|DOMINICA FOLLOWING HURRICANE MARIA - PHOTO : GUARDIAN / GETTY IMAGES|
It is funny how some phrases can sneak up on you and become part of the stock of your vocabulary without you realising it. Take "double whammy": the dictionaries can quite clearly trace the development of the phrase in the 1940s and 1950s in the USA, but they can't identify exactly when it crept into the understanding of a old, fat bloke in Yorkshire who has never seen a baseball game or read the Li'l Abner comic strip. Now, however, the phrase is a part of my everyday life and perfectly meets my needs when describing certain situations.
Half my immediate family live in the British Virgin Islands, and a couple of weeks ago I wrote about my concern for their safety following hurricane Irma, and the longer-term impact on the wonderful islands they call home. Most of the rest of my closest family live on the Caribbean island of Dominica, and what I didn't realise when I wrote that earlier post was that hurricane Maria was about to do to that island what Irma did to the BVI. Many of you will know my brother Roger from the frequent comments he leaves on this blog, and for six days there was no news of his, and his family's, safety following a direct hit by Maria. I only learned of his safety on Sunday, and although he is safe, the island has suffered almost unimaginable damage.
Just like baseball and Li'l Abner, I have no experience at all of the terrible destructive power of hurricanes (in these parts we call it a strong wind if it can blow a bit of soot out of an old mill chimney). What I do know, however, is that if we sit back and forget about the ongoing plight of all those people who have been affected by Harvey and Irma and Maria, if we imagine that now the winds have stilled life can immediately go back to normal, then we will be translating a double whammy into a triple whammy.