Many Words for Snow

More than once over the past month, I have paused while shoveling to catch my breath and try by force of will to stave off the by now inevitable shoveling induced massive coronary event I’m overdue for to consider that old Franz Boaz old chestnut, ‘The Inuit have over fifty words for snow’.

There’s been a great deal of scholarly debate over the years regarding the veracity of this statement and many only slightly smaller debates over who the hell Franz Boaz was and who had to die so he could become king of statements about snow. Apparently he was some sort of very big deal Anthropologist and Linguist and my guess is he could afford to have someone do his shoveling for him. His name rang a dim, college related bell when I found it during a Google search for Eskimo snow words, but a lot of smartypants crap rings a dim college related bell for me, and when it does, I tend to salivate a little and use my hand held remote device to see if any shows I like have new episodes ‘on demand’.

Many scholars believe the Boaz statement to be ‘crap’, and that the Inuit language has at best five words for ‘snow’, roughly the same amount as English. ‘Hold on there, first argument’ the second argument responds, ‘that may or may not be so, but the fact is there are five Eskimo languages, and all of them are very different from our own in terms of tonality definition and lexenes’, two concepts I barely understand but found during the same Google search that yielded the name ‘Franz Boaz’.

Both arguments hold a certain degree of interest, by which I mean they are not interesting at all. More importantly, they both miss the point. It doesn’t matter exactly how many words the Inuit, or all the various Eskimo languages and dialects combined have for snow. The point is they have a bunch, because they see a lot of snow all the time so it holds cultural importance for them and they observe it keenly enough that a large vocabulary is required to adequately describe it. Even if the statement turns out to be technically false, the point is true. If that’s possible. I think it might be.

That being said, it occurred to me that residents of the Northeastern United States living through the record breaking winter of 2015 could learn a lot from our Eskimo cousins, who have basically lived through this winter pretty much every winter they’ve been alive and regard our whining with the sort of contempt usually reserved for people behind bullet proof glass panels during the Nuremberg trials. It was easy, standing there leaning on my shovel, sweating despite the sub zero wind chill and against all odds not dropping immediately dead the way any normal man who cannot do even five ‘lady’ push ups would after shoveling sixteen hours straight without even a pee break, to imagine you nodding your heads in agreement with the sentiment expressed at that beginning of the paragraph which I was imagining or perhaps hallucinating eventually writing. What was not easy to imagine was you looking up the damn Eskimo words on your own, so I’ve done it for you. You can thank me later by shoveling my driveway. I’m not sure there are exactly fifty words. I did not count and I’m not going to. You do it. Do something, for god’s sake.

Qanik snow falling

Aputi snow on the ground

Pukak crystalline snow on the ground

Aniu snow used to make water

Siku icy snow in general

Siku-tik snow so icy it’s pretty much just ice

Nilak freshwater icy snow, for drinking, but melt it first or you’ll choke, ha-ha, 
 EJK (Eskimo just kidding)

Qinu slushy ice by the sea, don’t drink it, it’s sandy and salty, try the nilak, it’s
way better

Kaneq a lot of snow

Kaneq-uk a whole lot of snow

Kaneq-mek so much damn snow it makes Kaneq-uk look like Qanik

Kaneq-il a butt load of snow

Kanevlukk it stopped snow- no wait it’s snowing again

Kanensir that kind of snow where you think it stopped snowing but really you just passed out for a moment or maybe had a little stroke.

Muranuaq the snow that makes you wish you had a time machine so you could go back to last winter and slap the bejesus right out of out of the younger you right after he said ‘I am totally buying a
snow blower before next winter’

Qetrar punk ass tiny bullets of snow that sting the crap out of your face every time
the wind picks up like a friggin’ sand blaster made of ice.

nutaryuk wet, heavy snow that makes you have a heart attack when you shovel it.

Nutvaq light fluffy snow that weighs almost nothing, but so much of it you have a heart attack shoveling it anyway

Nevluk snow the exact whiteness of death, a welcome state known for it’s general lack of shoveling

Q’nyq snow that uses the letter ‘q’ twice but has no ‘u’ in it at all.

Qengaruk God damn snow

Apshupteq F-ing snow

Puqtanukeq Snow that makes you cry and cry and cry while your bastard neighbor runs his monster, industrial snowblower and pretends he can’t hear you and then he has a heart attack and you feel better for a moment until you realize that while you were hunkered down weeping the snow melted right through your jeans and now the place where you remember your ass was is just an ill defined numb area that is nonetheless entirely comprised of hellishly stinging ice bees.

A’qaniak Not so much snow as tiny crystalline heart attacks falling out of the sky by the uncountable bazillions

Muqtekniyak Snowflakes that you know damn well are exactly the same as billions of other snow flakes no
matter what ivory tower eggheads with their armies of shovel-slave grad students tell you.

Fektekmekek Snow that makes you want to pound every a-hole who ever said anything about global warming

Fiktikmikik Snow that makes you want to pound every a-hole who doesn’t understand that ‘global’ warming is ‘global’, not just wherever the hell you live, and so liable to make for
all sorts of changes in local weather including ALL THIS FUCKING SNOW!

Fuktukmukuk Snow that makes you want to pound any old a-hole within pounding distance of your pounder.

Qiq Snow that turns into ‘ice dams’, something you never heard of before this winter and have no idea what to do about beyond vague ‘tips’ you get on the internet, all of which assume you are
eighteen feet tall or able to fly so you can get near enough to theses ‘ice dams’ to do anything more effective than stand in your driveway looking at them through your tears.

Muk Snow of a quality so cutting, hilarious and insightful that you can end a list with it brilliantly enough to distract people from your ‘lazy man’s list based comedy’.


2 thoughts on “Many Words for Snow

  1. Max,
    Loved your write-up on the “S” word….BTW I just learned the Am Sign Language for Roof collapse….one can learn even if stuck in the G.D. house for 2-3 days!!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s