Saturday, February 24, 2018

How we describe snow

In the night, secretly, while the city slept and not a soul was watching, it snowed. People like the word "blanket", and it's not a bad one, though it's overused and deceptively warm. "Five inches" tends to be too technical a term to grasp properly. "Shovelable" is imprecise, and "bad enough for people to break out their snowblowers" is too idiosyncratic and suburban. I was looking out the window at dawn and the snow clung to every fenceline and every tiny branch of every tree, and it was beautiful. So I thought "a snow that became the top half of everything." And then a great gust of wind came, the world occluded in white for a second, and that was done.

One periodically hears it bandied about, in essays not totally dissimilar from this one, though all of them hopefully slightly worse, how the Eskimos have 50 different words for snow. I don't know. We may not be living above the Arctic Circle here in Minnesota, but we have our fair share of snow. I am guessing that the truth is that the Eskimos have just the same number of words for snow as we do; none.

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