The ultimate in inconsequential, neutral talk: the subject matter is the weather. Usually fictionally to evade a more serious topic – out of dislike for it, especially the Elephant in the Living Room, or because they might be overheard – or to depict characters as not knowing each other, or having nothing to say. May indicate a Ban on Politics. Those who Cannot Spit It Out often talk about the weather instead.
The character who Hates Small Talk will react vehemently.
Its Truth in Television nature keeps it alive. Characters can easily refer to the trope without breaking the fourth wall.
Talking about the weather can turn deadly serious if the characters are meteorologists, pilots, sailors, trapped outdoors, or in a disaster movie with a weather theme. Parodies of this trope in such a context are common, but not prevalent.
See also Seinfeldian Conversation.
Jim Braddock: Joe, did you come all this way just to talk about the weather?
Trail of Kit Carson
Bill Harmon: Take your time, Mr. Benton. There's been a lot of weather for your daughter and me to talk about.
Groundhog Day: Mrs. Lancaster tries to make small talk with Phil by talking about the weather — unfortunately, he's pissed off and he's a weatherman.
Mrs. Lancaster: There's talk of a blizzard. Phil Connors: We may catch a break and that blizzard's gonna blow right by us. All of this moisture coming up out of the south by midday is probably gonna push on to the east of us and at high altitudes it's gonna crystallize and probably give us what we call snow. Probably will be some accumulation but here in Punxsutawney our high is gonna get up to about 30 today, teens tonight. Chance of precipitation about 20% today, 20% tomorrow. Did you want to talk about the weather or were you just making chitchat?
Used in The Naked Jungle. After several minutes of very awkward, one-sided conversation, there is a prolonged silence and then:
Joanna: "Everything I say seems to make things worse. I'm trying not to irritate you."
Leiningen: "I noticed that. I find it irritating."
Used in the film version of Sense and Sensibility, when Mrs Dashwood brusquely orders Margaret to "restrict her remarks to the weather".
In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, whenever Quirell is questioned on the subject of his turban, he goes pink and starts talking about the weather. Hagrid also does this whenever touchy subjects are evoked, when he doesn't go mysteriously deaf.
In Order of the Phoenix, Harry is dismayed to find himself talking about the weather while trying to flirt with Cho.
In The Last Knight, Fisk comments that different classes of people have different kinds of small talk—nobles talk about horses, townsfolk talk about taxes, and farmers talk about the weather.
In Spider Robinson's Stardance, when Charlie Armstead asked how Raoul Brindle had managed to see the previously unreleased videos of the Stardance, rather than tell the truth or flat-out lie, Raoul answered, "Large weather we're having."
I have erred against every common-place notion of decorum; I have been open and sincere where I ought to have been reserved, spiritless, dull, and deceitful — had I talked only of the weather and the roads, and had I spoken only once in ten minutes, this reproach would have been spared.
In Moose County in Lilian Jackson Braun's The Cat Who series, it is generally customary to spend a minute or two talking about the weather before moving on to more serious subjects. This is just considered simple politeness, even with two people who know each other quite well.
In Rick Riordan's The Throne of Fire, with Sadie and Walt in the desert, she starts the conversation with "Lovely weather."
In P. G. Wodehouse's Hot Water Blair Eggleston's timidity with women is such that face with an incense-filled studio holding a scantily clad princess lolling on a tiger skin, he would take the seat nearest the door and talk about the weather.
In Poul Anderson's "Time Patrol", Manse observes that talking about crops and weather in Dark Ages England is much like twentieth century Middle Western America.
In Wen Spencer's Tinker, Nathan says that a first date, if not spent learning about each other, has small talk. Tinker mentions the heat.
In an editorial for the Hartford Courant, Mark Twain wrote, "Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it."
In the Sherlock Holmes story "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons", Lestrade is at first reluctant to tell what's really on his mind, so he resorts to this.
On this particular evening Lestrade had spoken of the weather and the newspapers. Then he had fallen silent, puffing thoughtfully at his cigar
In Robin McKinley's Sunshine, the person Sunshine comes the nearest to confiding the truth in is Yolanda, because when she talks about the weather or other chitchat, she not only doesn't ask what happened to her, but doesn't even seem to be suppressing the desire to.
In Hilari Bell's Knight and Rogue Series novel The Last Knight, Sir Michael and the lady talk about horses — which, the narrator notes, is what nobles do when farmers would talk about the weather, and townsmen taxes.
In Seanan McGuire's October Daye novel Ashes of Honor, when Tybalt insists on speaking with Toby alone, she starts with "Nice weather we've been having lately.''
In Frasier episode "Boo!", Martin has had a heart attack and doesn't want Ronee to know. Ronee lampshades that she Hates Small Talk with her elderly mother - which prompts Martin to engage in it himself, trying to avoid the subject of his "cardiac event".
Martin: No. So, uh, good weather over there in Spokane?
Ronee: God, no. It rained the entire time. I basically just sat there and made boring small talk with my mother. God, I hate small talk.
Martin: Oh, tell me. Rained here some, too.
This continues for some time til Ronee figures out something's wrong.
Lampshaded on Gilmore Girls after an awkward post-breakup conversation:
Lorelai: Yeah, it was just awkward, and neither of us knew how to act.
Sookie: I'm sure it seemed worse than it really was.
Lorelai: Uh, no. We hit the weather in the first minute.
Sookie: Well, it has been unseasonably warm...
Babylon 5: Used as a code for a much more serious matter in "Z'ha'dum":
Sheridan: Good. And when I see you next, if everything is set ... we'll talk about the weather.
In The Young Ones, Vyvyan resorts to this trope when he borrows yet another cup of sugar from the same neighbor he's been borrowing them from all morning.
Vyvyan: Well, if you like snow and being really cold, it's a nice day.
In Monty Python's Flying Circus, Terry Jones' housewife is trying to keep Michael Palin's 'Poet Inspector' from leaving the house and makes a comment about it being a nice day. Palin replies with a detailed weather forecast, even flipping down a weather chart from the wall.
Great Big Sea's "How Did We Get From Saying I Love You" is about two people whose relationship has devolved into awkward pauses and discussions about the weather.
REM's "Pop Song 89", a song mocking pop music's banality, has the following chorus: Should we talk about the weather?/Should we talk about the government?
Randy Travis' "Forever and Ever Amen" has as part of the chorus: "As long as old men sit and talk about the weather/As long as old women sit and talk about old men."
Erasure's "Chains Of Love" bemoans the loss of this as people became more impersonal in general:
Do you remember? There was a time When people on the street were walking hand in hand in hand We used to talk about the weather, making plans together, days would last forever
In The Pirates of Penzance, the sisters feign this in order to Leave the Two Lovebirds Alone. Conveniently, their rapid-fire patter chorus about how beautifully blue the sky is and how it may pour tomorrow fades to background levels whenever Frederick and Mabel are singing.
My Fair Lady: When Eliza went to Ascot, Professor Higgins instructed her to stick to the weather as one of her topics of discussion. The vocal exercises Higgins gives her just happen to be about the weather - which makes for some awkward moments with the Ascot crowd, but that's by far the least awkward part of the particular conversation. Freddie even compliments her on being so 'awfully clever', particularly when Higgins explains it away as 'the new small talk'.
The Arcadians: Two love birds get very close to declaring their feelings for one another when a crowd of strangers comes along. Of course, one cannot discuss emotions in public, so they are forced to discuss the 'Charming Weather'. Twice.
In Carousel, Julie and Carrie, friends as young women, are meeting again for some gossip. Carrie is in the middle of telling a racy story about something she saw while on a visit to Paris — but then Julie's own daughter enters the room, causing Carrie to invoke this Trope mid-sentence:
Carrie: And the chorus girl had her legs up on the chair and...[Julie's daughter enters]...and it rained all day.
Oscar derides Felix in The Odd Couple for contributing only a weather report to a conversation.
You can overhear several conversations in Batman: Arkham City about the weather. Considering its the middle of a snowstorm in a Gotham winter, and the speakers are typically pulling outdoor guard duty, it fits.
In Rune Factory 3, the first time that you greet a character each day often brings about a comment about the weather, which varies depending on the person you're talking to and how the weather affects their day-to-day activities and work.
In Little Busters!, Haruka and Rin end up doing this in one scene because Haruka feels awkward around Rin since she's so noisy and Rin isn't very good with people she doesn't know very well.
Faux Pas: Randy is trying to teach Cindy to understand human. Unfortunately, he's very innocent, while the humans like to talk about sex. He's always telling her that they're talking about the weather.
Real life actually tends to subvert this during heat waves, torrential downpours, large hail, etc. when the weather actually becomes a very relevant and pressing topic.
Depending on the time of the year, the weather truly can be the primary topic of conversation in a certain area. For instance, in the Tornado Alley region of the United States, the possibility or occurrence of tornadoes and other violent storms during the late spring-early summer months often dominates the daily lives of almost everyone in the Midwest and Deep South. The same can also apply during hurricane season, but on an even larger scale.
In Japan, it's customary that, if you have an important matter to discuss with a boss or co-worker, one should first talk about something trivial before going into more serious matters. Weather is often the topic.
A persistent stereotype about Winnepeg, Manitoba is that two Winnepeggers, no matter where in the world they meet, or how long it's been since either has been back home, will inevitably ask one another what the weather was like in Manitoba when they leftnote And then complain about how cold it was.
In Minnesota, the climate is bizarre enough that every season on the calendar can occur within days of each othernote It's not unknown for snow to fall as early as October and as late as May. As such, weather is a common topic.