This text is from The Children's Bach by Helen Garner

She made him, and dragged him away across the grass. They turned a corner, rounded a thick hedge, and the wind hit them. He stopped struggling. Air rushed over the ground like a flood of water at blood temperature, and he pulled himself free of her and went into it pacing slowly like a dancer, his arms spread out and his face tipped back, his eyes closed and his mouth melting.

In this sentence does "air" mean "wind", and does "blood temperature" mean "very high temperature"?

I searched about "blood temperature" but I found nothing reasonable and I guess it as very hot air.


It's not possible to understand the full meaning of this sentence by just giving the meanings of the individual words. It's a simile, and a complicated one at that.

You are correct in thinking that "air" is wind and "blood temperature" is "high temperature". As Mary notes, "blood temperature" more specifically connotes "body temperature", which is fairly high (37°C). The temperature is important because of how it affects the "water" mentioned. Breaking up the sentence into separate parts:

(Air rushed over the ground) like (a flood of water at blood temperature.)

This is comparing how air moves to how water moves. Specifically, water at a high temperature. The viscosity of water decreases as temperature rises. Here's a graph to demonstrate this:

a graph of viscosity on the y axis and temperature on the x axis which shows a downward sloping relationship, labeled "Viscosity vs Temperature for Water"

(Sourced from Quora, via Google Images)

Liquid that has a low viscosity flows easier and smoother around things in its path. A "flood of water at blood [high] temperature" would therefore flow very smoothly. Saying that the air "rushed over the ground" like this very-smoothly flowing water means that the air (wind) moved easily and smoothly around the characters and scenery. A fast, smooth flow of air can be very pleasant to feel. The male character in the passage appears to be enjoying the feeling of this smooth air rushing onto his face and body.

A final layer to the simile is the specific use of "blood" temperature instead of just saying "high" temperature. Blood is known to flow smoothly and quickly throughout the body, which gives further emphasis to the "smooth, easy flowing" feeling generated by the simile.

The sentence could be rewritten as:

Wind flowed over the ground easily and smoothly.

But that's less poetic, which is probably the reason for flowery language to be used in the first place.


That the air "rushed" meant that it was wind.

"Blood temperature" is another way of saying "body temperature" -- the normal temperature of a human body.

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