Snow Revisited & Etymology (Not Really)

When did this snow start? I thought it happened a week ago. I asked Better Half, “Wasn’t the day before the ice storm?”

“No, it was Epiphany,” he replied.

Epiphany? January 6th? Thank goodness I suffer from snow-picture compulsion. It was, in fact, the 9th.

We have had a solid month of snow, off and on with a few hours of thaw between. Our driveway bears witness to our futile attempts at making it a safe and happy place for walking or parking. It’s now a winter wonderland of jagged spikes of ice lying between crunchy patches of snow.

Tlapa is powder snow in the Eskimo language. We have tlapa that is quickly turning into slimta, which is snow that is crusted on stop by soft underneath. I’ve never been fond of slimta as I end up with jatla (snow between the toes.)

The Pomeranian enjoys her romp in the yard and comes in with dinliltla (tiny balls of snow that cling to husky fur, but I’ll exercise a bit of literary license here.) The quinyaya, or snow mixed with dog excrement, is nasty to look at but at least was hidden in the tlayopi in the last tlamo, or snow that fell in large wet flakes. (Tlayopi are snow drifts that you fall into and die.)

I’m joking. These words are from a satirical list.

Franz Boaz, an anthropologist from the early 1900’s, mentioned that the Inuit had four unique works for “snow”. Humans, being somewhat inane, added to it until it was surmised that the Inuit must have at least five hundred words for snow.

They do not.

Phil James wrote an article for the online ezine, Word, entitled “The Eskimos’ Hundred Words for Snow”; the source of my bogus Inuit words above. His work is absolute satire but I wonder how many people will take it to heart (Gospel truth, no less) one hundred years from now?

There are Inuit words, of course. Some sound the same whilst others do not. People often think that a language should have unique (unrelated) words for every single thing when in fact there is a common root word for each.


Information obtained from the Online Etymology Dictionary
cata - from Gk. kata-, before vowels kat-. Its principal sense is "down," but with occasional senses of "against" or "wrongly." Also sometimes used as an intensive. Most Eng. words with this prefix were borrowed through L. after 1500; e.g. catalectic (1589) "wanting a syllable in the last foot."

Catapult 1577, from L. catapulta "war machine for throwing," from Gk. katapeltes, from kata "against" + base of pallein "to toss, hurl." The verb is first recorded 1848.

Catalogue 1460, from L.L. catalogus, from Gk. katalogos "a list, register," from kata "down, completely" + legein "to say, count" (see lecture). The verb is first attested 1598.

But none of these are in relation to
Catamaran 1673, from Tamil kattu-maram "tied wood," from kattu "tie" + maram "wood, tree."

Or cat, the beast that goes meow and scratches my furniture.

Which brings me (in a round about way) to the Inuit and snow. A native speaker of Inuktitut will gladly tell you that there are many expressions regarding snow and all apply to what the snow would do. Snow drift, snow plow, snow fall, snow glare, snowman, snow angel, snowball, snowed over, crunchy snow, white snow, yellow snow, blizzard, fluffy snow flakes, small snow flakes, snow mixed with ice. There are many descriptive phrases in the English language for snow and snow-related snow-isms. I’m not trying to pull a snow job on you. So too do the Inuit have their own way of communicating. You can Phil’s list as well as an Inuit list at The Bemused Muse: The Words for Snow Question Answered.

In short:
apun/aput means “snow on the ground'”

Qanik' means “snow/snow-flake”

Qanik - snow
Qaniktuq – it’s snow

The point isn’t to draw attention to the etymology found in Inuktitut. It is not to show you how people misconstrue satire as fact. It is a grumble about snow.

Did you actually think that I had a point to all this? I'm probably wrong about the entire Inuit language. HA! That would suck.

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