The Grammar of Winter

For today’s lesson in conjugation (no, not that, try to concentrate) we bring you the word snow.

  • I am stuck in the snow.
  • You are covered with snow.
  • He, she, or it tracked snow into the house.
  • We are snowed in.
  • You (pl.) are digging your car out of the snow.
  • They spread salt on the snow.
  • It snows.
  • It is snowing.
  • It snowed.
  • It will snow.
  • It has been snowing.
  • It will never stop snowing.

Proper use in conversation:

Snow is identical in formal and demotic use, because it catches up with you no matter who you are or what you were planning on doing. It is proper to discuss snow with elders and formal relations as well as with friends or strangers. Examples:

  • “Good morning, Mr. Burns. Sorry I’m late; it is because of the snow. The train from Brooklyn was delayed. Do you have any donuts?”
  • “Dude, snow got in my shoes and my socks are soaking.”
  • “Hi, is this Keira Knightley? Yes, I’m just calling to make sure that you don’t need any help with the snow and all, like if you need groceries or firewood or — hello? Hello?”


[Middle English, from Old English snw. See sneigwh- in Indo-European Roots.]

snow - n. Frozen precipitation in the form of white or translucent hexagonal ice crystals that fall in soft, white flakes. A falling of snow; a snowstorm. Something resembling snow, as: The white specks on a television screen resulting from weak reception. A big-ass fucking pile of snow, all over the goddam place.

snow - v. tr. To cover, shut off, or close off with snow: We were snowed in. Slang. To overwhelm with insincere talk, especially with flattery. To overwhelm: I was snowed under with work. To defeat by a very large margin: Not only is it snowing, but that buffoon is President. To conceal one’s true motives, especially by elaborately feigning good intentions so as to gain an end. See: billions, Halliburton. [syn: bamboozle, hoodwink, pull the wool over someone's eyes, lead by the nose, play false]

Pierre on snow.

Public Service Announcement:

You know that business about how the Inuit (ex-Eskimo) have 150 words, or 200 words, or 400 words, or whatever, to describe snow? It’s not exactly an urban legend — it’s a bit more complex than that — but it’s not true either. Not true (and also not true in an update from yesterday). Not true. Not true. Not true.

With sincere apologies to, which supplied some of the grist for the Definitions.

About Linus

The man behind the curtain. But couldn't we get a nicer curtain?
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5 Responses to The Grammar of Winter

  1. deano says:

    Yeah, but we still only have one word for ‘snow.’ Unless you consider it as just one form of ‘ice’ - frozen H20. In which case, ‘snow’ is then only one of several alternatives, including: frost, hail, sleet, glacier…

    Thanks to ‘This Cold Heaven’ by Gretel Ehrlich, you might want to try pronouncing these Inuktun words for ice (recommend you first apply chap-stick):

    qirihuq, qirititat
    nilak, nilaktaqtuq
    hiku, hikuaq, hikuaqtuaq, hikuiqihuq, hikurhuit, hikuqihuq, hikuliaq, hikup hinaa
    manillat, manirak
    ilu, iluliaq, ilulissirhuq

  2. Linus says:

    As is pointed out elsewhere, English actually has a bunch of snow “words” — and one of the problems in comparing languages is in determining what precisely constitutes a “word.” When you get to snow lexemes (lexeme = “The fundamental unit of the lexicon of a language,” per, which are snow-content-ideas, there are many. Here’s a list from the link above:

    blowing snow
    ice lens
    igloo (Inuit iglu ‘house’)
    pingo (Inuit pingu(q) ‘ice lens’)
    snow bank
    snow cornice
    snow fort
    snow house
    snow man

    Apples, oranges, and icicles, no doubt.

  3. Harvey says:

    “Not only is it snowing, but that buffoon is President”

    For me, that’s a feature, not a bug, but that’s still a great line :-D

  4. Linus says:

    Ah, Harvey. Some morning you’ll wake up, stretch, look out the window, and think to yourself: “Zounds! Linus was right all along.”

  5. Harvey says:

    Entirely possible, although I fear it’ll be purely a result of the Alzheimer’s :-)

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