Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Role of Thunder Rolls

Roger asked why we speak of a thunder roll. He associates roll with breakfast pastry or with something wound around a spool, such as a roll of tape.

There are two nouns spelled r-o-l-l, and they have different meanings. Roll1 came from a French term meaning a scroll of parchment. It was a descendant of the Latin rota, a wheel. Under its aegis comes roll call, a roll of toilet paper, a roll of film, a jelly roll, a roll of body fat, a French roll, an honor role, and so forth.

Roll2 came from a French word meaning to rotate repeatedly. It, too, is connected to the Latin rota, wheel, but it developed different meanings. This roll is used in thunder roll, drum roll, a roll of the eye, a roll in the sack, a roll of the dice, on a roll, a roll bar, etc.

But I digress: back to a thunder roll. Thunder evokes the sound of a rolling wheel, which has a reverberating and rumbling quality.

SIDEBAR: The Varying Sounds of Thunder

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