“The unique and distinctive sound of these broadcasts has led to their attracting an audience much wider than that directly interested in maritime weather conditions. Many listeners find the repetition of the names of the sea areas almost hypnotic, particularly during the night-time broadcast at 0048 UK time … The forecast, excluding the header line, has a limit of 350 words – except for the 00.48 broadcast, where it is increased to 380 to accommodate Trafalgar’s inclusion – and has a very strict format. It begins with “And now the Shipping Forecast, issued by the Met Office on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency at … today.”” – [2].

What is it about this technical transmission of UK maritime weather conditions that is beautiful? The word limit of 350/380 imposes the imparting of the oral equivalent of a musical arpeggio to the lines. The spoken, broken, chord sentences render the shipping forecast into a vocalisation that nobody hears in every day spoken English.

And then, there’s the place names.

[Charlotte Green] “I could relish the beauty of the place names and the rhythms of the forecast, I, I think it’s the nearest I ever came to reading poetry on air …  [Nick Compton] “The list of names of half-known places … it turns our coast into a mythological land” – [3].

Listen to it if you can.



[1] http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/guide/weather/marine/shipping-forecast

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shipping_Forecast#Influences_on_popular_culture

[3] http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p046cwff