Need We Say Nor? One Author’s Case Against “Nor’easter”

Recalling a mid-century storm for the ages, Cathie Pelletier's plea: don’t drop that digraph.

Blizzard of 1952
By Brian Kevin
From our February 2023 issue

Cathie Pelletier’s new book on the monumental storm known as the Blizzard of 1952 has everything you want from a nonfiction disaster narrative: eye-popping details about the February squall that clocked 70-mile-per-hour winds and left 20-foot snowdrifts in its wake; a cast of memorable characters in peril, including a pair of lobstermen at sea, a laboring mother stranded at home, a soldier trapped in his snow-submerged car, and one seriously plucky cat.

Northeaster, by Cathie Pelletier

What it does not have, however, is a spurious apostrophe in its one-word title: Northeaster.

The faux-folksy nor’easter, Pelletier declares in an afterword, has no place in her lexicon, on account of it sounds “like how Hollywood has Mainers talk in movies.” The bestselling novelist and Aroostook County denizen proclaims her solidarity with the late Maine journalist Edgar A. Comee, who garnered notoriety in 2005 when he outed himself to the New Yorker as chairman of the “Ad Hoc Committee for Stamping Out Nor’easter.” The New Yorker, upon receiving a scolding postcard from Comee, ran a lighthearted item about his crusade. Pelletier shares his conviction that nor’easter is “a pretentious and altogether lamentable affectation . . . [a] loathsome, practice of landlubbers who would be seen as salty.”

Pelletier is resigned, she writes, to repeatedly defending the th as she promotes the new book, which is a well-researched and gripping account of how the punishing blizzard impacted ordinary Mainers. History buffs and fans of extreme-weather yarns — even nor’easter defenders — will find it a wor’while read.


Down East magazine, February 2023