…given that English seems to love a good borrowed word (vuvuzela, anyone?) why don’t we have *more* words for snow than we do? It’s not that I’m sick of the unending portmanteaus beginning with snow-, it’s just that I think we can do better.
Instead of snowmageddon, where we combine the perfectly dull Old English word ‘snow’ with the ultimately Hebrew-derived word ‘Armageddon’, let’s borrow some Turkish and talk about the kar-mageddon instead. It has a better feel to it and opens up a world of possible puns on karma, as well (“Oh hey, Bob, weather man said it’s gonna be a karmageddon tonight, better make sure your shovel is handy.” “Oh yeah, Ned, well, you know what they say, karmageddon’s a bitch!” … well, we’ll get one pun out of it, anyway). Or even better, just head outside, stand knee-deep in the stuff, raise your voice angrily at the sky and exclaim, in your strongest Klingon accent, chuchHommey! You’re sure to win the ‘Best Yard Decor’ vote from the Star Trek fans next door, at least.
Other, more mundane, cold weather events may include a lovely evening of hot cocoa and elurra (Basque), a miserable morning driving through a yuki (Japanese) drizzle, a soporific night nodding off to Old Man Winter snjór-ing (Icelandic) out our window panes, or, if it’s a snow like we had in Central Texas, barely a dusting of the stuff, let’s borrow from Albanian and call it like it is — a total borë.
So how about that? In a language where we’ve welcomed crazy words likeautochthonous and lingerie, surely a couple new words for snø (Norwegian) would be welcomed by winter’s journalistic zeitgeist. Let’s get to it. And maybe next time you hear someone talk about “117 words for snow” … maybe they’ll just be talking about English.
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