Words we love: petrichor – the smell of summer rain
By Sarah Holland, Account Manager
So, according to the OED, petrichor is “a pleasant, distinctive smell frequently accompanying the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather in certain regions.”
I enjoy the clarity of ‘certain regions’. Is it like wine, in that some regions are better than others? Can we attend a course?
Petrichor isn’t part of our common vernacular. We don’t gather by the watercooler, asking “how’s the petrichor where you are? Oh lovely, off to France! Does the South have as much petrichor as the North? I’m so jealous, we haven’t had any decent bouts for ages! Damn Covid.”
I’m well aware that I have chosen a word here that’s overbearingly whimsical, wistful and twee. If petrichor were a person they’d be wearing a frilly tea dress and drinking homemade lemonade out of a jar, before playing you a song on their ukulele and dragging you away for an “adventure” through a field of lavender.
In fact, I’m pretty sure that this noun’s only use is in the occasional listicle in one of those mindfulness-focused magazines, or a Facebook meme with the noun in italic, sans-serif font superimposed over a close-up of a puddle, or raindrops scattered on the window with peonies in a jar on the windowsill.
But I love that this word is so niche that it need never be used in daily life. It’s nice, but, mostly unnecessary. It’s a luxury of a word, if you will. It’s a cherry-on-top word. It’s like those margarita glasses gathering dust at the back of your cupboard that you optimistically bought for a ‘future gathering’ that you’re never going to host.
It articulates for me what is one of the best and most underrated joys in the world – summer rain. I’m a Northerner who gets migraines. I hate the sun and I love the rain. For me, petrichor means sweet, blessed relief. It’s when the park is empty, the trees are a vibrant shade of green, and everything smells delicious.
I reckon poor petrichor needs a bit of PR, if I’m honest. In fact, I’m confident it probably has never been uttered out loud, ever – how do you even pronounce it? Let’s give it a go. I’ll meet you by the watercooler.