Appendix:Snowclones/if Eskimos have N words for snow, X surely have Y words for Z

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English[edit]

Phrase[edit]

if Eskimos have N words for snow, X surely have Y words for Z

  1. Used to suggest by analogy that Y has frequent interaction with Z or spends substantial time thinking about Z.
    • 2003 October 11, “Breathe or be strangled”, The Economist, page 56:
      If Eskimos have dozens of words for snow, Germans have as many for bureaucracy.
    • 2003, Claudia Marek, The First Year—Fibromyalgia: An Essential Guide for the Newly Diagnosed[1], ISBN 1569245215:
      If Eskimos have a hundred words for snow, fibromyalgics should have a hundred words for pain.

Origin[edit]

From a popular urban legend that (since they live in circumpolar regions) the Eskimos must have myriad words to refer to different types of snow. First mentioned in 1911.

Statistics[edit]

  • Frequency: Average (between 100,000 and 250,000 Google results)
  • Most common uses: Often used with other language, country or region stereotypes.

Notes[edit]

This phrase was the inspiration behind the term "snowclone." As demonstrated by the examples above, it is subject to many variations in specific phrasing. In some cases it may be inverted to suggest an inadequacy of terms to describe a diverse phenomenon, as in this example:

  • 1992 May 24, Sherman, Robert, “Defining Identity: Four Voices; Lousy Language”, The New York Times:
    The Eskimos have 70 words for snow. We probably have 70 different kinds of bias, prejudice, racism and discrimination, but it's not in our mind-set to be clear about it.

Links[edit]