguely familiar. I'm imagining one of my readers up in Wisconsin calling out down the hall: "Honey ... running the pipes ... isn't that something they do at Celt-Fest after they have the sheep-herding exhibitions and serve the Haggas? Is it like hurling?"
Agreed, "Running the Pipes" does sound like something involving horses, bagpipes, whiskey and men in kilts.
But it's not nearly that interesting. "Running the pipes" means running around your house trickling every single faucet so that a steady stream runs all night, and leaving your lawn sprinkler on all night, too, so that the continuous flow of water through your pipes will keep them all from exploding from the expansion of the gradually freezing liquid carried within, and prevent you from having to take out a second mortgage on your house so the plumber can crawl under your house and fix the daggum pipes.
And if it gets really, really, fuh-raisin', like in the teens, we have to drain the pipes entriely -- shut them right off and empty them, and not turn them on again until it rises above the freezing point the next day.
So my question is, to all you folks up there who wonder when us Southern types get to wear wool: just exactly when do you think it's cold enough to put on a sweater? My vote is, if ice is forming on anything, that justifies digging out a nice, cuddly merino sweater. And a scarf and a hat and socks and my fingerless mitts, too.
I'm really curious about this because I see a fair number of Northerners at Green Bay Packers games wearing nothing but tightie-whities, body paint and a Cheeshead foam hat in December. Now I understand that most of our body heat is lost through the head, so I see where the hat comes in handy, and maybe that body paint was developed by NASA and has a super-high R-factor, in which case I would like to buy enough to paint our house, and if you could send me enough of those Cheesehead hats to fill our attic, I'd like that as well. You see, when I watch a Packers game and I see snow falling -- lots and lots of snow, snow falling the way it rains down here -- and I see those guys in the body paint and the Cheesehead hats, I think:
"They must be fuh-raisin!"
Now I'm pretty sure they have a certain amount of Captain in them as well, which has good antifreeze properties.
Isn't it cold enough for a sweater?
Anyway, that's all for tonight. I gotta go run the pipes.