I walked into the Dunkin’ Donuts shop this morning (it’s a guilty pleasure), and one of the people in the back said to the others, “It’s the shortest day today.”
The cashier in front of me got a funny look on her face. So, in order to clarify, I said to her, “Today’s the winter solstice.” Her expression didn’t change. “That just means that today is the shortest day because the earth is tilted the furthest away from the sun because of where it is in the orbit around the sun. The sun is the lowest in the sky today. Starting today the days get longer.”
She stared at me.
“‘Solstice’ is Latin for the sun ‘standing still,’ because today the sun doesn’t appear to have moved any lower or higher in the sky. It just stands still,” I said, attempting a winning smile.
“Sol means sun and sistere means “to stand,” or “stand still.”
I could tell that meditating on the Latin roots of astronomical terms was not in her plans for the day, so, donut safely in hand, I cautiously backed up and said, “Well, have a nice day,” and hurried out of the shop.