Snow is again falling, the story of the winter of 2013-2014 for much of the eastern United States and Canada. It’s barely February, so there is much winter to come. Even skiers can’t be happy about this, when blowing snow creates whiteout conditions for the drive to the ski hills.
The wintry conditions are giving new life to old winter words, and prompting new ones. These seem to be gaining traction (will one be next year’s Word of the Year?):
Blizzaster: The latest portmanteau (blizzard + disaster) trying to turn a snowfall into something bigger. Wordspy.com explains.
Frost quakes: This is the explosive sound made when rain seeps into the ground, freezes as temperatures plummet, and then expands. The official name is cryoseisms, but who else but a scientist uses that? Here’s an explanation of frost quakes by CityNews meteorologist Natasha Ramsahai.
Ice missiles: Chunks of snow or ice that come flying off another vehicle, because the driver did not bother to clean off the car before getting on the road. Wordspy.com says it was first used in 1994.
Polar vortex: This band of cold air moves out of the Arctic southward. In late 2013 and early 2014, it covered much of the eastern U.S. and Canada, bringing frigid air to places that normally don’t see extreme cold. NASA explains.
Snowmaggedon and snowpocalypse. More word sandwiches to convey the the vast scale of an incoming storm system. Often used as ridicule when the storm proves weaker than expected.
What other winter weather words have you heard?
Very timely post, Sue. Another word I’ve heard for frost quake is “cold quake.” I’d also like to propose the term “shovel shock” for the feeling of shell shock that arises when we look at disappearing driveways.
Oh, I love the term “shovel shock”! Also covers that feeling when you step back out the door a few hours after finishing shovelling, and it looks like you hadn’t done a thing.
I also like the term “shovel shock”. I think I’ll pass it on to friends who have to shovel. We ought to take a leaf out of the Montrealers’ book. They just hire someone else to shovel their driveways.
Yes, I had never heard of frost quake or polar vortex before.
I hadn’t heard of polar vortex until this winter, although some are saying it’s always been around. Shirley, my elderly neighbours have a service to look after their driveway, but the work doesn’t always seem to get done promptly.