In which the word "rain" is examined in minute and loving detail
It turns out that the whole concept of the Eskimos having a hundred words for “snow” is greatly exaggerated, even without examining the political incorrectness of the label “Eskimo” (the term “Inuit” is more polite and precise).
However, the concept of a group of people having a huge number of distinct and separate words to describe something that other groups of people describe using only a few words…well, it’s a neat idea.
It’s not entirely outlandish, either.
I offer as an example: RAIN.
With the help of a few online dictionaries and thesauri, I counted around 40 common “rain” words and phrases in the mainstream American-English language:
bucket, burst, cat-and-dog weather, cloudburst, condensation, deluge, drencher, dribble, drizzle, flood, flurry, heavy dew, liquid sunshine, mist, monsoon, patter, pelt, pour, precipitation, rain, raindrops, rainfall, rainstorm, sheets, showers, sleet, spate, spit, sprinkle, sprinkling, storm, stream, torrent, volley.
Here in the Swamplands, we have many flavors of rain.
We have the long-awaited and much-celebrated first rains at the end of summer, the rain that knocks the heat and grit from the sky and becomes virga-esque on the long journey to the dirt.
We have the fat plopping splat rain of early fall, soaking into warm ground and rapidly refilling our parched wells, re-inflating our slugs, softening the crusts around the edge of our swamps.
We have the never-ending grey drizzle of late fall, the overcast skies that hover a few feet above the ground for the express purpose of covering our jackets and hoods and eyelashes with tiny liquid gemstones.
We have the winter’s cold drippy sleet, which blows through our bodies and settles deep in our bone marrow. Rainclouds in winter turn the sky, the ocean, the ground, and even the trees a monochromic gloomy grey.
Deep in midwinter, we sometimes avoid snowfall by having icestorms instead: raw porcupine skin-piercing spines of rain that form a protective shell of silver water around every exposed surface.
In late winter, the rain softens and fattens into fragile, distended blobs. A single raindrop in late winter can land on top of an un-hooded head, and instantly traverse the long frigid slug-line from scalp to underwear.
We know it’s springtime in the Swamplands when the rain gets warm. While we never “cancel on account of rain” here—if we did, we’d never get anything done—spring rain calls us out from under our hoods and roofs. We tip our faces up to the sky to smell the promise of summer encased in springtime rain.
We have rain in the summer here, too. Summer rains are children’s rains, because you can swim in the lake and on the shore in summer. We don’t run through the sprinklers most years; instead, we run around the back yards, sliding on wet grass and shrieking when we slip and land on our knees and elbows.
The hiatus from rain in an average Swampland summer is brief and welcome, and most native swampdwellers truly enjoy both days of blue skies and sunny weather.
But we really are much more comfortable when the clouds move in and the rain returns us to normal life in the Swamplands.