Mark has just supplied new Language Log readers with a reference archive of Language Log posts about languages with lots of words for certain things, and languages with no words for certain things. It is a theme that intrigues ordinary folk; it almost mesmerises them. It is clear that nothing Language Log can do will ever discredit the twin notions that (1) lexical abundance correlates with conceptual or environmental or perceptual richness, and (2) that lexical thrift betokens a poorer and meaner experiential world.
People don't just believe these things, they love these beliefs. Brand new allusions to them show up in print several times a week. Just yesterday, for example, Language Log reader Laura Kalin pointed out to me a report on the Al-Arabiya website that snow had fallen on a mountain in a northern part of the United Arab Emirates, and sure enough (you can see it coming!) the snowfall was said to be so rare "that a lifelong resident of the area said the local dialect does not even have a word for 'snow'." Think about that. How did the resident say this? As Ben Zimmer has pointed out, the Arabic word thalj would do just fine, and the local resident would almost certainly have used that when explaining the point; but in that case, what is the content of the claim that the northern UAE dialects of Arabic do not have a word for snow? Why wouldn't thalj count as their word for snow, just as Allah would (I presume) count as their word for Allah?
Meanwhile, on the same day, I came to page 39 of Martin Cruz Smith's novel December 6 (my airplane reading on the current trip to Holland and Finland), in a passage describing a disastrous fire caused by some paper on a room heater in a paper-and-tatami-mat dwelling in a poor neighbourhood of pre-war Tokyo:
"The way Eskimos had words for different kinds of snow, the Japanese had words for fire: deliberate, accidental, initial flame, approaching blaze, invading, spreading, overwhelming fire."
The way printers love their words for different kinds of font, the way a schoolboy loves his pie (and so presumably he has many words for it), the general reading public loves the idea that your lexicon measures your life.