Dour [Adj.]

Stern, harsh and forbidding; expressing gloom or melancholy.

Bertie: There was a strange atmosphere at dinner last night Jeeves, perhaps best described as dour.
Jeeves: I was never under the impression that Totleigh Towers had a reputation for prandial jocundity, sir.
Bertie: True, Jeeves. True. But the atmosphere was even less than usually jocund.
– Jeeves and Wooster (1991) Season 2, Episode 2; “A Plan for Gussie” [No. 7]


A complex mirage or fata morgana is a display that involves multiple images, alternately expanded and compressed vertically, often giving the impression of buildings, cliffs, etc. where no such objects exist. The name is traditionally used in Italy for the vivid mirages seen across the Strait of Messina.

“What does a mirror look at?”
– Frank Herbert, Chapterhouse: Dune

It occurs when two layers of air of different temperatures meet. The basic, or inferior mirage of the sort we see in summer on the roads, arises when the cold air above begins to warm as the heat rises from the hot road surface. This causes the boundary where the layers meet to appear to shimmer like water when viewed from a certain angle. This is due to light refraction, or bending really, and instead of seeing the road, we see the reflection of the blue sky which appears like water.

When these different layers of air meet in the sky, and the boundary is curved, rather than level, the effect not only produces a mirror image, but can also act as a lens to magnify anything that lies many miles beyond the horizon. When this happens and there are several layers of alternating cold and warm air, the images are superimposed one upon the other, creating a multi-layered shimmering vision. The ground air must be cooler than that of the levels above to create a true fata morgana, so this is more commonly seen at sea or around coastal areas. This effect has ‘created’ cities in the deserts and mountain ranges, phantom ships at sea, and more latterly UFOs.

“Gussie, a glutton for punishment, stared at himself in the mirror.”
– P.G. Wodehouse, Right Ho, Jeeves


According to Jewish tradition, Gehenna is the place in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to the south of Jerusalem where children were sacrificed to the god Moloch in ancient times.

For this reason the valley was deemed to be accursed, and Gehenna therefore soon became a figurative equivalent for ‘hell’ in Judaism. Twenty centuries ago, Gehenna also became a literal equivalent of hell (as a place of eternal damnation) in accordance with the Christian faith to account for this newly thought of concept at the time.

Later versions of the Bible have included more faulty translations of this nature to interject the Christian concept of hell. In the King James Version of the Bible, for instance, the terms Sheol, Hades, and Gehenna are translated as ‘hell’ to accommodate this Christian dogmatic idea.

In Islam, the name given to hell, Jahannam, directly derives from the term Gehenna.

‘To have to leave my little cottage and take a stuffy, smelly, over-heated hole of an apartment in this Heaven-forsaken, festering Gehenna.’

– P. G. Wodehouse, My Man Jeeves

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