Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Ten Ways to Say Snow

The headline of Smartmom's previous post: "In NY There Must be 40 Words for Depression" was a reference to a popular urban myth that people love to bandy about: the number of words in the Eskimo language for snow.

Well, it turns out that there aren't 40 words for snow in Eskimo. That little fictitious factoid was introduced in 1911 by anthropologist Franz Boas. According to a web site called everything2.org: "Boas references to the snow words were used as evidence of a link between language categories and thought."

Even if there are not 40 words, there are still a good many words for snow in Eskimo (Inuit to be exact). And here they are:

* 'ice' sikko
* 'bare ice' tingenek
* 'snow (in general)' aput
* 'snow (like salt)' pukak
* 'soft deep snow' mauja
* 'snowdrift' tipvigut
* 'soft snow' massak
* 'watery snow' mangokpok
* 'snow filled with water' massalerauvok
* 'soft snow' akkilokipok

Smartmom still thinks that there are probably 40 words for depression in New York City.


At 10:47 PM, Blogger Udge said...

Read Peter Hoeg's novel "Miss Smilla's Sense of Snow" for about a dozen more. One definition that sticks in my mind is "a snowdrift that has been formed by wind into the shape of a duck's head".


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