Thursday, January 07, 2010

snow vocab

For the moment (this being the biggest freeze-out since 1981) we're not so much struck by the wealth of Inuit snow-terms (a widely-circulated bit of pub trivia) as by the poverty of English snow-terms. Or where they exist they're almost forgotten, as per "pitch" (below).

Scott and Becky were on this today. How do you tell someone that it was snowing A LOT (i.e. do for snow what "It was pissing down" does for rain - naturally, we have a ton of rain words). Becky objected to "dumping it down" on the grounds that snow falling looks pretty - I kind of saw what she meant, it swirls, it doesn't fall straight down like a box of books. Various listeners sent in other suggestions - "bleaching it down" (North-East), "houghing (hoffing?) it down" (Scotland), "wanging it down"...

This morning it wasn't snowing, it was clear and bright, but so cold the air was full of spangles so it almost looked like snow. The variety of winter weather is totally absorbing to us in Somerset, because we see so little of it. Vocabulary, on the other hand, implies frequency.*

* In this case anyhow. A more general statement would be: existence of vocabulary implies a subject that people want to talk about a lot ( quantifiable as perceived frequency x perceived interest )


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