Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

Here in central Texas, even heavy cloud cover hasn’t kept afternoon temperatures from beginning to climb into the low 90s (low 30s for the Fahrenheit-challenged), so let’s have a bit of relief—somewhat comic, partly geographic, definitely thermal, and of course etymological—as we in the Northern Hemisphere enter the hottest parts of our year.

“Since I haven’t really been home from Antarctica for very long I have been sort of snowed under with things to do….” So wrote a nature-loving friend after returning from a voyage a few months ago. “Antarctica… snowed under….” Hmmm: I wondered if that was that a purposeful play on words, so I asked, and this was the reply: “Geez! It was unintentional but extremely clever on my part, I must say.”

No doubt you agree, readers, that etymologists are clever folks too. They’ve traced the English word snow back to the synonymous Indo-European root *sneigwh-. The initial s- was lost on the way to becoming Latin nix, with stem niv-, which is recognizable as the forerunner of the Spanish noun nieve. The corresponding Spanish verb is nevar ‘to snow,’ and the capitalized feminine past participle Nevada ‘covered with snow’ has become the name of a state in the western United States that does indeed have mountains that are sometimes covered with snow. (The highest point in the state is Boundary Peak, at an altitude of 13,140 ft.) Spanish nevero is ‘a snow field, ice field,’ while a nevera is the much tamer ‘icebox’ or ‘refrigerator.’

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Continuing snow « Spanish-English Word Connections

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©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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