This past week, presumably like most of the population of the UK, I’ve been thinking about snow.
Sitting with a friend, watching the white flakes whirl in the wind the other day prompted the inevitable conversation about whether the snow would…
And then we were stuck. What question were we trying to ask?
· Will it settle?
· Will it stick?
· Will it pitch?
· Will it lie?
· Will it lay?
…it seems that although we don’t have a lot of words for snow in English, we have quite a number for what it does and the choice of verb depends on your local dialect.
In the context, I’d definitely avoid the verb “lay” except as the past tense of “lie” – e.g. when singing about the Feast of Stephen “when the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even” – and even then, it isn’t a verb that comes easily to me when talking about snow.
I’d never heard anyone use the word “stick” as something that snow did until the family moved to North Wales, when I remember objecting to a classmate’s comment on the grounds that “snow isn’t glue.”
This week on the BBC, I’ve heard talk of “snow showers […] packing in”, while the weather forecasters warned that “snow is piling in”, both of which phrases struck me as slightly colloquial for national media.
I have a fairly strong belief that in my personal dialect the correct word is “settle”, but even so, “Do you think it’s going to settle?” seems tremendously formal.
So perhaps I must return to my true mother’s tongue and use the Moonraker verb “pitch”.
Still, whatever the verb should be, the snow did it. And it did it quite effectively, leaving the park like a scene from Pieter Bruegel the Elder.
Looking again at the pictures I took earlier, I think the snow had drifted and a surprising number of people were lying down in it.
It was cold, of course, so I didn’t stick around to watch the children pitching snowballs at each other.