[Ads-l] When Snow Sticks

Brian Hitchcock brianhi at SKECHERS.COM
Thu Dec 10 19:08:23 UTC 2015

Growing up in Seattle, "stick" is the preferred term, and that is the only way I learned it. I never heard "settling",  "laying", "pitching", or "landing".  If I were any of hear those, I would think they mean something different. ("Settling" to me implies some accumulation, "laying" likewise. Snow always "lands" (unless it melts before it reaches the ground, which is possible. I have no idea what "pitching would mean in regard to snow.)

In Seattle, in the rare instances when it snows, the ground temperature is usually above freezing, so fairly often the snow would "fall" but would melt as soon as  it hit the ground; thus it would not build up to the point of appearing white. Even when it did accumulate, there was usually a period at the beginning of the snowfall when it had not yet "stuck", but if the snowfall was heavy enough, eventually it would cool the ground to the point where it would "stick" and begin to accumulate. So it basically means the point at which one snowflake lands on another before the one underneath has melted, so the top one stays frozen.  

More generally, if it snowed for a very short time, and was melted after a few minutes (often snow segues to rain in Seattle), we would still say "it snowed but it didn't stick". On a snowy day, a Seattleite at work might ask another "Is it snowing yet?" to help decide whether to take off early and head home. But some braver (or more foolhardy) souls would ask "but is it sticking yet?" to make sure whether it was really worth worrying about.  

In other climates, I suppose the first snow of the season might behave that way. But places that get "snowed in", or have lingering accumulations of snow, and continuous sub-freezing temperatures, would not typically experience this phenomenon on subsequent snowfalls.

In Southern California, natives usually say "it's a rainy day" even if it only rained for five minutes and dried up in another five.  To them, there is not a spectrum of raininess, nor of snowfall. To a Seattleite, there is a large nuanced range, both in rainfall and snowfall. 

But don't let's get started on how many words the Eskimos / Inuit have for snow; that would be beating a dead horse after it's already out of the barn.

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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