Re: Social facts and snowball effect

From: Douglas Brooker (
Date: Tue 11 Apr 2006 - 16:50:07 GMT

  • Next message: William Benzon: "Re: Social facts and snowball effect"

    Chris Taylor wrote:

    > So living a (teeny tiny) bit like the Innuit (i.e. surrounded by snow
    > a lot) drives you to expand your snow-related vocab...

    the eskimo example might be a bit mythic. a better one for scholarly use might be the size of the vocabulary available to describe the texture and colour of cow hides amongst the gauchos of Argentina. sorry, I don't have a cite for this. (Steiner, After Babel, maybe?)

    > Does mental swamping by an aspect of life always predispose us to
    > subdivide? In this case I suppose long exposure makes for greater
    > opportunities to observe and subclassify, and a more prolonged
    > favourable environment for such words to demonstrate their fitness. I
    > know what you mean by powdery snow and may even have used the phrase,
    > but I'm not sure I have an equivalent to packing snow...

    you'd know it soon as you touch it. it also has a real distinctive sound/feel when you pack it. like a hearing a sound with the sense of touch. strange. Canadian kids (many/most?) can tell straight away when they look out the window and see snow falling whether it's 'good' packing snow. Of course I only speak about English Canada - don't ask about the Quebecois term.

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