Paisley weather

Today’s Wayno/Piraro Bizarro, with weather forecasting in action:

(If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 3 in this strip — see this Page.)

Ah, a bit of word play: a pun on pattern.

From NOAD on the noun pattern:

1 [a] a repeated decorative design: a neat blue herringbone pattern. … [c] a regular and intelligible form or sequence discernible in certain actions or situations. …

weather pattern is a common collocation using sense 1c of pattern. But what the weather map shows is a set of patterns in sense 1a: the fabric patterns polka dot, paisley, check(er(ed)) (possibly its gingham subtype), and an ornate pattern that Wayno assures me is just a random wallpaper pattern, not anything with an actual name.

Ooh, thrilling new visuals for weather reports: a large Rob Roy tartan over rural Tennessee this evening! a Madras mass moving down the California coast! a troublesome triangle of Tie Dye in the Texas desert!

These are fabric or wallpaper patterns. There’s an entirely different set of terms for china patterns and silverware patterns. We might want to say that china pattern and silverware pattern involve a specialized sense of pattern. By the time we get to test pattern, we’re clearly in idiom territory, and NOAD has a separate entry for it:

noun test pattern: a geometric design broadcast by a television station so that viewers can adjust the quality of their reception.

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