They say that the Eskimo and Inuit peoples have over 100 words for snow.
Is this actually true, or is it just a cliché?
There has been heated debate on whether the Eskimos really do have that many distinct words for snow. I consulted Giles Whittell’s 2019 book “Snow: A Scientific and Cultural Exploration” for information.
Whittell refers to a recent contribution to the question by the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center. They determined that in Canada’s Nunavik region, the Inuit there have 53 distinct words for snow; in the Central Siberian Yupik dialect they counted 40.
Among the words listed in the Yupik dictionary are:
“kanevvluk” = fine snow
“navcaq” = snow formation about to collapse
“qanisqineq” = snow floating on water
“utvak” = snow carved in a block, as for an igloo
Clearly, those living in the extreme north do have far more words to describe snow than those who makes their homes farther south.
As Whittell says, “…people learn to describe in greatest detail what matters most to them.”
I suppose that the number of words a culture has to describe something tells us a great deal about the importance they place on it.
For instance, the Italians have dozens of descriptive words for different shapes of pasta. Joe Fiorito lists just a few of them: “Bridegroom, butterflies, shells, quills, sparrow’s tongues, little moustaches, priest’s hats…”
Similarly, the Japanese language has a multitude of words to describe cherry blossoms, a flower that is dear to them.
Believers are no exception: they have a multiplicity of words to describe God.
One word just won’t do to describe a Being of such infinite complexity. A single title can’t encompass the totality of God in all His many facets.
How many names does God have, according to the Bible?
It’s hard to pinpoint. Estimates range from dozens to hundreds, depending on what you’re counting: proper names, titles, attributes, or actions God has performed.
Some of God’s names are variations on Jehovah:
Jehovah Jireh: the Lord our Provider
Jehovah Rapha: the Lord our Healer
Jehovah Nissi: the Lord our Banner
Jehovah Shalom: the Lord our Peace
Jehovah Raah: the Lord our Shepherd
Jehovah Tsidkeu: the Lord our Righteousness
Jehovah Shammah: the Lord is Here
The Book of Revelation calls God the “Alpha and Omega,” the first and the last.
The Book of Daniel calls God the “Ancient of Days.”
Hagar called God “El Roi,” the God who sees me.
A very tender name used for God in the New Testament is “Abba Father.”
The Book of Isaiah foretold the coming of Jesus and called Him “Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” He was also called Emmanuel, which means “God with us.”
The numerous names for God give us insight into His character and the many facets of who He is.
But the most important name for God is the one you call Him.
Do you call God a figment of people’s imagination? Do you say Jesus was merely a teacher and a good man? Or do you call Him Saviour and Lord?
© 2022 Lori J. Cartmell. All rights reserved.