On Good Authority: There's No Such Thing as a Nor'Easter

Mar 22, 2018

As the fourth storm in as many weeks struck the Cape and islands, a determined group of linguistic holdouts says there is no such thing as “nor’easter.”

Oh, the snow and the wind are real, but the word is not. 

Everett Poole sitting in his small chandlery on Menemsha harbor as sleet hits the window, said it’s all about the “R” and the direction of the wind.

There is no such direction as nor’east,” Poole said. “It’s either northeast, or if you want to contract it, you say no’theast. The only time you use nor is when it precedes west.”

Doug Cabral, retired editor of The MV Times, writing in his blog, “Just a Thought,” said nor’easter is “a non-word that no genuine New England salt ever uses. It’s like Manhattan clam chowder, not chowder at all.”

Everett Poole, 87, is as authentic a chowdah as they come. His family first arrived on Martha’s Vineyard in the 1700s. A retired fish dealer and former selectman, he has been Chilmark town moderator for the past 41 years.

Asked about what is behind nor’easter, he takes a few puffs of his ever-present pipe and offers an opinion: “They’re probably trying to be salty, but they’re just proving that they’re not.”

As far as Poole is concerned, there's only one way to describe a winter storm with winds out of the northeast.

“I call it a no’theaster," Poole said. "Because that’s what it is. And that’s how you say it, and that's how you spell it, or write it.”