Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

A blog about words, wordplay, and etymology, with slightly more than occasional political rants.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

It won't be long before we'll all be there with snow.

Just in case you're as sick of hearing about Christmas songs as I, I thought tonight I'd write about something else I'm a little sick of just now: snow.
It is, I learned just now, a myth that Eskimos have 500 words for snow, according to Word Myths by David Wilton. For one thing, Eskimo is a blanket term that people who aren't from arctic regions have made up to describe the many different groups of people who live in the arctic. So there is no Eskimo language, first of all, there are just a bunch of languages that people whom we consider Eskimos speak. Also, there aren't 500 words for snow. Somebody back at the turn of the last century reported that Eskimos have like, 4 words for snow, and then somebody else said 7, and then inflation happened and now it's all Eskimos talk about. People in arctic regions do have a bunch of words for the different types of snow - sleet, slush, hard pack, etc. But then so do we. 
Now I've heard, and maybe Wilton will go on to prove me wrong as I continue to read, that ancient Greeks had no word for religion, because religion just was. Just so much a part of life you didn't need a word for it. You'd think, then, that arctic peoples would, in fact, have no word for snow.


Bonnie Jacobs said...

Greeks were once the great philosophers of the world, and (in my not-so-humble opinion) much of the talk about religion is simply philosophy about religious subjects. The Greek philosopher Aristotle came up with metaphysics, the part of his writings that came after the physics -- in other words, that "other stuff" that wasn't physical (that did not pertain to matter). When people talk about religion, they go beyond the physical, beyond the material world, beyond anything that can be measured and contained within numbers. Plato, another Greek, is best known for his unchanging "forms"; for example, a horse that can be seen is not as perfect in its horse-ness as the horse we imagine when we hear the word horse. Does that mean (or imply) that what we cannot see is, therefore, perfect? If so, then perhaps god epitomizes a perfect human being.

Anonymous said...

@Bonnie, while the Greeks certainly came up with much of the philosophy that defines most of Western civilization and thought, they didn't have a monopoly on metaphysics. The nature of true reality, for example, is a central theme in the Hindu Bhagava Gita.