Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

The Language of Snow

Snow balls

Snow balls (Photo credit: blmiers2)

Just when I thought winter was truly on the way out that dratted phenomenon known as spring snow arrived.  It’s the “ha ha gotcha” of winter.  Not nice.  I had visions of puttering out in the yard, placing my yard ornaments and maybe even putting out the hammock.  After all, the temps had reached a searing 50 degrees.  The natives were donning shorts in anticipation.

While I have one word for snow: “yuck” the Inuits apparently have over a hundred.  Then again it could be a hoax.   If you are in need of describing snow maybe you can find one off this list:

The Eskimos’ *edited*Hundred Words for Snow

by Phil James

Fresh powder snow, snow crystals.

Fresh powder snow, snow crystals. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

tlapa           powder snow
tlacringit      snow that is crusted on the surface
kayi            drifting snow
tlapat          still snow
klin            remembered snow
naklin          forgotten snow
tlamo           snow that falls in large wet flakes
tlatim          snow that falls in small flakes
tlaslo          snow that falls slowly
tlapinti        snow that falls quickly
kripya          snow that has melted and refrozen
tliyel          snow that has been marked by wolves
tliyelin        snow that has been marked by Eskimos
blotla          blowing snow
pactla          snow that has been packed down
hiryla          snow in beards
wa-ter          melted snow
tlayinq         snow mixed with mud
slimtla         snow that is crusted on top but soft underneath
kriplyana       snow that looks blue in the early morning
puntla          a mouthful of snow because you fibbed
allatla         baked snow
fritla          fried snow
gristla         deep fried snow
tidtla          snow used for cleaning
ertla           snow used by Eskimo teenagers for exquisite erotic rituals
kriyantli       snow bricks
hahatla         small packages of snow given as gag gifts
semtla          partially melted snow
ontla           snow on objects
intla           snow that has drifted indoors
nootlin         snow that doesn't stick
rotlana         quickly accumulating snow
skriniya        snow that never reaches the ground
bluwid          snow that's shaken down from objects in the wind
tlanid          snow that's shaken down and then mixes with sky-falling snow
talini          snow angels
blontla         snow that's shaken off in the mudroom
tlalman         snow sold to German tourists
tlalam          snow sold to American tourists
tlanip          snow sold to Japanese tourists
protla          snow packed around caribou meat
attla           snow that as it falls seems to create nice pictures
		in the air
sotla           snow sparkling with sunlight
tlun            snow sparkling with moonlight
astrila         snow sparkling with starlight
clim            snow sparkling with flashlight or headlight
tlapi           summer snow
krikaya         snow mixed with breath
ashtla          expected snow that's wagered on (depth, size of flakes)
tla-na-na       snow mixed with the sound of old rock and roll
		from a portable radio
trinkyi         first snow of the year
tronkyin        last snow of the year
shiya           snow at dawn
katiyana        night snow
tlinro          snow vapor
nyik            snow with flakes of widely varying size
ragnitla        two snowfalls at once, creating moire patterns
akitla          snow falling on water
privtla         snow melting in the spring rain
chahatlin       snow that makes a sizzling sound as it falls on water
hootlin         snow that makes a hissing sound as the
		individual flakes brush
geltla          snow dollars
briktla         good building snow
striktla        snow that's no good for building
erolinyat       snow drifts containing the imprint of crazy lovers
chachat         swirling snow that drives you nuts
krotla          snow that blinds you
tlarin          snow that can be sculpted into the delicate corsages
		Eskimo girls pin to their whale parkas at prom time
maxtla          snow that hides the whole village
tlayopi         snow drifts you fall into and die
truyi           avalanche of snow
tlapripta       snow that burns your scalp and eyelids
carpitla        snow glazed with ice
tla             ordinary snow

Since we, as in Anglo-Saxons (hope that isn’t offensive to anyone), lack the same depth of expressives, I’ve come up with my own:

In my region there are three recognizable seasons:

  • no snow

  • snow

  • mud

Snow terms to consider adopting into the English language:

  • lookitsnow:  first snow of the season–Nov/Dec

  • itzsnowing: comment of the day until January

  • ucksnow:  bridge between Jan/Feb when people begin getting weary of shoveling, scraping, and slipping around in the stuff

  • snizzle: the on off dance of snow and rain found in Jan/Feb

  • snain: a more serious form of snizzle

  • smush: slushy snow of Feb/Mar

  • smud: ground showing with snow patches, squashy walking usually around Feb/Mar

  • ohnosnow: snow when daffs coming up and flakes coming down in Mar/April

  • nomohsnow: snowfall and meltaway tease of April/May

I’m hoping the smush will quickly melt and we can get Spring back on track soon. Until then–

Wishing for Blue Skies
Cricket Muse

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12 thoughts on “The Language of Snow

  1. Haha! As a native of Perth, Western Australia which never gets snow (in fact I’ve never even seen snow in person) this was a fascinating insight into that mysterious cold stuff 😉 I had of course heard the old fact/myth/rumor that Eskimos have over 100 words for snow, but I never knew they went into so much detail! I especially liked ertla (snow used by Eskimo teenagers for exquisite erotic rituals); tla-na-na (snow mixed with the sound of old rock and roll from a portable radio); and tlarin (snow that can be sculpted into the delicate corsages Eskimo girls pin to their whale parkas at prom time). I never even fathomed that such things existed!

    Thanks for enlightening me on the subject of snow, and introducing me to your invented snow terms – I hope they catch on.

    • The English snow list is brilliant so I’m wondering if bookpolygamist could come up with a matching list based on the word hot to suit an Australian summer ! E.g. hothu = hot and humid.
      phot = perth hot
      mhot = melbourne hot – not as hot as phot.

      • Perfect! Every region could have its own unique weather language!!

      • Haha! That’s a great idea lazycoffees! I love phot and mhot 🙂 shot (sydney hot – not as hot as perth) should also be one as recently I was chatting to my friend who has just moved from Perth to Sydney, and remarked that it had been really hot over here (a length of about 4 or 5 days over 40 degrees C) and he commented “it’s been a bit hot over here too.” Sydney’s maximum that day was the same as Perth’s minimum -_-

    • Upon research the Inuit snow terms is considered an elaborate hoax–still delightful though. Mine is unfortunately exacting and truthful. Snain, anyone?

      • Oh what a shame its a hoax! A pretty successful one though as its pretty much “common knowledge” – whoever decided to start it must have had a good laugh at all us silly non-Inuits who fell for it!

  2. What a delightful blog! If it helps, a hoard of robins left here about four days ago. They stopped to eat some native berries. They are winging their way north!

  3. “Snow, No Snow, Mud?” Oh, dear. Where are you living, Cricket?

  4. This is great! I’m getting tired of the snow too but now with my new extended snow vocabulary, I have reason to be enthused once again. Thank you for making the last few weeks of Winter tolerable!

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