Thursday, March 24, 2016

Word of the day: Fata Morgana

The word of the day is Fata Morgana:
  1. Meteorology. a mirage consisting of multiple images, as of cliffs and buildings, that are distorted and magnified to resemble elaborate castles, often seen near the Straits of Messina.
1818, lit. "Fairy Morgana," mirage especially common in the Strait of Messina, Italy, from Morgana, the "Morgan le Fay" of Anglo-Fr. poetry, sister of King Arthur, located in Calabria by Norman settlers. Morgan is Welsh, "sea-dweller." There is perhaps, too, here an infl. of Arabic marjan, lit. "pearl," also a fem. proper name, popularly the name of a sorceress.

"It was just a vision in the distance, maybe fifty miles off, a nub of gray standing proud of the hummocks and pressure ridges.  For several days, Captain De Long studied this curiosity, wondering if it might be an illusion—a refraction of light, perhaps, a fata morgana."

 - Hampton Sides, In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette

No comments: