As a disclaimer, we’re not talking about the culinary dish here, although whoever invented that deserves some sort of medal! We’re talking about the blanket that covered Ottawa and the valley this morning.

Using the term “pea soup” to describe the fog has been around for a while now, but where did it come from? Well you can blame the industrial revolution for this one!

Back in the early 1800s, the people of London warmed their homes by burning soft coal, which created a lot of pollution. Combine that with the toxic smog from the factories popping up all over town and you have a dangerous and deadly cocktail of chemicals in the air. That smog (not fog) was very thick and actually had a gross, yellowy tinge to it, much like a bowl of pea soup. The first published appearance of the idiom showed up in 1820 in a report by John Sartain on life as a young artist in London:

“…having to slink home through a fog as thick and as yellow as the pea-soup of the eating house…”

It appeared again in a New York Times article in 1871, referring to a part of London:

“…where the population are periodically submerged in a fog the consistency of pea soup…”

While we may use “pea soup” as a lighthearted way to describe the fog, the fog itself was nothing to laugh about. It’s been attributed to thousands of deaths per year in old timey London, with the worst recorded instance being the Great Smog of 1952, where around 12,000 people died over a couple of days. But apparently, “pea soup” isn’t the only term used to describe thick fog…

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Filed under: Big Ginger, fog, History, Kenny, London, Ottawa, Pea Soup, Pollution, Smog, Unbalanced Breakfast, Valley