Weird Winter Words
Snow, cold, ice, blizzard, skating, polar vortex et al -are words that we automatically associate with winter. Yet, there are a number of winter words you, like me, likely never heard of. They are some pretty weird, obscure words I came across, I thought would be fun to share. Here goes.
Apricity: the warmth of the sun in winter. Apricity appears to have entered our language in 1623, when Henry Cockeram recorded (or possibly invented) it for his own dictionary. Apricity, obviously, never quite caught on, and will not be found in any modern dictionary aside from the Oxford English Dictionary.
Hiemal: of or relating to winter. If you are tired of describing things as wintry, you can instead say that they are hiemal, hibernal, winterish, or brumal.
Subnivean: situated or occurring under the snow. The simplest way to describe this word is to imagine a car in January or February after a big snow storm.
Another word dealing with snow, of similar origins, is niveous, which means “of or relating to snow: resembling snow (as in whiteness): snowy".
Psychrophilic: thriving at a relatively low temperature. Psychrophilic was not coined in order to describe someone who prefers that the temperature of your home or office be freezing; this adjective is generally used to refer to bacteria or similar organisms. An organism (or partner) that thrives in a low temperature is a psychrophile.
Skijoring: a winter sport in which a person wearing skis is drawn over snow or ice by a horse or vehicle. Skijoring sounds a bit like the ill-advised sport inebriated folks engage in, when they attach some skis or a sled to the back of a pick-up truck and drive until one of the participants meets with a tree. Such activities may indeed qualify as skijoring, but the sport is also a fairly old pastime in certain Northern European countries. “Skijoring is what they call it in Norway and it is the most popular outdoor sport in the land of the midnight sun.” The Oregon Daily Journal, February 6, 1904.”
Sitzmark: a depression left in the snow by a skier falling backward. There are actually a dearth of words which describe doing things poorly. In light of this, words such as sitzmark, which refers explicitly to the dent or hole left in the snow by a skier’s butt are worth a mention.
Piblokto: a condition among the Inuit that is characterized by attacks of disturbed behavior (as screaming and crying) and that occurs chiefly in winter. No one is entirely certain what causes piblokto (and some scholars in recent decades have expressed doubts that it actually exists at all), but it sure sounds like a nasty way to spend the winter.
It seems to me that many days of apricity would help mitigate some of the bleakness of winter. I so hope that the current brumal conditions have not caused any of you to suffer from piblokto. Don’t despair. Spring is only 66 days away.
Comments are welcomed.