alking down the street, listening to music, and admiring the colours of the autumn! Ah, beautiful! But then in a blink of an eye…you hear Mariah Carey’s voice and you know that the magic of the winter is about to knock on your door! I would say: Let it snow! They say that a snowflake is winter’s butterfly! As a child born in the heart of the winter, I have always had just about a single wish of snow on the morning of my birthday. Thus, it does not come as a surprise that I remember around a quarter of the many Scottish expressions for snow. As a matter of fact, Scots have just about 421 words for SNOW! Yes! 421… that are known of! Imagine, there must be more!
A study by the University of Glasgow said that the array of different words demonstrated how important it was for previous generations to warn one another about potentially hazardous conditions. Thus, they have words to describe each and every type of snow, ranging from rain-like snow to white puffy snow, and a light snowfall! Impressive isn’t it!?
Some examples include sneesl (to start raining or snowing); feefle (to swirl); flinkdrinkin (a light snow), flukra (snow falling in large flakes), and spitters (small drops or flakes of wind-driven snow and rain), reflecting upon the changing weather.
You must be asking yourself why they have so many expressions of snow. Dr Susan Rennie will provide an answer to your question in a heartbeat!
“Weather has been a vital part of people’s lives in Scotland for centuries. The number and variety of words in the language show how important it was for our ancestors to communicate about the weather, which could so easily affect their livelihoods,”Dr Susan Rennie, lecturer in English and Scots Language at the University of Glasgow.
The thesaurus is based on the content of the Dictionary of the Scots Language, although researchers are also appealing to members of the public to come forward with suggestions for words that have not yet been included. Happily, they always welcome those who aim to enrich the thesaurus with previously unknown words. Furthermore, you are also welcome to send pictures and illustrations which help to describe certain words. Of course…that is needed when you have 421 words for the symbol of the winter!
“There may be other words out there that we are not yet aware of, and that is where we would welcome the support of the public. If they use or remember words for particular sports or weather, we would love to hear about them. We also welcome photographs, which can be uploaded to our website. We already have some images online to illustrate Scots words for clouds, for example, but we would like more to make this a fully-illustrated thesaurus.”Dr Rennie
Do you want to be further surprised?
The Historical Thesaurus of Scots added a whole section on their website that is dedicated to “Snow & Sheep”. Yes, sheep! There was a story of a heroic sheep that pushes through the snow to save his friends from starvation. The Scots language that’s said to be a dialect of English, has been recognised as “an integral part of Scotland’s distinctive culture and heritage” by Scotland’s nationalist government. It is classed as one of Scotland’s three main languages, alongside English and Gaelic.
Name one out of the 7,100 spoken languages that would not be enriched by “snaw-ghaist” — an apparition seen in the snow — or “snaw-breaker“?
“It sounds like it’s going to be a snow plow,” Rennie said. “But in fact, it’s a word for a sheep that breaks a path through the snow for its fellow sheep to follow.”
Sadly, despite its richness, a 2010 Scottish Government report titled Public Attitudes Towards the Scots Language revealed that 64 percent do not consider Scots a language. After more than 400 known expressions of snow… Unimaginable! That’s precisely why I devoted time to writing this piece for you to know of the beauty of this underappreciated language and its many expressions of snow. Let it snow with knowledge!
“I exist here, now. I’m not much interested in the future. Or, more precisely put, I do not believe in the future. To exaggerate a little, I have no faith that I will still exist tomorrow or the day after. What is more, I absolutely detest retrospection. That dislike is balances only by my desire to make my way back home as quickly as possible.”– Yohji Yamamoto