Friday, 15 February 2013

Terminology and different contexts - 50 words for water

WaterThe Eskimo languages have, it is claimed, 50 words for snow (falling or lying snow).

Those of us in more temperate climates find this remarkable.  Snow is an unusual feature for us, and we basically only have one word for it.  To have 50 words seems quite amazing.

But on the other hand, and many English words do we have for water?  Falling water, or water lying or running across the ground?  I bet we have many more than 50, and yet water is not much more complex than snow.

That’s because water is a very familiar concept to us, we know it well, we see it in its manifestations and all its scales, and we know it well enough to make fine and subtle differentiations. It is useful for us to be able to differentiate between different types of water, just as it is useful for the Inuit to differentiate between different types of snow.

This actually makes it quite difficult to exchange knowledge between two such different contexts.  Without some experience of different types of snow, or different types of water, you don’t have the words to explain the difference.  In fact without the experience of the subtleties, you can’t understand the differences.  And how do you communicate when you cant understand the meanings behind the words? How do you exchange knowledge, when the contexts are not there?

And those fifty words for water? Here's 54 - tell me if I have missed any!

  1. Drip
  2. Drop
  3. Droplet
  4. Rain
  5. Shower
  6. Deluge
  7. Downpour
  8. Drizzle
  9. Mist
  10. Fog
  11. Smirr
  12. Puddle
  13. Pond
  14. Pool
  15. Lake
  16. Tarn
  17. Loch
  18. Lochan
  19. Mere
  20. Ditch
  21. Dyke
  22. Swamp
  23. Bog
  24. Lagoon
  25. Oasis
  26. Spring
  27. Source
  28. Spout
  29. Fountain
  30. Rising
  31. Creek
  32. Trickle
  33. Rivulet
  34. Tributary
  35. Stream
  36. Brook
  37. Bourne
  38. Brooklet
  39. Streamlet
  40. Beck
  41. Burn
  42. Gill
  43. Rill
  44. Runnell
  45. Rapids
  46. Waterfall
  47. Force
  48. Falls
  49. Cascade
  50. Cataract
  51. Flume
  52. River
  53. Flood
  54. Estuary

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