Odd Thoughts: Snow words come to mind

Have you been slip-sliding your way to work for the past week or so, after shovelling the walk, the driveway, and the roadway (or paying someone to do it for you, either directly or through taxes)?

Has it prompted you to mutter some despicable epithets under your breath, adding to the long list of “50 different words Eskimos use” to describe snow?

Sorry, but that list is a fake. A phony. A snow job.

First off, the “Eskimos” are actually a whole bunch of different Inuit and Yupic peoples anthropologically lumped together through a coincidence of geography and a misunderstanding of the actual cultural diversity that populates the coldest habitable climes on the planet (the slightly colder Antarctic is habitable only in a scientific, not a cultural context).

And here’s the shocker: they don’t have any more words to describe snow than do those of us in the rest of Canada.

Indeed, we have as many words here on the Wet Coast, where some that we use to describe snow include “rare,” “uncommon,” “ugly,” “stupid,” and a few others which you have been muttering under your breath since the white crap floated from the sky.

In fact, those of us whose primary tongue is English probably use more words to describe snow – especially when the snowplow comes by moments after you’ve shovelled the previous load dumped into the end of your driveway.

You see, many so-called Eskimo-Aleut vocabularies initially confused Western anthropologists because they use suffixes (English example: “snow” and “snowing”) and compound words (English example: “snowplow”) to economically define types of snow.

Some languages condense strings into single words where we might use a phrase (English example: “the garbage the snowplow pushed into our driveway”) or a sentence (English example: “Here comes that stupid jerk with his godforsaken snowplow again.”), or sometimes even more than one sentence (English example: “Aw, for crying out loud! Does that guy ever stop? He turns that blade to push more into our driveway, and he goes by our house more times than anybody else’s. If this was Trumpland, they wouldn’t convict me if I shot him. I ought to make him eat it.”

Bottom line is, all languages have many words to describe snow – even if the people speaking them don’t know what it is.

Right now my personal favourite description is: “Kind of nice for Christmas.”


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