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Don't Blame Punxsutawney Phil: Handler Got Spring Prediction Wrong

Punxsutawney Phil and his buddies on Groundhog Day, 2012.
Gene J. Puskar
Punxsutawney Phil and his buddies on Groundhog Day, 2012.

What exactly is "groundhog-ese" and how the heck would we know if it was mistranslated?

Check the weather outside.

We were supposed to get an early spring this year, according to Punxsutawney Phil, the world's most famous groundhog weather forecaster. Now Phil's handler says he misunderstood what the groundhog told him in the super-secret language on Feb. 2, Groundhog Day. "I'm the guy that did it; I'll be the fall guy. It's not Phil's fault," Bill Deeley told the Associated Press. Deeley is president of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club's Inner Circle.

He says he's gotten it wrong twice in a row now, even though club rules are clear: if the Phil sees his shadow on Groundhog Day, there will be six more weeks of winter. If he doesn't, there'll be an early spring.

As Mark wrote, several snow storms have buffeted much of the country since the erroneous prediction, including the most recent blast that dropped many inches of snow from Colorado to Pennsylvania. Weather Underground has a list of cities that are experiencing below average temperatures, and this chilly fact: 48.7% of the country is under snow as of yesterday. At this time last year, only 7.7% of the U.S. had snow cover.

Winter's icy blast caused Ohio prosecutor Michael Gmoser to issue a mock indictment against Phil for misrepresenting spring; in jest, he asked for the death penalty. Now Gmoser says he'll reconsider: "Frankly, he is a cute little rascal, a cute little thing," Gmoser told the AP, and added he could issue a pardon if someone else takes responsibility for the bad prediction.

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Korva Coleman is a newscaster for NPR.