Sea & Sky

There is this famous cliche claiming the Eskimo language has a hundred, or a thousand, words for snow.

Which is quite silly since there is no “Eskimo language”. Perhaps the declaration refers all Eskimo-Aleut languages and dialects generally?

Besides, English has dozens of words for snow, if you count things like blizzards, flurries, drizzles, sleat, powders, and slush…

Linguistic etymology and the Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax aside, there is scholarship and common sense that says languages bloom with use and need (winter precipitation in Innuit languages, included).

I would bet my Anthropology 101 thesis that many cultures, particularly those tied to the land and seasons in precarious ways, have a flourishing, vibrant vocabulary when it comes to weather.

And here in Scotland, my do they ever.

There is nothing so beautiful as Scottish weather words.

Onomatopoetic, often evocative, gutteral and raw, their words of rain and cold and damp sink into the psyche with icy fingers of deep knowing.

I have previously, if briefly, waffled about this, declaring my love of the word dreich, but as Scotland’s clouds roll into greet me finally and at the last, I clutch its wild words to my chest.

Words that roil in my mouth:

Glimmerans; (n.), a rare shining word for the twilight

Haar (n.), a heavy swishy fog rolling in off the sea

Mizzling (v.), when it’s drizzling soggy mist rather than raindrops.

Guddle (v. &  n.), usually these days a chaotic heap of a noun — like deeply disorganised handbags and traffic jams — but coming from older words of hunting under slippery rocks and groping for fish in murky water

Driv (n.) a passing light rain, over before its begun, leaving you damp

Skreever, or Sweevey, depending on the speaker (n.); a swirly wild wind that could carry off Dorothy.

Spindrift (n.), a sweeping spray licked off of a cresting wave, swilling an arc of salty water in the air.

(Should you want an old fashioned meander through Orcadian weather words you could do worse than OrkneyJar’s catalogue, or indeed peruse the Scots Dictionary in sum total), but today I will content myself with these, and rub them warm with my breath…

I sometimes wonder secretly, even after all my harping, if I will be able thrive in a place parched with brightness or blighted by sun.

If these words ring in my soul on purpose, kindred in ways older than comfort.

I think I will linger in the rasping dark a wee mite longer tonight.

Cut to my quick, but alive. So alive.


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