Saturday, October 17, 2009

182 Words For Snow.



I have recently heard many people say to me after a discussion of skiing; “You know the Eskimo’s have ____(Insert any number) words for snow and the English language has only a few…” I decided to research this assertion, as it seemed to me to maybe be a myth.

After some google searches and some e-mail to Inuit language and cultural sites I have learned some interesting things.
First, to be properly correct the term is “INUIT” and not “ESKIMO”. Even the term “Inuit” does not cover all the indigenous people found in the northern latitudes. It is a very rich, fascinating and diverse culture with many languages and dialects. There are some very talented and learned people who are trying to preserve these cultures and languages all over the world. I post this not to take anything away from their culture but instead to dispel any stereotypes that we may be inadvertently perpetuating.

Secondly, it [b]IS[/b] a myth that the inutitut (or Inuktitut) language has many words for snow. They really only have a few base words for snow. Their language, like ours, depends on the use of qualifiers, prepositions and adjectives surrounding the word “snow” to describe the various conditions encountered in a snow and ice environment.

The general word for snow in inutitut is “APUT” or “APUTI” (and is a popular romantic name for someone who has been born in the winter) Recently drifted snow is “AKEOLRAL” or “PERKSERTOK”. The verb “to snow” is “GANIK.”

One reason for the perpetuation of this myth is from journalists who jump on this inaccuracy to help make a humorous point. This trend can be found in an interesting list compiled by linguist Mark Liberman . He documents this myth from articles he has found that lists the number of words the Inuit allegedly have for snow from 20 to 100 words. ([url]http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~pullum/eskimo_quotes.html[/url])

So lets bust this myth and remind people that backcountry snow enthusiasts have many more words for snow than anybody!

Below is OUR vocabulary list that skiers and riders use at any given time to describe the snow around where we live and play. I have compiled 94 words/phrases from several sources (99 if you include the above Inuit words): Telemark Tips message forums (of course,) Weather.com glossary of meteorological terms, and Snow Sense- avalanche primer, as well as from my own observations in my daily conversations with skier-types. There are several words/phrases for the same type of snow condition, some foreign words that have entered popular lexicon, local colloquialisms, and a bunch of snow-science terms that are used when describing avalanche and snowpack conditions. My only criteria was that is a solid or near solid - water-based substance or condition that a person can access or travel across.

If you have any additions I would love to include them. I would like to get the list to 200 or more. If for no other particular reason other than to be able to respond to the myth about “Eskimo words” with: “Skiers have 200 words for snow - whereas the Inuit’s actually have just a few.” Of course this is not a competition, any person from any culture will generally have around a dozen personal words for snow-like conditions. But skiers and riders have a bigger personal snow vocabulary than most anyone for sure!

1. POWDER
2. CHAMPAIGN POWDER
3. PACKED POWDER
4. CARDBOARD POWDER
5. LOUD POWDER
6. COLDSMOKE POWDER
7. CONSOLIDATED COLD POWDER
8. DRY POWDER
9. SPRING POWDER
10. BLOWER POWDER
11. STELLAR POWDER
12. FLUFFY POWDER
13. FEATHER POWDER
14. NECTAR OF THE GODS
15. KOOTENAY GOLD
16. WHITE GOLD
17. BUTTER LOVE
18. POWDAH!
19. POW-POW
20. POW
21. SNORKEL SNOW
22. LE POUD
23. POUF DEVILLE
24. FRESHIES
25. PILLOWS
26. SILK
27. FAIRY DUST
28. CHALK
29. CHOWDER
30. CHUNDER
31. CORDUROY
32. ON-PISTE
33. OFF-PISTE
34. GROOMERS
35. MAN-MADE SNOW
36. MACHINE GROOMED GRANULAR
37. NATURAL SNOW
38. STOPGO SNOW
39. SUGAR SNOW
40. EGO SNOW
41. BONER SNOW
42. SCHMOO
43. SCHNEE
44. ELMERS
45. STYROFOAM
46. CREAMY
47. GLAZED
48. CAKE FLOUR
49. BRULEE
50. OATMEAL
51. MUSHROOMS
52. SOUR CREAM
53. SHAVING CREAM
54. COTTAGE CHEESE
55. CREAMY BUTTER
56. SPONGE CAKE
57. SLURPEE
58. SHERBET
59. MASHED POTATOES
60. MERINGUE
61. HARDPACK
62. BOILER PLATE
63. RUTT PLATE
64. BULLETPROOF
65. PORCELAIN
66. ICE
67. CLEAR ICE
68. BLACK ICE
69. BLUE ICE
70. ICE LENSE
71. NEW SNOW
72. OLD SNOW
73. LOOSE SNOW
74. WET SNOW
75. MOIST SNOW
76. ROTTEN SNOW
77. MANK
78. CRUD
79. BABYHEADS
80. FROZEN CHICKEN HEADS
81. DEATH CANTALOPES
82. DEATH COOKIES
83. MORTALITY BISCUITS
84. CORAL REEF
85. SIERRA CEMENT
86. CASCADE CONCRETE
87. DINNER PLATE CRUST
88. DEATH CRUST
89. WIND CRUST
90. KILLER CRUST
91. BREAKABLE CRUST
92. FACETED CRUST
93. RAIN CRUST
94. SUN CRUST
95. FURROWED CRUST
96. DUST ON CRUST
97. MELT-FREEZE CRUSTS
98. RADIATION RECRYSTALLIZED CRUSTS
99. NEAR WET LAYER CRUSTS
100. WIND PACK
101. WIND AFFECTED
102. WIND DEPOSITED
103. SPINDRIFT
104. RUNNELED
105. HARD SLAB
106. SOFT SLAB
107. WET SLAB
108. VARIABLE
109. CHOPPED / CHOP
110. CHUNKY
111. STICKY
112. BOOTABLE
113. GOOD PACKING
114. QUARRYABLE
115. SPARKLY
116. FIRM
117. SNOT
118. ELEPHANT SNOT
119. PENETENTES
120. SASTRUGI
121. PINWHEELS
122. FIRN
123. FIRNSPIEGEL
124. SLUSH
125. SLOP
126. GLOP
127. GLIT (GLOP+SHIT)
128. GRAUPEL
129. CHOSS
130. SLEET
131. HAIL
132. FROZEN RAIN
133. ICE PELLETS
134. BLOWING SNOW
135. HORIZONTAL SNOW
136. DRIFTING SNOW
137. LAKE EFFECT SNOW
138. ROLLED SNOW
139. THUNDER SNOW
140. UNMETAMORPHOSED NEW SNOW
141. ERASER SNOW
142. REFRIGERATOR SNOW
143. YELLOW SNOW
144. PINK SNOW
145. BROWN SNOW
146. SPRING CORN
147. DRY CORN
148. HOLLOW CORN
149. HERO CORN
150. SLOUGH / SLUFF
151. GRANULAR
152. FROZEN GRANULAR
153. CRYSTALINE
154. BOTTOMLESS MUSH
155. SUN-CUPS
156. SUN BLASTED
157. WIND DEPOSIT
158. SURFACE HOAR
159. DEPTH HOAR
160. HOAR FROST
161. NEAR SURFACE FACETS
162. INTERMEDIATE FACETS
163. ADVANCED FACETS
164. NEAR WET LAYER FACETS
165. NEAR CRUST FACETS
166. SHARP EDGE CRYSTALS
167. FACETED GRAINS
168. ROUNDED GRAINS
169. WET GRAINS
170. CUPPED GRAINS
171. STELLARS
172. SPATIAL DENDRITES
173. NEEDLES
174. CAPPED COLUMNS
175. HEXAGONAL PLATES
176. SQUARES
177. RIME
178. CONSOLIDATED SNOWPACK
179. TENDER SNOWPACK
180. AVALANCHE DEBRIS
181. NEVE
182. APATI

Did I miss any?

If you name your dog or first-born “Aputi” as a result of this post - let me know!

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