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- An Eskimo has over a dozen categories for snow.
According to Geoffrey K. Pullum, this is wrong.
He bases this on a speech and a research note
by Laura Martin (see ) from Cleveland State University.
It all started with a misreading of Franz Boas' introduction
to "The Handbook of North American Indians" (1911).
For what it's worth, Pullam's book is a joy to read. It's a collection of essays he wrote
for a humor/comment column in a serious linguistics journal.
- "The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax", Natural Language and Linguistic Theory, 7, p 275-281, 1989. Also available as part of "The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax, and Other Irreverent Essays on the Study of Language", ISBN 0226685349 (alternate, search).
- LINGUIST List 5.1239, Sun 06 Nov 1994, Disc: Eskimo "snow"  with a posting by Tony Woodbury titled Counting Eskimo words for snow: A citizen's guide: Lexemes referring to snow and snow-related notions in Steven A. Jacobson's (1984) Yup'ik Eskimo dictionary, ISBN 0933769210 (alternate, search).
- A great reference is http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a1_297.html and http://www.straightdope.com/columns/010202.html.
Of course, this is often presented in "and English only has one." Ask a skier about powder. Ask a Minnesotan or Canadian about black ice on the highway. There's slush, snow which is in the process of melting. English is a language of adjectives and euphemism and cant, with regional variation. -- DaveJacoby
Terms for frozen precipitation in English:
- Snow. Light fluffy stuff with an open, complex crystaline structure.
- Wet snow. Mixture of snow with liquid water. Sticky, heavy, and hard to move.
- Sleet. Pellets or roughly cubic crystals.
- Freezing rain.
- Ice. What you get on the road (and everything else) after a night of freezing rain.
- Hail. Large round precipitation built up in layers. Usually described in these sizes: pea, marble, golfball.
- Winter mix. Latest langauge from the NWS to describe a combination of rain, freezing rain, sleet, and whatnot when they don't know which one will fall from the sky.
- Crust. What forms on top of a snow accumulation when there's freezing rain, or it's warm enough to make it melt and refreeze. Hard to walk through unless you're light enough to stay on top.
- Snowpack. Snow, after you drive on it a lot.
- Slush. Partially melted snow, usually mixed with road salt. Also, snow that has accumulated on the ice on a lake to such a depth that the ice sinks a little and the water mixes with the snow.
- Powder. Skier's term for dry snow without a crust.
- Drift. Snow blown into a pile by the wind.
- Bank. Pile of snow produced by plowing.
- Popcorn snow. Small (<4mm), very light and nearly spherical sticky pellets often falling in clusters of 3-4.