The city of Seoul, South Korea, has a new slogan. This is what it looks like:
Archive for Snowclones
Several people have sent this in: "Scots 'have 421 words' for snow", BBC News 9/23/2015:
Academics have officially logged 421 terms – including "snaw" (snow), "sneesl" (to begin to rain or snow) and "skelf" (a large snowflake).
The study by the University of Glasgow is part of a project to compile the first Historical Thesaurus of Scots, which is being published online.
The research team have also appealed for people to send in their own words.
Melissa Holbrook Pierson, "What Is Your Dog Telling You? They may not use words, but dogs say a lot more than we realize with their body language", WSJ 5/11/2015:
For the same reason that Eskimos purportedly have 50 different words for snow, dogs have a vast repertoire of gestures for appeasement and propitiation. The Norwegian dog trainer Turid Rugaas has identified some 30 “calming signals”—movements offered to deflect trouble (which may also relieve stress in both giver and receiver). Supremely subtle, sometimes so quick we don’t notice them, these appeasing signals include a flick of the tongue; turning the head or gaze away; suddenly sniffing the ground or sitting; yawning; shaking off; or approaching on a curve.
[h/t Amanda Seidl, who is planning on getting a dog]
This is the Katrina of ISIS analogies pic.twitter.com/WxxzkGYR4Z
— Sam Stein (@samsteinhp) October 6, 2014
From the current New Yorker:
allrecipes.com has "more than 50" grits recipes (I count 64 on display), and there are lots more on other sites, so (costume aside) this is entirely region-appropriate. It's still linguistically naive, since the recipes have mostly-transparent phrasal names like "Raspberry Kielbasa over Cheese Grits"; but hey, it's a cartoon, and I guess the point is to mock those southerners with all their different approaches to grits, using the "Eskimo words for snow" trope as a vehicle.
Elif Batuman, "The Awkward Age", The New Yorker 9/9/2014:
As the Eskimos were said to have seven words for snow, today’s Americans have a near-infinite vocabulary for gradations of awkwardness—there are some six hundred entries in Urban Dictionary.
Since the Eskimo snow word count has been dialed back to a mere seven here, its value seems to be limited to a vague sort of evocation of words-for-X ideology. And the next piece frames the Eskimo vocabulary as an explicitly legendary reference, rather like mentioning Lot's wife to illustrate the dangers of looking backwards:
Giovanni Rodriguez, "The Sisu Social: Can Finns Teach The World to Hang Tough?", Forbes 9/1/2014:
How many mainland Americans, as children, hear that Eskimos have more words for snow than we – mere mortals — can even imagine? There is more legend than fact in the old cliche (it’s complicated), but it’s rooted in a truth we all learn at some point in our development: how language can evolve to help us navigate the particular worlds to which we are born.
As a boy growing up in the sixties in New York, I was exposed to many words for venting, complaining, and otherwise toughing out life’s many indignities. The language was New York street Yiddish, from which I learned to kvetch when I am wont, schlep when I must, and turn on the chutzpah, when appropriate.
Sent in by A.C. from NZ:
My ISP's sign-on page has a 'daily picture', accompanied by some surprising(?) trivia. (Usually the surprise is how strained is the link to the picture and how badly they twist the language — often ending up misusing language in some way or other — this one is itself an example: is it really a fact *about* snow?)
Even a simple Google search offers an Inuktitut word for hello. (Admittedly also a large number of links alleging "no word for hello".)
Sparing you the screenshot, the "Daily Fact" is "Snow: Eskimos have hundreds of words for snow but none for hello."
William Lashner, Fatal Flaw, 2009:
What are we looking at when we are looking at love? Eskimos have like six billion different words for snow because they understand snow. Don’t ever try to snow an Eskimo. But for six billion different permutations of emotional attachment we have just one word. Why? Because we don’t have a clue.
You just can't keep a bad idea down. And you just can't lift the level of bad science journalism up. David Robson of New Scientist, in a piece published in that pop science rag a couple of weeks ago (issue of 22/29 December 2012, p. 72; behind a pay wall) and now also published in the Washington Post, reports on a book chapter by Igor Krupnik and Ludger Müller-Wille about anthropologist Franz Boas's travels in the early 20th century with a Canadian Inuit band whose language he learned. Robson says of Boas:
Mentioning his observations in the introduction to his 1911 book "Handbook of American Indian Languages," he ignited the claim that Eskimos have dozens, or even hundreds, of words for snow. Although the idea continues to capture public imagination, most linguists considered it an urban legend, born of sloppy scholarship and journalistic exaggeration. Some have even gone as far as to name it the Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax. The latest evidence, however, suggests that Boas was right all along.
Not a single statement in this passage is correct.
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Coincidentally, two syndicated comic strips running today riff off of the old "Eskimo words for snow" canard. In Darby Conley's "Get Fuzzy," Satchel the dog discovers that "cats are like the Eskimos of laziness":
And in Jef Mallett's "Frazz," one of the "really really false" statements on Mr. Burke's quiz is "The Inuit have 100 words for snow and one of them is 'humptydiddy'":
Writing recently for the online Ideas section of Time, Jeffrey Kluger took on the "We are all X (now)" trope, or as it's called in these parts, a snowclone. "This increasingly common trope has an easy, fill-in-the-blank quality to it that allows us to affect a bit of purloined heroism, put it on the credit card of someone else, and feel pretty darned good about ourselves in the bargain," he writes. Kluger quotes me on the history of the snowclone (which I looked into for a 2006 LL post), and its ready adaptability to various expressions of empathy and solidarity. Now, in a thinkpiece about Obama's re-election, David Simon (creator of the HBO shows "The Wire" and "Treme") takes the snowclone to its logical conclusion: "We are all the other now." Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »
[Background: in inventorying postings with linguistically interesting cartoons, for a Language of Comics project at Stanford (directed by Elizabeth Traugott and me), the project intern has been unearthing postings from Language Log Classic whose image links no longer work. Here's one of Mark Liberman's from 2005 — "Illustrations" of 8/2/05, with two Get Fuzzy strips. I'm reproducing the posting here, with fresh, working links.
Back in 2005, we didn't have comments open on postings. But I've opened them now. Just remember: This posting is by Mark, not me. I'm just a typist.]
Reader T.B. writes:
The fact that it's become a snowclone almost makes it an empty claim. You can be sure that something else will soon pop up to replace X as the last acceptable form of prejudice…