Snow Business

Do Inuits actually have 50 snow and ice related words? Apparently, this is the source of hot debate. (Although: Linguists. They could start an argument in an empty room, am I right?) Temperature puns aside though, I guess it doesn’t really matter, since Nordic cultures spike the snowball with at least 180.

When your very survival is in meteorological hands, I’m sure some extra vocab is just the padding you need. Here is a sampling of words from the great north to describe what snow looks like (pukak – crystalline snow), how it sounds underfoot (skoarádat – the sound of sleigh skis passing over a rough surface), how wet it is (soavli - very wet, slushy snow), if it is falling (qanik), drifting (fáska), or already on the ground (maujaq, the snow in which one sinks). Is it covering something else (spildi - a very thin layer of ice on water or milk)? Is the snow good for grazing (ealát – when reindeer can find food under the snow)? Lined with animal tracks (jolas – tracks made in the snow by animals which have gone in a row; loanjis – tracks of a whole herd of reindeer; rádnu – tracks of a hare)? Is the ice good for melting into drinking water (nilak)? Or suited for building an igloo (illusaq – what can become a house)?

The English language has several frigid words of interest: 

Snow: Adjective: besides the obvious drug associations, snow can also mean hip or awesome. Dude, that’s so snow! (<- Thanks, Urban Dictionary.) Noun: a meteorological manifestation of frozen ice crystals. Verb: to fleece, to deceive.

Snowflake: Minimum point value of 19 at Scrabble. Also: an assembly of hexagonal ice crystals forming a unit falling from the sky, mainly from stratus and stratocumulous clouds. Alternate meaning: unique.

Snowball: Noun: a wintery weapon of compressed snow. Verb: gaining mass and acceleration over time. As in: my credit card debt is snowballing. (<- Used for illustrative purposes only.)

Snowplow: a cuss-worthy shovel-fronted truck that launches dirty, compacted snow at the end of your driveway, effectively rendering useless the cleared roads beyond.

Snowboard: a wheel-free skateboard for snow riding, often used to perform airdogs, fakies, half pipes, and face plants.

Snowclone: an expression that becomes a template for future sayings, like “orange is the new black.” Which logically leads to “autism is the new orange.” Yes?

Snowden: a wanted fugitive.

Snowmageddon: a clever portmanteau merging the words snow and Armageddon. Often results in whiteout conditions and an unwanted excess of family time. See also: blizzard, snowstorm, snowbound, yesterday, and today.

Snowblower: See also: snowthrower. A gas-powered machine for becoming un-snowbound. Only able to be started by men, unlike say the vacuum cleaner or the washing machine, which can only be operated by women.

Watching Roman waist-deep in the snow with our dog makes me want to invent new words for snowplay. Like snooves – ruts left by boy and dog chasing each other in the snow. Snust – the miniscule sparkly ice crystals that catch the light as Roman chucks snow at our polar bear (our Yellow Lab Rooney). And speaking of yellow - Schwiz. (Nuff said.) Shnark – our dog concealed by deep snow (snow shark!). Snazing - watching the road for passing snowplows. Then there’s Snink – crashing through the crusty top layer of snow. And snowhelp – when Roman is asked to clear the deck and we find him shoveling the yard instead. What the snell?

Mainely yours,


Share this post