Well, my dears, it’s finally arrived.
After an ‘Autumn’ that’s lasted from September all the way through to early January, after days warm enough to wear a tee shirt outdoors, with unseasonable flowers raising their cheeky heads – Winter has hit the UK.
As I type this, my hands are their customary cold weather shade – an attractive reddish purple. If my hands were a paint colour I’d like to think it would be called Bruised Maiden or GBH Sunset or Liverish Lavender. I could start my own range named after parts of the human anatomy – I could call it Murderous Moods or Killer Colours … Anyhoo …
They* say Inuits have many, many words for snow – and why wouldn’t they? If your life depended on how firm a snowdrift or pack ice was, you’d develop specific ways to describe every conceivable type of frozen H20 as well. The last thing you need in a life or death situation is to be stumbling over language …
Oh, don’t take the sleigh over there. Yesterday dad went that way and snow was sort of … Well, you know when the sun’s been shining and it’s just melted the top of the ice crust, then it’s frozen again over night – but then it’s melted a tiny bit the next morning, just enough to dig your whale bone pick into but – Hello? Where’s he gone then?
So today, WEDNESDAY WORD TANGLE brings you
WORDS WHICH DESCRIBE SNOW
The Inuit may have a fair few frosty words, but have you ever thought how many words English has for solid water in various forms? How about
Sleet: Slush: Rime: Frost: Hailstone: Snowflake: Blizzard: Whiteout: Ice: Floe: Icicle : Powder: Glacier: Thaw: Snowman: Snowball: Iceberg.
I’m sure I could go on – but I won’t. Even better are the Scots who have over 400 fantastic words relating to solid eau, including
feefle – to swirl
flindrikin – a slight snow shower
snaw-pouther – fine driving snow
spitters – small drops or flakes of wind-driven rain or snow
unbrak – the beginning of a thaw
Makes me feel chilly just reading them.
And for those of you who can’t get enough ice related shenanigans, may I recommend my favourite TV programme from the entire Christmas season.
It’s a documentary following members of the Scandinavian Sami people taking reindeer and a sleigh along an old Norwegian postal route.
It’s a lot more magical than it sounds.
There is no voice over – there is no music. All you will hear are sleigh bells, the crunch of snow under hooves and the occasional snatch of the Sami language. All you will see are reindeer, a sleigh, a handful of people and … snow. A lot of snow. This programme is two hours long. Give it five minutes and you might lose the entire afternoon …
*They in this case being the 19th century anthropologist, Franz Boas.
Much greatness goes to Kat, founder of W4W.