Monday, 18 October 2010

The Eskimos' Hundred Words for Snow

Via Yahoo! Answers via The Eskimos' Hundred Words for Snow, Phil James's lovely (and lyrical) satire on the much-debunked 1 but still-repeated myth that Inuit has vast number of words for snow.

tlapa: powder snow
tlacringit: snow that is crusted on the surface
kayi: drifting snow
tlapat: still snow
klin: remembered snow
naklin: forgotten snow
tlamo: snow that falls in large wet flakes
tlatim: snow that falls in small flakes
tlaslo: snow that falls slowly
tlapinti: snow that falls quickly
kripya: snow that has melted and refrozen
tliyel: snow that has been marked by wolves
tliyelin: snow that has been marked by Eskimos
blotla: blowing snow
pactla: snow that has been packed down
hiryla: snow in beards
wa-ter: melted snow
tlayinq: snow mixed with mud
quinaya: snow mixed with Husky shit
quinyaya: snow mixed with the shit of a lead dog
slimtla: snow that is crusted on top but soft underneath
kriplyana: snow that looks blue in the early morning
puntla: a mouthful of snow because you fibbed
allatla: baked snow
fritla: fried snow
gristla: deep fried snow
MacTla: snow burgers
jatla: snow between your fingers or toes, or in groin-folds
dinliltla: little balls of snow that cling to Husky fur
sulitlana: green snow
mentlana: pink snow
tidtla: snow used for cleaning
ertla: snow used by Eskimo teenagers for exquisite erotic rituals
kriyantli: snow bricks
hahatla: small packages of snow given as gag gifts
semtla: partially melted snow
ontla: snow on objects
intla: snow that has drifted indoors
shlim: slush
warintla: snow used to make Eskimo daiquiris
mextla: snow used to make Eskimo Margaritas
penstla: the idea of snow
mortla: snow mounded on dead bodies
ylaipi: tomorrow's snow
nylaipin: the snows of yesteryear ("neiges d'antan")
pritla: our children's snow
nootlin: snow that doesn't stick
rotlana: quickly accumulating snow
skriniya: snow that never reaches the ground
bluwid: snow that's shaken down from objects in the wind
tlanid: snow that's shaken down and then mixes with sky-falling snow
ever-tla: a spirit made from mashed fermented snow, popular among Eskimo men
talini: snow angels
priyakli: snow that looks like it's falling upward
chiup: snow that makes halos
blontla: snow that's shaken off in the mudroom
tlalman: snow sold to German tourists
tlalam: snow sold to American tourists
tlanip: snow sold to Japanese tourists
protla: snow packed around caribou meat
attla: snow that as it falls seems to create nice pictures in the air
sotla: snow sparkling with sunlight
tlun: snow sparkling with moonlight
astrila: snow sparkling with starlight
clim: snow sparkling with flashlight or headlight
tlapi: summer snow
krikaya: snow mixed with breath
ashtla: expected snow that's wagered on (depth, size of flakes)
huantla: special snow rolled into "snow reefers" and smoked by wild Eskimo youth
tla-na-na: snow mixed with the sound of old rock and roll from a portable radio
depptla: a small snowball, preserved in Lucite, that had been handled by Johnny Depp
trinkyi: first snow of the year
tronkyin: last snow of the year
shiya: snow at dawn
katiyana: night snow
tlinro: snow vapor
nyik: snow with flakes of widely varying size
ragnitla: two snowfalls at once, creating moire patterns
akitla: snow falling on water
privtla: snow melting in the spring rain
chahatlin: snow that makes a sizzling sound as it falls on water
hootlin: snow that makes a hissing sound as the individual flakes brush
geltla: snow dollars
briktla: good building snow
striktla: snow that's no good for building
erolinyat: snow drifts containing the imprint of crazy lovers
chachat: swirling snow that drives you nuts
krotla: snow that blinds you
tlarin: snow that can be sculpted into the delicate corsages Eskimo girls pin to their whale parkas at prom time
motla: snow in the mouth
sotla: snow in the south
maxtla: snow that hides the whole village
tlayopi: snow drifts you fall into and die
truyi: avalanche of snow
tlapripta: snow that burns your scalp and eyelids
carpitla: snow glazed with ice
tla: ordinary snow

1. See particularly Language Log's post by Geoff Pullum, Sasha Aikhenvald on Inuit snow words: a clarification, which explains the core of the problem: that Inuit is a polysynthetic language that uses constructs that are essentially equivalent to phrases or sentences in English, so attempting to count them as if they were single-morpheme 'words' is completely meaninglees.

- Ray

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