Unseasonably warm weather this month might lull us into unreasonable optimism. So to keep us focused on reality, here is a question:

Anybody know why we say, “Brrr?”

I ask because a cheery security guard heading my way in an unusually chilly skyway recently asked me this very question.

“Brrr!” I said, in passing.

“Why does everybody say that?” he asked.

“Um, because it’s cold?”

He clarified. “No. Why does everybody say brrr? Where does the word come from?”

I headed into work and got my wiktionary-sleuth on. No help there.

Answers on yourdictionary.com and urban dictionary shut me out, too. “The definition of brrr is a way to say someone is cold,” said the former. “Used to signify that one feels cold,” said the latter.

I did find out that brrr is worth six points in Scrabble, and seven points in Words With Friends, which might warm your heart. But 30 minutes of Google searches later, I still didn’t know why we say it.

The closest I got to an answer was from an online commenter who surmised that brrr is an onomatopoeia of teeth chattering, “or a means of warming the lips if the speaker really rolls a lot of r’s.”

I did learn, however, that brrr is a widely used word. People who speak Spanish and French also say it in chilly climes.

So, enjoy these warmish days. And when the inevitable dip happens, we’ll all be ready.

Brrring it on. □

 

gail.rosenblum@startribune.com

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