Word of the Day Archive
Monday March 3, 2003
stormy petrel \STOR-mee-PET-ruhl\ , noun:
1. Any of various small sea birds of the family Hydrobatidae, having dark plumage with paler underparts; also called storm petrel.
2. One who brings discord or strife, or appears at the onset of trouble.
But far from a 'pet' of the Communist regime, Gorky, the "stormy petrel of the revolution," also condemned the revolution early on as a "cruel experiment" with the Russian people "doomed to failure."
-- Valentina Kolesnikova, "Maxim Gorky: Hostage of the Revolution", Russian Life, June 1, 1996
Of the unpredictable and constantly angry Paracelsus, for example, the stormy petrel who convulsed the staid medical establishment of the sixteenth century by demanding radical reforms in clinical thinking, he wrote: "This first great revolt against the slavish authority of the schools had little immediate effect, largely on account of the personal vagaries of the reformer--but it made men think."
-- Sherwin B. Nuland, "The Saint", New Republic, December 13, 1999
Lenin, the stormy petrel of the Social Democratic party, was facing more serious opposition than ever.
-- Michael Pearson, "Lenin's lieutenant", Guardian, September 29, 2001
. . .restless and indomitable, scouring like a stormy petrel the angry ocean of debate.
-- Lytton Strachey, Eminent Victorians
Stormy petrel is an alteration of earlier pitteral, probably so named in allusion to St. Peter's walking on the sea, from the fact that the bird flies close to the water in order to feed on surface-swimming organisms and ship's refuse; called stormy because in a storm the birds surround a ship to catch small organisms which rise to the surface of the rough seas; when the storm ceases they are no longer seen.