The Mountain is What?

IMG_4620“The mountain is out today.” If that expression sounds a little odd to you, you probably don’t live in the Pacific Northwest. My wife and I are transplants to Washington state from the Midwest. Before moving to Olympia, we had never heard the expression before. After all, there are no mountains in Michigan, at least not in the Lower Peninsula, so the idea that a mountain could be ‘out’ was a foreign concept to us.

Since making the move however, it has become common place. For folks raised in this part of the country, saying “the mountain is out” is part of everyday conversation, like saying “the moon is full,” or “the tide is in.”

The expression is sometimes used elsewhere in the Northwest, like folks in Portland referring to Mt. Hood, or Alaska residents talking about Mt. McKinley. But nowhere is the phrase more prevalent than along the I-5 corridor. You hear it everywhere from Seattle to Tacoma to the capital in Olympia – everywhere Mt. Rainier looms dominant on the horizon. Rising some 12,000 feet above the surrounding plain, Rainier is hard to miss. So if someone mentions “the mountain,” everyone knows exactly what they are talking about.

Saying “the mountain is out” has a special meaning for people out here. It means that the skies are clear, the sun is out, and the weather is fair. In a region where rain and fog are the norm, especially during the short, dreary days of winter, having good weather is definitely a bonus.

I’m not sure where the expression originated. Apparently it’s been around for a long, long time. If you are old enough, like I am, you may remember a TV show on NBC back in the 1950s called “What’s My Line?” It was the reality television of the time. One of the regular panelists on that show was Bennett Cerf, a publisher, humorist, and punster.

According to Barry Popik’s etymological dictionary, The Big Apple, Cerf referenced the term in August 1951, in his syndicated column, “Try and Stop Me”:

When Seattle folk can see Mount Rainier or when Mount Hood is visible to the citizens of Portland, incidentally, the common phrase is, “Oh, look: the mountain is out today.”

So, go out and take a look around. There are wonderful sights to see and exciting things to do. Take a walk in the woods, smell the flowers, go fishing, watch the birds. The sun is shining and the clouds have disappeared. After all, the mountain is out!.

About pec

I am a retired high school history teacher from Michigan who enjoys travel, photography, and writing. My wife and I moved from the Midwest to Washington six years ago to be closer to family, especially grand kids. As a transplant to the Great Northwest I have noted many similarities as well as many differences between the two sections of our country.

Posted on December 30, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Your Intrepid Blogger

    Great stuff! I was trying to explain to out-of-towners what the expression meant, and your blog post did the job perfectly. Also fun the fact you tracked down about Bennett Cerf.


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