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Snowclone of the day

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 […]

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We have a winner

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 […]

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Everything old is new again

"Editorial: Of cats, dogs and convection", The Independent, 2/3/2013: One of the more widespread urban myths whose veracity is disputed is that the Inuit peoples have scores, even hundreds, of different words for snow. Whatever the precise truth, it is certainly the case that those who live in the Far North have more snow-words than […]

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The mystery of the missing misconception

I recently wrote on Lingua Franca about my astonishment over Piotr Cichocki and Marcin Kilarski. In their paper "On 'Eskimo Words for Snow': The Life Cycle of a Linguistic Misconception" (Historiographia Linguistica 37, 2010, Pages 341-377), they mistook my 1989 humorous opinion column "The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax" for a research paper, and bitterly attacked […]

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Bad science reporting again: the Eskimos are back

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 […]

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Snow words in the comics

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 […]

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Don't get me wrong: I am entirely positive about octopus porn. Graphically depicted sex with our multiply-tentacled cephalopod friends is cool as far as I'm concerned.

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Eskimos again, this time seeing the invisible

"As Eskimos do with snow," wrote Emma Brockes yesterday in a New York Times review of Alan Hollinghurst's new novel (and the hairs rose on the back of my neck as I saw those words), "the English see gradations of social inadequacy invisible to the rest of the world; Mr. Hollinghurst separates them with a […]

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The snowclone silly season opens

Winter has definitely come to Scotland. It is cold, and when light first returns to the sky around 9 a.m. I can see snow on the cars outside my apartment that have driven in from out of town. The winter silly season in the UK newspapers has begun. Here is Charles Nevin in a putatively […]

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"Don't you know it's not just the Eskimo"

Last month, in the post "'Words for snow' watch," I reported that Kate Bush's new album (out Nov. 21) is called 50 Words for Snow. I wrote, "It's unclear at this point exactly how Eskimos will figure into Bush's songwriting, but it's safe to say they'll be in there somewhere." Today, thanks to NPR's stream […]

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Tracking "words for X" fluctuations

"Eskimo’s kennen nog maar drie woorden voor sneeuw", De Speld, 3/21/2011 ("Eskimos now have only three words for snow") — subtitle "Klimaatverandering debet aan taalverarming" ("Climate change to blame for language impoverishment"): Een uitgebreid taalonderzoek onder 1.000 Inuit heeft uitgewezen dat het aantal woorden dat hun taal kent voor sneeuw is gereduceerd tot drie. In […]

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Meta-snowclones for gastro-geeks

The granddaddy of all snowclones has often been expressed here at Language Log Plaza as a formula with variables: If Eskimos have N words for snow, X surely have Y words for Z. So it's pleasing to see this iteration of the ur-snowclone, from Jeff Potter's new book, Cooking for Geeks (p. 258): If Eskimos […]

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"Pure" Inuit language, and bucking the snow-word trend

The Guardian has an article today entitled, "Linguist on mission to save Inuit 'fossil language' disappearing with the ice," about a forthcoming research trip by University of Cambridge linguist Stephen Pax Leonard to study Inuktun, an endangered Polar Inuit language spoken by the Inughuit community of northwest Greenland. It's always great to see this kind […]

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