Thursday, October 8, 2009


Not that the seasons call for them yet, just in honor of an episode of the Discovery Channel's "Raging Planet" that left my father remembering winters in the Iron Range of Minnesota, not in a good way.

Blizzard (n) - A violent snowstorm. Etymologists don't want to pin this word down because it didn't emerge from Shakespeare, the King's English, some foreign tongue, or an United States writer. Blizz, like buzz, started as rural English slang, rube-speak. It meant a quick strike, like a punch. The -ard suffix means hardy or excessive, as in drunkard. Put together it means an excessively hard strike. Being rube-speak, no educated writer of the mid-second millennium would dream of demeaning himself by using the word in print. So the word just hung around the hinterland as sort of linguistic orphan.

The first appearance of the word in print to describe a massive snowstorm was an 1870 newspaper article describing an Iowa blizzard. But, the word was certainly known and used in that context long before.

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