It is commonly said that Inuit peoples have half a hundred words for “snow.” I am suspicious, actually. I am wary of any figure that seems too quotable (50, not 47 or 53) and that doesn’t follow the logic—we are, after all, talking about several languages, and I have read that some of the words distinguish between falling snow and snow on the ground—we distinguish among them, too, by using adjectives like “falling” and “on the ground.” Be that as it may, there are apparently a goodly number of snow descriptions and synonyms. But I don’t know if any of them apply this season, which is actually still fall.
The advent of large amounts of the white stuff before Thanksgiving was unusual, putting Vermont over the top for the snowiest November ever. I can never remember that either my kids or I ever had a snow day before Thanksgiving and very few before Christmas, and that more for freezing rain than snow. Mt. Mansfield has its deepest snow ever for this time of year. I am stymied because I have a bag of daffodil bulbs that I’d counted upon planting the end of November. I’m not sure if there is any next step for them—the snow (on the ground!) seems determined to stay around, and by now the ground may be frozen. In addition there were no little storms on which to build gradually my snow shoveling muscles. Cold and lame aren’t the best combinations, although I am not alone. Many people had appointments to get their snow tires on but were stuck, waiting it out.
South and west have been slammed this week. California may have less trouble with water next summer as the snow pack in the mountains is about twice that of last year. North Carolina friends are insulted because they went to NC to escape the snow! My ability to sympathize is somewhat limited, no offense. Naturally there are tons of people crowing about the idiocy of the idea of global warming. Just look at all that snow, they cry. And there are the folks in SUVs and four-wheel drives and all that who tell the rest of us how to drive. My friend Mary says you can tell who has these things as they are further off the sides of the road than regular drivers. I can remember when everyone around here had tire chains. They gave a lot of traction but were not convenient – I remember times when Dad had to get out of the car and put them on when we were part way to Gram’s. I haven’t seen a tire chain in years, except on logging trucks.
Ski resorts are happy, of course. Skiers have words of their own for significant snow types: powder, corn, Styrofoam, granular and so on. The sport probably gives rise to at least as many terms as any one Northern language has (full disclosure: That is a guess. My research is wildly limited, and I will admit it. Unlike some … ) I don’t know if the Inuits have any words for “snow way too early,” or “get-out-the-tire-chains snow.” They probably do for granular or corn snow, but then, so do we. Early snow, late snow, bulb-planting defying snow, wet snow, cold snow and a million or so more words and terms exist. This may be the winter that uses them all! Heavy snow, light snow, fluffy snow, great-for-making-snowmen snow.
Beautiful snow, lovely cold-insulation snow, sweet making-the-maple-trees-happy snow, watering California snow, $^$#@ snow … plus whatever number of Inuit words from Alaska, French words, Spanish words abound. Snow R Us – we are used to it by now, I think. Happy snow!