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Words and Phrases for Winter Storms Posted by on Jan 27, 2022 in English Language, English Vocabulary

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There’s a winter storm heading my way this weekend. Based on early forecasts, it will be one of the biggest snowstorms to hit my state in years. If you don’t live in an area where these types of storms are common, you might think that this would be cause for alarm and concern. And, certainly, I have to prepare for the storm. I need to make sure that I have enough food for several days. I will need candles and batteries in case the power goes out. I need to ensure that my phone is well charged. I have a garage to store my car. I have a shovel. I also have to have a sense of humor about it all.

Mostly, I treat these storms as a kind of vacation. I can’t go anywhere when there’s over a foot of snow falling outside, and the wind is blowing so hard that you can’t see more than a foot in front of you during daylight. These events, called Nor’easters, tend to occur several times each winter. So, there are a lot of words and phrases that we use whenever a storm like this blows our way. And not all of them are nice.

Descriptive Words and Terms

  1. Snowbound – If you can’t go anywhere because of a snowstorm, you are snowbound.
  2. Snowpocalypse – It’s like an apocalypse or a major disaster, but with snow.
  3. Snow Squall – A fairly quick burst of snow that drops a measurable amount in a short period of time.
  4. Snizzle – Snow (or sleet) that appears more like a fine mist or drizzle. It’s a combination of the two words snow and drizzle.
  5. Snirt – Snow that blows and mixes with dirt. It’s cold, dirty, and wet. And, you guessed it, it’s a combination of snow and dirt.
  6. Skimp – In some parts of the US, this word is used for a thin layer of snow or ice in areas where people walk.
  7. Black Ice – Ice that has formed on the pavement but you cannot see. This makes walking or driving extremely dangerous.
  8. White Out – Severe snow and wind conditions so intense that you can’t see.
  9. Seasonal Affective Disorder – This is the psychological condition formed in winter by not enough daylight. If you reduce this to its abbreviation, you get the word SAD.
  10. Subnivean – Buried under snow. Many of my neighbors’ cars will be subnivean after the storm.

Favorite Phrases

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  1. Enough snow to track a cat – This describes a small snowfall, maybe about an inch.
  2. Colder than a well-digger’s ass – This is a humorous, and slightly vulgar, colloquialism for extremely cold temperatures. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know this phrase and every time I see a well, I think of it.
  3. Time to bundle up – Put on lots of layers of clothing because of the cold.
  4. Bring in the brass monkeys – This phrase is directly related to the expression, “It’s cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey” and takes some explaining. On old naval battleships, cannonballs were stacked in pyramids on shallow brass trays that were called monkeys. When the weather got very cold, the thermal expansion between the iron balls and the brass caused the balls to roll off onto the deck. What did you think it meant?
  5. Nothing burns like the cold – This phrase is attributed to George R.R. Martin, the author of the books that inspired Game of Thrones. If you’ve ever been really, really cold, you know the truth behind this.

Do you know of any others? Please share them in the Comments section below.

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About the Author: Gary Locke

Gary is a semi-professional hyphenate.