Eskimo's '50 words for snow' challenged

From the UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA – BERKELEY, and ‘your tax dollars at work’ department:

Fresh look at trope about Eskimo words for snow

Researchers take on urban legend about Arctic vocabulary

That old trope about there being at least 50 Eskimo words for snow has a new twist.

Researchers at UC Berkeley and Carnegie Mellon University have taken a fresh look at words for snow, taking on an urban legend referred to by some as “the great Eskimo vocabulary hoax.”

But instead of counting the words for snow used by Inuit, Yupik and other natives of the Arctic regions, as others have done, they looked at how people in warmer climates speak of snow and ice compared to their cold-weather counterparts.

“We found that languages from warm parts of the world are more likely to use the same word for snow and ice,” said Alexandra Carstensen, a doctoral student in psychology and co-author of the study published today in the journal PLOS ONE.

The finding that people in warmer regions are less likely to distinguish between ice and snow indirectly supports a claim by anthropologist Franz Boas in 1911 that the words used to describe different types of snow in Arctic languages reflect the “chief interests of a people.”

By the same principle, people in warmer climates, where snow is less of a concern, are less likely to care as much about the difference between snow and ice, and so use one word to describe both, just as Hawaiians use the word hau for snow and ice.

To test that theory, researchers used multiple dictionaries and linguistic and meteorological data — as well as Google Translate and Twitter — to conduct an extensive search for words for snow and ice in nearly 300 diverse languages. They then linked those words to local climates and geography worldwide.

“We wanted to broaden the investigation past Eskimo languages in particular,” said study senior author Charles Kemp, an associate professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon University. “The idea that languages reflect the needs of their speakers is general, and can be explored using data from all over the world.”

The study builds on the team’s previous research showing how language is shaped by our need to communicate precisely and efficiently.

“We think that terms for snow and ice reveal the same basic principle at work, modulated by local communicative need,” said study lead author Terry Regier, a professor of linguistics and cognitive science at UC Berkeley.


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FJ Shepherd
April 15, 2016 5:56 am

I thought the Inuit (Eskimo), had 100 words for snow.

Scottish Sceptic
Reply to  FJ Shepherd
April 15, 2016 9:54 am

But the Scots have over 100 words for rain:
Scots: more words for rain than Eskimos for snow

Mike McMillan
Reply to  Scottish Sceptic
April 15, 2016 10:48 am

Aye, ‘n probly morn tha’ fer ‘grey.’

DD More
Reply to  Scottish Sceptic
April 15, 2016 11:15 am

Scotty, “Rob McKenna had a little book, in which were entered two hundred and thirty-one different types of rain.”
But he is a ‘Rain God’ that the clouds want “to be near him, to love him, to cherish him and to water him”.
So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish.

Reply to  Scottish Sceptic
April 15, 2016 12:38 pm

And the Australians, surely, have over 70 words for vomiting ?

Reply to  Scottish Sceptic
April 15, 2016 3:11 pm

More impressively, the Scots have more than 100 varieties of single-malt whiskey.

John in Oz
Reply to  Scottish Sceptic
April 15, 2016 3:20 pm

richardbriscoe April 15, 2016 at 12:38 pm
And the Australians, surely, have over 70 words for vomiting ?

‘Vomiting’? That makes 71

Terry Gednalske
Reply to  Scottish Sceptic
April 15, 2016 8:17 pm

My wife and I lived in Scotland for two years. As the only Yanks among our group of acquaintanses we were to be the guests of honor at a fourth of July barbecue. The barbecue was to be canceled in case of rain. The morning of the fourth dawned gray and gloomy, progressed into a drizzle, and then to what I as a native of South Dakota, and my wife a native of California considered a substantial rain. It certainly wasn’t “cats & dogs”, not “pitch forks & hammer handles” as my Dad used to say; but a substantial rain nonetheless. We naturally assumed the barbecue was canceled, only to find out the next day that we were the only ones who didn’t attend. It seems that there was no rain, only a “Scottish mist”.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Scottish Sceptic
April 19, 2016 9:57 pm

I didn’t think Australians had 70 words, period.

Jay Hope
Reply to  FJ Shepherd
April 15, 2016 10:16 am

But they won’t need a word for snow in the future, as there won’t be any snow, thanks to AGW.

Reply to  Jay Hope
April 15, 2016 1:41 pm

Hopefully, you forgot the /sarc tag …

Ron Clutz
Reply to  FJ Shepherd
April 15, 2016 11:53 am

A recent lexicon of sea ice terminology in Nunavik (Appendix A of the collective work Siku: Knowing our Ice, 2008) comprises no fewer than 93 different words. These include general appellations such as siku, but also terms as specialized as qautsaulittuq, ice that breaks after its strength has been tested with a harpoon; kiviniq, a depression in shore ice caused by the weight of the water that passed over and accumulated on its surface during the tide; or iniruvik, ice that cracked because of tide changes and that the cold weather refroze.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Ron Clutz
April 19, 2016 9:59 pm

“These include general appellations such as siku, but also terms as specialized as qautsaulittuq, ice that breaks after its strength has been tested with a harpoon”
Actually Ron, that word is uttered when the harpoon separates a couple metatarsals.

george e. smith
Reply to  FJ Shepherd
April 15, 2016 12:15 pm

Is ‘ yellow snow ‘ on the list ??

Jay Hope
Reply to  george e. smith
April 15, 2016 3:59 pm

teapartygeezer, hopefully the perceptive folks on this group (which I would like to think included everyone) are capable of picking up on the sarcastic tone of a post without needing to be led by the nose by means of anything as obvious as a ‘tag’. The English language evolved for many centuries without the need for such things, and as far as I am concerned they have no place.

Reply to  PiperPaul
April 15, 2016 7:28 am

‘None of the below cost any tax dollars to complete’
Damn, that’s too bad. Because when tax dollars are used, we get ten dollars back for every one spent.

Reply to  PiperPaul
April 15, 2016 8:35 am

As pointed out in the Mental Floss article, it would be critically important to have descriptions of snow and especially ice that described potentially life threatening conditions when living day to day in such a hostile environment. Something we moderns rarely have to think about except maybe when on thin ice at say a lake, where a single word might be more efficient than “don’t go, ice is too thin, you might fall through and drown”.
“The linguist K. David Harrison has traveled all over the world studying endangered languages. In his book The Last Speakers, he says it’s a mistake to think that just because people made uninformed and exaggerated claims about Eskimo snow words in the past, the real number must be ordinary and uninteresting.
From what he has seen, “the number of snow/ice/wind/weather terms in some Arctic languages is impressively vast, rich, and complex.” The Yupik, for example, “identify and name at least 99 distinct sea ice formations.” For example, there is a word Nuyileq, meaning “crushed ice beginning to spread out; dangerous to walk on. The ice is dissolving, but still has not dispersed in water, although it is vulnerable for one to fall through and to sink. Sometimes seals can even surface on this ice because the water is starting to appear.”

Reply to  BFL
April 16, 2016 12:47 am

So what’s it mean, then, about what’s important to me that I’ve got:
Cubes, crushed, slushy, “water back” and “rocks” all in relation to only Scotch? For Tequila we add “frosted” and “rim ice” (and even rim salt / ice if you can manage it…) then there’s Gin “shaken not stirred” and shaken over and on it goes…
Now I’m startin’ to wonder just how many words for ice English has? Even “neat” meaning “no ice please and mind that it’s not got any water either…” and more.
Frankly, I’m thinking we could give them E’moes a run for it… Especially if the skiers are included! Powder, kernel, acorn, packed powder, and glaze ice. Slush and mush. And so many more…
Add jewelry and “ice” has a whole ‘nother meaning… clear diamond.
Then for foods we have “creme glace” and sorbet; baked Alaska and even ice cream.
I suspect there’s even a whole lot more… (cubes, crushed, shaved… )

Thorsteinn J.
Reply to  BFL
April 18, 2016 4:31 pm

There is a name for that in Icelandic as well, it’s “Krapi”

April 15, 2016 5:57 am

Which helps to explain why there are 46 words for rain in Scotland

Reply to  thomam
April 15, 2016 6:11 am

And 100 for midges – unfortunately 99 of them are unprintable!

Reply to  thomam
April 15, 2016 7:22 am

My aunt lives in Scotland and the told me that it only rained twice last week… once for three days and once for four.

Reply to  Hivemind
April 15, 2016 9:27 am

Or as they say in British Columbia, it rained for 40 days and 40 nights in the bible, which in BC is a sunny summer.

Jimmy Haigh
April 15, 2016 6:01 am

The Thai word for snow is “hi- maa” and is a Sanskrit word. The same root as “The Himalayas”.
You have to be careful how you say the word because depending on the tone you might be misunderstood and the listener might think you were talking about the nether regions of a female horse – or even a female dog.

Thai Rogue
Reply to  Jimmy Haigh
April 15, 2016 6:22 am

There is no central Thai word for frost as far as I can figure out because the only frost you see in central Thailand is around a chilled bottle of beer. They use a northern dialect word “Meka ning”, that is, a word from an area that has naturally occurring frost. Re tones: yes, don’t overemphasize he, she and yet–it can be embarrassing. Mind you the F word means pumpkin.

Thai Rogue
Reply to  Thai Rogue
April 15, 2016 6:36 am

And ice is literally rendered as “hard water” (nahm kaang) just as calculator is “the machine that thinks of numbers” (kreung kit laak).

Reply to  Jimmy Haigh
April 15, 2016 6:40 am

Once there where a couple, an Englishman and a Finn in Thailand. The englishman tell that Himalaya is high ground and the Finn that it is “korkeaa maata”. So now there is hi-maa in Thai. Just joking (-;

Paul Nevins
April 15, 2016 6:05 am

Your tax dollars at waste

April 15, 2016 6:14 am
The great Eskimo vocabulary hoax
The tale she tells is an embarrassing saga of scholarly sloppiness and popular eagerness to embrace exotic facts about other people’s languages without seeing the evidence. The fact is that the myth of the multiple words for snow is based on almost nothing at all. It is a kind of accidentally developed hoax perpetrated by the anthropological linguistics community on itself.
The original source is Franz Boas’ introduction to The Handbook of North American Indians (1911).

Reply to  ferdberple
April 15, 2016 8:30 am

“The fact is that the myth of the multiple words for snow is based on almost nothing at all. It is a kind of accidentally developed hoax perpetrated by the anthropological linguistics community on itself.”
……. so, a bit like the AGW conjecture then.

Reply to  ferdberple
April 15, 2016 8:31 am

I went here for the same conclusion:

Reply to  ferdberple
April 15, 2016 9:15 am

That paper linked to by Fred Berple is a highly amusing read.

george e. smith
Reply to  ferdberple
April 15, 2016 12:22 pm

I have ” The American Heritage book of Indians. ”
Dunno how factual.

Crispin in Waterloo
April 15, 2016 6:16 am

Mongolians, who are historically more numerous and literate than the Inuit, have been dealing with snow and ice for a long time – about 80,000 years at least according to an anthropologist at the National University of Mongolia. It might surprise some to know that 80,000 years ago people were living in Mongolia during an ice age but it was a lot warmer than Chicago at the time. They have lots of words for snow and ice and variations between, including different weather conditions featuring ice and snow.
One term they do not have is ‘rotten ice’, something unique to the vocabulary of the ‘climate scientist’. Like the Nguni peoples in SE Africa (including the Zulus, Swazis etc) Mongolians have a large number of words for dealing with animals, describing them accurately and separating by those descriptions one goat out of a herd of 400 that does not belong to them. (<< Interpret that sentence with caution!)
The English preoccupation for getting sloshed, pissed, 'four sheets to the wind', has more terms for being intoxicated than the Inuit have for snow! What does this tell us? Can it explain in part the strange other-worldly phenomenon called catastrophic anthropogenic global warming cause by beer-fizz?

Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo
April 15, 2016 6:19 am

One term they do not have is ‘rotten ice’, something unique to the vocabulary of the ‘climate scientist’.

george e. smith
Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo
April 15, 2016 12:25 pm

So what do the Mongolians say you have to do, when the marmots start acting crazy. ??
Did the Mongolians come from the Uzbeki gene that is in all Native Americans. ??

Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo
April 15, 2016 4:42 pm

When isn’t Mongolia warmer than Chicago?

April 15, 2016 6:24 am
The great Eskimo vocabulary hoax

Among the many depressing things about this credulous transmission and elaboration of a false claim is that even if there were a large number of roots for different snow types in some Arctic language, this would not, objectively, be intellectually interesting; it would be a most mundane and unremarkable fact. Horsebreeders have various names for breeds, sizes, and ages of horses; botanists have names for leaf shapes; interior decorators have names for shades of mauve; printers have many different names for different fonts (Caslon, Garamond, Helvetica, Times Roman, and so on), naturally enough. If these obvious truths of specialization are supposed to be interesting facts about language, thought, and culture, then I’m sorry, but include me out.

C.W. Schultz-Lorentzen’s Dictionary of the West Greenlandic Eskimo Language (1927) gives just two possibly relevant roots: qanik, meaning ‘snow in the air’ or ‘snowflake’, and aput, meaning ‘snow on the ground’.

george e. smith
Reply to  ferdberple
April 15, 2016 12:29 pm

Do horse breeders have special words to use for the parts of a horse that are common in Washington DC ??

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  george e. smith
April 16, 2016 3:03 pm

Yes, they’re called Democrats.

Reply to  ferdberple
April 17, 2016 7:00 pm

D. J. Hawkins wins.
Modern Washington will ship ice to Alaska but not let Native Alaskans drill for oil. Somehow this must stop.

April 15, 2016 6:32 am

Eskimo words for snow:
snow, slush, sleet, hail, powder, hard pack, blizzard, flurries, flake, dusting, crust, avalanche, drift, frost, glacier and iceberg, to name but a few.

Reply to  ferdberple
April 15, 2016 6:47 am

snow, snowing, snowed, snowy, snowflake, snowjob.

Reply to  ferdberple
April 15, 2016 7:20 am

Snowball, snowman, avalanche…

Reply to  ferdberple
April 15, 2016 11:15 am

Sound more like a Snowboarders vocabulary.

April 15, 2016 6:36 am

Nothing extraordinary about 50 different word of snow and ice. In Finnish it is a norm:

Reply to  ristoi
April 15, 2016 9:10 am

we have plenty of adjectives to tack in front of a noun 🙂
Being Australian, I’ve use adjectives when I encountered snow (though most people would consider them expletives)

Reply to  Karl
April 15, 2016 11:40 am

So if you write them one after the other without space in the middle, like in thinice, does it count as a new word? Or is it just plain cheating?

george e. smith
Reply to  Karl
April 15, 2016 12:31 pm

Can’t encounter snow in Australia. The grass grows too tall !

April 15, 2016 6:41 am

The Inuit and Yupik languages are polysynthetic. Polysynthetic languages combine a limited set of roots and word endings to create an unlimited set of words…If these word-sentences count as words, then Eskimos don’t just have thousands of words for snow, but for everything.

April 15, 2016 6:43 am

hell we have at least 8 words for snow here in Maine.
snow,monday,tuesday,wednesday,thursday,friday,saturday and sunday.
7 of those words disappear for a few months during the year though.

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  dmacleo
April 15, 2016 7:28 am

Indeed, many in northern climates have colorful, choice words for it. Mostly unprintable.

April 15, 2016 6:43 am

From wikipedia ,a source that is often useful….
“Languages in the Inuit and Yupik language groups add suffixes to words to express the same concepts expressed in English and many other languages by means of compound words, phrases, and even entire sentences. One can create a practically unlimited number of new words in the Eskimoan languages on any topic, not just snow, ……”
Then there are the Canadian words for snow………….55 it seems
And where I live we have one word for snow, that’s “snow” and use it locally maybe once in a lifetime

April 15, 2016 6:44 am

Ain’t a university educashun a wonderful thing?

Not Chicken Little
April 15, 2016 7:22 am

But the Eskimos – and all of us – will soon forget even what “snow” is, according to the climate scam gurus…remember, the warming happens first at the poles!

April 15, 2016 7:25 am

Back in the day when I was an avid downhill skier:
We had a huge number of terms to describe snow and ski conditions. Our vocabulary was intended to accurately convey information and therefor would be considered “techspeak”. We thought it not the least bit unusual that another group living in the cold would also have a rich vocabulary in a topic so near to them.
55 words for snow – well, yes.
On the other Hand:
On my last trip to Barbados, I suggested filling an Ice cooler with snow and paying the air freight. We could then, on arrival, start a snowball fight in the hotel courtyard, right at the poolside swim-up bar. The hotel staff would not have the vocabulary to describe to management what was happening. By the time Security would show up, the evidence would have melted. Perfect.
She thought about it, and said No.
Then she said NO-NO-NO-NO-NO-NO-NO-NO!

george e. smith
Reply to  TonyL
April 15, 2016 12:35 pm

So now you’re an avid Uphill skier ??

Reply to  george e. smith
April 15, 2016 2:49 pm

The alternative is cross-country or Nordic.
Perversely, ski jumping is one of the Nordic disciplines even though it uses steeper hills than most flavors of downhill (Alpine) skiing.

April 15, 2016 7:40 am

..I wonder what the Eskimo name for “STUPID” is ???

george e. smith
Reply to  Marcus
April 15, 2016 12:39 pm

They have at least 535 of them, one for everybody in DC.

Leonard Lane
Reply to  george e. smith
April 15, 2016 11:13 pm

George, those poor Eskimos are missing a few. The number 535 is just a start then there are agencies, services, deputy to the secretary, deputy to the deputy secretary and on and on. Long time ago working at Los Alamos and not being able to keep up with all the deputies to deputies, etc. we just called them deputy do dads.

Bill Posters
April 15, 2016 7:41 am

So in contrast the Eskimos and Inuits probably only have one word for warm/hot/sunny/extreme heat/over 2 degrees/hotter hottest etc etc and this is warm.

Tom Halla
April 15, 2016 7:48 am

I suppose it depends entirely on how one defines “word”. Some languages tend to run modifying words together, and some don’t, so this gets very silly very fast.

Reply to  Tom Halla
April 16, 2016 1:03 am

Actually, in linguistics, a “big deal” is made about deciding “what is a word?”. We don’t think about it much, being raised with printed words and divisions in visual presentation; but in fact, even for English, what is called “Connected Speech” does not have such spaces between the sounds. Nor does old written forms of Egyptian or Greek… So, in fact, “what is a word”? varies a lot, even for things like English where you might think it clear… I’mgonnawuphisass! is how it sounds… so is that one word or 8 or??? Some comedians make a living out of this…

April 15, 2016 8:13 am

They have one word for snow, but 50 different cuss words associated with it. Thereby exceeding the Minnesota vocabulary by three or four, excluding Norwegian loan words.

Steve Lohr
April 15, 2016 8:14 am

Here in Colorado we are waiting for a big dump of “Sierra Concrete”. Only concrete workers and someone who has to shovel spring snow can relate. And, you don’t have to be Inuit or Finnish to comprehend.

David Chappell
April 15, 2016 8:18 am

What perhaps is more surprising is that people in warmer climes who do not encounter the phenomenon have a word for snow at all.

Reply to  David Chappell
April 15, 2016 9:30 am

I remember my brother (at the time a high school drop out) pointing out the fact that my “Classics Illustrated” copy of “The Last of the Mohicans” I was reading back in the 70s was ridiculous, as it had two Native Americans admiring a couple of carved ivory elephants and recognizing they were elephants…
That’s when I started to learn the difference between “education” and “learning”.

Anthea Collins
April 15, 2016 8:28 am

In Britain we have another word for snow … WRONG sort! For when the trains can’t run.

F. Ross
April 15, 2016 9:06 am

“We think that terms for snow and ice reveal the same basic principle at work, modulated by local communicative need,” said study lead author Terry Regier, a professor of linguistics and cognitive science at UC Berkeley.

Well, …duh!

Reply to  F. Ross
April 15, 2016 9:38 am

And for that reason, the ice related vocabulary is rich in northern languages.
I once counted words I know and got something like 40, of which I can translate in English maybe half. For example, blizzard might be a good English word, but to my knowledge it does catch the quality of snow that well. Dry snow in very cold weather and wetter snow in mid cold temperature behave differently. And once it is on ground you need new words.

Reply to  Hugs
April 15, 2016 11:20 am

Blizzard is snow with high wind. Ground blizzard is a blizzard without falling snow and can be worse.

Reply to  Hugs
April 15, 2016 11:58 am

So what is a blizzard without wind? Heavy snowfall?

Reply to  Hugs
April 15, 2016 2:53 pm

Pretty much. There are a couple regional differences in the definition for blizzard. Both require high wind for a minimum amount of time and snow in the air. New or old snow is fine, it just has to be in the air. The east coast definition no longer requires temperature below 20°F.

April 15, 2016 9:29 am

In the absence of written language wouldn’t you be confined to studying the last 100 years or so? Wouldn’t there have been significant evolution of word use over the course of that time?

Reply to  fossilsage
April 15, 2016 9:53 am

The recent changes are usually easy to recognize. The comparative linguistics can go back in time much much more than the era of written language. See for example
It is, however, true that very specific words like ‘wetted and hard-frozen snow on a lake’ may develop faster, say in hundreds of years compared fundamental roots which tend to stay for millennia.

Reply to  fossilsage
April 16, 2016 1:12 am

Varies with the nature of the language. Highly inflected languages (like Latin and Greek and Sanskrit) tend to be “conservative” and change slowly as the same sound (case ending) can apply to dozens or hundreds of words so getting it a little wrong can have a big impact.
Agglutinative languages are much more fee to change as a single word can just shift and as long as everyone except it, that’s fine.
In between are languages with weak inflection (case and gender endings) but not fully agglutinative – things like Spanish and English. Changing modestly fast (though faster for English than Spanish as it is still more inflected than English, though less than Latin…)
So Greek is still recognizable as Greek even with 3000 years of very slow change. English of 500 years ago is not really understood by a modern speaker without some training and experience…

April 15, 2016 9:45 am

A list of Finnish word for different kinds of snow (may not be complete)
Another one (may not be complete either)

Scottish Sceptic
April 15, 2016 9:52 am

Who cares about Eskimos and snow where you living in Scotland:
Scots: more words for rain than Eskimos for snow

Reply to  Scottish Sceptic
April 15, 2016 9:54 am

That’s sad. But if the were to warm, it would become warm rain!

Reply to  Hugs
April 15, 2016 9:55 am

/the world/

Scottish Sceptic
Reply to  Hugs
April 15, 2016 10:31 am

I cannot understand why there are so many different words … when the real difference is between rain that comes down and rain that doesn’t. That is to say …. horizontal rain … rain that no umbrella or even a English raincoat can hold out.

April 15, 2016 10:06 am

I wonder if they were paid by the word.

April 15, 2016 10:47 am

Living in the far north, aka Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, one gets used to discussing a number of topics using a simple descriptive.
e.g., in both Pennsy and Mass, skiing was always used to describe the various methods of plummeting downhill while wearing slats on one’s feet.
While any effort to describe wearing similar foot slats whilst towed by a watercraft absolutely requires the descriptive adjective ‘water’, e.g. ‘water skiing’.
Moving to warmer climes, e.g. Louisiana or Arizona, discussion using the simple descriptive ‘skiing’ always describes getting towed by watercraft. Any and all attempts to describe the winter activity of wearing slats on one’s feet while enjoying an exhilarating terrifying controlled fall on snow/ice absolutely requires the descriptive adjective ‘snow’, e.g. ‘snow skiing’.
Perhaps, I should request a grant to try and find the exact dividing line around the world where North meets South or South meets North?
Then again, there is the rather absurd differences in colloquial language surrounding ‘climate speak’ where vague correlations and loose assumptions means ‘science’ to the inflammatory carbon dioxide groups and ‘utter trash’ the scientifically literate.

April 15, 2016 10:56 am

If we paid for this crap there are probably a limitless number of words for dumbass and sucker.

Geir Nøklebye
April 15, 2016 10:59 am

The Norwegian language has about 400 words for snow and snow related conditions such as weather

April 15, 2016 12:11 pm

Hmmm. Why do you think your tax dollars funded this research? Unless you can provide a link to the paper, it would be difficult to tell. Usually linguistic studies don’t require much of a budget (in the low 10s of thousands of dollars), and there are plenty of private granting orgs who can underwrite this sort of research. Yes, the NSF sometimes funds linguistic research, but I’m sure their social sciences research budget is somewhat less than say the $1.5 Trillion we’ve wasted on developing the F-35–a jet that maybe might just possibly be able to fly this year without crashing. The headline reminds of the Yiddish language which has more words than any language for describing various kinds of unpleasant people–although they haven’t developed a word yet for chronic ax whiners. 😉

April 15, 2016 12:22 pm

sorry for the typo. I meant “chronic tax whiners.” But they do have phrase for someone who whines about their government–shtayer krekhtser. Interesting.

April 15, 2016 12:28 pm

So how many words are there in the English language for scammer? We may need to add some more

April 15, 2016 12:30 pm

When I was studying Chinese at the Defense Language Institute our Mandarin program was a special trial program from Georgetown University Language Resource Center. It was based on the principles of the (in)famous psycholinguistic professor Leonard J. McCaskey. It wasn’t a very good way to learn Chinese but it was interesting the way most every lesson was designed to showcase that a peoples’ language is formed by its environment.

April 15, 2016 3:41 pm

Google translate? Immediate fail in any grade school language class.

NW sage
April 15, 2016 3:59 pm

“We wanted to broaden the investigation past Eskimo languages in particular,”
WHY? [just because you are a psychology professor doesn’t count!]

Alan Ranger
April 15, 2016 4:23 pm

An interesting situation exists for AGW. There must be at least 50 meanings for the words “climate change” and “global warming” in the language of the Warmistas. These rich, universal homonym phrases embrace everything form temperatures going up, down or doing nothing, and on every scale from statistically insignificant to “dangerous so you must pay money now … urgently”. The only thing lacking is a definition not so vague as to be used in some sort of scientific context.

April 15, 2016 7:01 pm

The language of the Eskimo has a complex morphology that makes long words. The thing is that some of the morphemes are akin to adjectives and adverbs. So what we say things like: blowing snow, snow on the ground, snow that crunches when you walk on it, snow that’s good for sledding, powder, dirty snow, deep snow, etc; We could also say we also have at least fifty ways of saying snow.

Reply to  HankHenry
April 15, 2016 7:58 pm

Just think, there are a countably infinite number of words for integers, and an uncountably infinite number of ‘words’ for real numbers.

April 15, 2016 8:05 pm

Skiers have lots of words for snow. Ski resorts only have one: “powder”. Well maybe two, some also use “packed” when they mean “ice”.
How many words are there for “BS”?

Reply to  Toto
April 15, 2016 8:45 pm

Heavy wet snow in the Cascades is called cement and concrete.

April 15, 2016 9:15 pm

I grew up in Switzerland and spent a lot of time in the Alps. In my own german dialect I can easily list 20 words for snow and ice. I would not have to travel 100km to find another two or three dozen of them. So

April 15, 2016 9:35 pm

I wonder how many words climate alarmists have for lying?

Eugene WR Gallun
April 15, 2016 11:37 pm

Long long ago, in a place far far away, I skimmed an article that debunked “50 words for snow”. The false assumption was that each of the 50 words described a different type of snow providing distinct information about it. Not the case at all.
Using an English example since I don’t do Eskimo — what is the difference between “powder snow” and “dry snow”? You can find dictionary definitions of each where the other phrase is used to define it. Now you can make the claim that “powder snow places an emphasis on the physicality of the snow while “dry snow” places an emphasis on the free water content of the snow — but HELL, they both describe exactly the same type of snow!
The Eskimo language, like English, is filled with such redundancies which the naive (or paper hungry) researchers claimed had separate meanings. I think the conclusion of the debunking article was that the Eskimo language had about as many “real defining words” to describe snow as did English — meaning not that many.
Eugene WR Gallun. .

April 16, 2016 12:35 am

The obvious conclusion from all this is that global warming threatens to make many Eskimo words obsolete. The situation is even worse than we thought!

April 16, 2016 1:01 am

…the words used to describe different types of snow in Arctic languages reflect the “chief interests of a people.”

And in other news, artists who use oil paints or water colors for a living have a much greater vocabulary and knowledge of various shades of color than coal miners.

April 16, 2016 1:15 am

ferdberple ( April 15, 2016 at 6:32 am ),
Re your listing of Eskimo words for snow in English (snow, slush, sleet, hail, powder, hard pack, blizzard, flurries, flake, dusting, crust, avalanche, drift, frost, glacier and iceberg, to name but a few.):
If these Eskimo words exist in English as well, that would logically mean that English has just as many words for snow as the Eskimos! Maybe more? Hehe.

General P. Malaise
April 16, 2016 2:41 am

thankfully western minds have developed adjectives to further describe the various types of snow.
I have yet to see the ancient eskimo written language describing snow.
there is also the dreaded yellow snow and then the brown snow (they didn’t have 50 words for toilet paper or in fact toilet paper. maybe they used snow-paper

April 16, 2016 3:59 am
Donald Hanson
April 17, 2016 9:29 pm

For all the ski bums out there, we have around 50 words for snow as well. Some more descriptive than others. From Champagne powder to Sierra Cement. There are a lot.

April 18, 2016 12:04 am

It’s quite obvious that people who spend their lives with and in snow, also have a lot of words for snow and different states of snow. Here is a list of 100 Norwegian words for snow … and the list is far from complete:

April 18, 2016 7:54 am

I have read linguistics debunking this BS decades ago…yes that’s right, that’s how old I am…

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