Election 2016

The Straight Dope: What’s that mysterious booming sound?

straightdope.comSince April 2011, a mysterious deep, echoing, boom has been heard every Tuesday morning, spring through fall, throughout northwest Washington, D.C. It’s always the same noise, between 6:30 and 8 AM, and seems to originate from the south, likely across the Potomac River. The rumor was that it was early-morning drills from Arlington Cemetery, but I haven’t been able to confirm this. Conspiracy? Very loud garbage truck? My dog and I are dying to hear your answer booming across cyberspace.

You, your dog, and everyone else, my friend. The mysterious-boom phenomenon is widespread enough to warrant an entry in the dictionary — brontide, defined by Merriam-Webster as “a low muffled sound like distant thunder” that’s “thought to be caused by feeble earth tremors” — as well as a robust selection of regional appellations worldwide: off the coast of the Netherlands, they’re called mistpoeffers; in Haiti, it’s the gouffre. Here in the U.S., noises of murky provenance have been reported, in recent memory, as far afield as Charleston, South Carolina, and Clintonville, Wisconsin. The latter, a series of which Wisconsinites heard in 2012, were ultimately blamed on shallow earthquakes, not strong enough to cause any shaking but variously audible, according to CNN, as “rattling pipes, clanging metal, thunder or firecrackers.”

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