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How many words for 'snow job'?

Posted by Jan Freeman, keep until April February 1, 2009 05:43 PM
SNOW%20WORDS%20CARTOON.jpg


A story in today's Globe Magazine about the insult "salted" brings distressing news: Even among students at Boston Latin School, the notion that "Eskimos have all those words for snow" still flourishes. Luckily, the truth is out there -- at Language Log, where just a few days ago, Mark Liberman helpfully posted a collection of links to the site's many treatments of the issue, from last week's "No word for fair?" to 2004's "No word for robins."

Also at Language Log, Ben Zimmer comments on the article's claims about "salted": "Investing so much revelatory power in one particular word can make for a compelling magazine article, but it's another form of pop-Whorfian reductionism nonetheless."

As for the cartoon -- which I first saw several years ago at Language Log -- it really should be the last word on the Eskimos-and-snow cliche. Artist Matt Bors's work runs locally in the Boston Phoenix, and there's more at his website, mattbors.com.

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Rules and realities of English usage from Boston Globe Ideas columnist Jan Freeman.
Jan Freeman, a former Boston Globe editor, has been writing the weekly column The Word since 1997. E-mail her at freeman@globe.com.
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