Huff, In A

The Book of Human Emotions: From Ambiguphobia to Umpty - 154 Words from Around the World for How We Feel - Tiffany Watt Smith 2016

Huff, In A

The weather plays an important role in our emotions. A muggy day oppresses, a glance of sun on a cold morning lifts the spirits. Rain, clouds and especially storms provide a storehouse of metaphors for teasing out hard-to-describe feelings.

Since the mid-eighteenth century, feeling huft or huffed—and later being “in a huff”—was to be swept up into a windy swell of petulance as a result of a real or imagined insult. Feeling puffed up with PRIDE and ANGER was an important part of it.

However, being in a huff, or something like it, stretches back much earlier than that. The ancients took for granted that the winds affected the insides of the body. The word for breath and wind in classical Greek was the same—pneuma—and the winds that whipped about the body were assumed also to travel through it, sustaining life but also raising whirlwind passions within. In Sophocles’s tragic rendering of the ancient Greek myth of Oedipus, when Antigone learns that her brother’s body is to be left to rot outside the city walls in punishment for being a traitor, she is swept up in righteous fury and demands the proper rites. The ill winds were no mere metaphor: “bitter-blowing winds from Thrace” had first brought death to Oedipus’s family, writes Sophocles, and now they whip up his daughter’s defiant passions too:

From the same winds still

These blasts of soul hold her

For more on the relationship between wind and emotions, see: MELANCHOLY.

For other weather-related emotions see also: ACEDIA; GEZELLIGHEID.