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It is often forgotten that (dictionaries) are artificial repositories, put together well after the languages they define. The roots of language are irrational and of a magical nature. Borges

1snow 'snO
[noun] often attributive

O.E. snaw "snow," from P.Gmc. *snaiwaz, from PIE *sniegwh-/*snoigwho- (cf. Gk. niks, L. nix, O.Ir. snechta, Goth. snaiws, O.Prus. snaygis, Slovak sneh, all "snow"). The cognate in Skt., snihyati, came to mean "he gets wet." The verb is M.E., replacing O.E. sniwan, which would have yielded modern *snew. The figurative sense of "overwhelm" is 1880, Amer.Eng. As slang for "cocaine" it is attested from 1914. Snowball is 12c.; the verb meaning "to increase rapidly" is from 1929. Snowball's chance in hell is first recorded 1934. Snowshoe first recorded 1674; snowflake is 1734; snow plough is from 1792; snowman is from 1827; snowmobile first attested 1931. Snow job "strong, persistent persuasion in a dubious cause" is World War II armed forces slang, probably from same metaphoric image as to snow (someone) under (1880).

1 a : precipitation in the form of small white ice crystals formed directly from the water vapor of the air at a temperature of less than 32°F (0°C) b (1) : a descent or shower of snow crystals (2) : a mass of fallen snow crystals
2 : something resembling snow: as a : a dessert made of stiffly beaten whites of eggs, sugar, and fruit pulp <apple snow> b : a usually white crystalline substance that condenses from a fluid phase as snow does <ammonia snow> c slang (1) : COCAINE (2) : HEROIN d : small transient light or dark spots on a television screen.

Snow is english
Snow is international
Snow is secret
Snow is small
Snow is literary
Snow is translatable
Snow is everywhere
Snow is ridiculous

Eight lines from “snow is english” by Eugen Gomringer. As he profoundly conveys, snow is first and for all a word of the English language. What it [supposedly] represents or the particular existence we are encultured to associate it with [e. g., white flakes made up of hexagonal ice crystals] is secondary to its being. Snow with its indispensable Englishness does not have a ‘place’ in most trusted dictionaries of other tongues. Its translatability, which might seem to weaken its Englishness, desperately enhances it. To translate, one always has to return to the concept, undo the linguistic abstraction, and track back the literary code to its origin. The apparent impossibility of such tasks leaves little prospect to translation: Gomringer’s poem [in each attempt], despite its formal simplicity, slips away from the translator’s hands. When attempted to find what it corresponds to in another language, snow just cannot remain snow.

Snow, itself, cannot mean: it does not have its own initiative to mean anything at all. We make it mean something. Yet it is not simply a tool that we possess and with which we communicate. Rather, we are possessed by it since its acquisition by us in the unknowable phases of our childhood. The particular language, through which we are socialized, builds our perception [and not just the other way around]. These white puffy particles falling down from the sky have already been given a name: radically reduced to a four-letter code with a particular pronunciation. Just like my mother, my mother tongue is a given, a pre-disposition I am born with [pulled into] which fundamentally limits the possibility of my having other dispositions. Once I call snow snow, I instantly secure it almost like a permanent code that has to be visited and revisited each time I mention snow. The recognition that “snow is snow because people call it that way” is of miserably no use. As soon as I adopt the name given to those winter particles, I am encapsulated in the pre-constructed snowness of them. There will never be another name [AN ORIGINAL ONE] in my relationship with snow after this eternal calling.It, as Heidegger puts it, becomes the cub of my existence. In other words, I cannot go out of the speech bubble [or THE LINGUISTIC CONTEXT] I am in: not a temporary entrapment but precisely an endless, unending, perpetual, lifelong sentence [“life” in the prisoners’ lingo]. A profound manifestation of this imprisonment unfolds when you ask why you call something something. I call snow snow because it is snow, isn’t it?

6 years ago, Joseph Kosuth, a conceptual artist, hanged a 41,5 x 63 cm image onto a wall, which was linguistic rather than pictorial. The piece was a text from a novel whose title Kosuth chose to keep anonymous.

The text read,People don't really talk to each other at all. They don't think of something to say, choose the words to express it and then carefully pronounce those words. They use language to disguise meaning as much as to convey it. But other things tell us what they have in mind - and sometimes we have no idea of what they are. I heard myself say, although I could not have said quite how I had acquired this information, "You're saying Paul has a kind of ... secret hideout? Is that what you are saying?"



Tongue, the boneless organ [akin to penis] has an impalpable impact on what we call human achievement. So a-part-of-us that we cannot reckon its true origins. Could there be a concept of common sense, for example, if we did not have our tongues? A popular consensus in our trust in unity: something that we enhance everyday when we speak knowing that whatever we say is a reaffirmation of language? Can there now be anything that is independent of language? That has not been touched, shaped, configured by our tongues? Isn’t the fact that we cannot simply subtract language from life a bit weird? Whether we use our tongues to convey or disguise meaning, language sits on all our bases, not one single of our attributes is language-free, nor it can be. Is there a way out?

I guess there is, but it sort of upsets the popular consensus: A betrayal of our tongues, an extreme boredom of meaning, an ever-late recognition of linguistic entrapment: nonsense.


To write a dadaist poem: that is to make no sense at all,

Take a newspaper.
Take a pair of scissors.
Choose an article as long as you
are planning to make your poem.
Cut out the article.
Then cut out each of the words that
make up this article and put them
in a bag.
Copy conscientiously.
The poem will be like you.
And here you are a writer,
infinitely original and endowed
with a sensibility that is charming
beyond the understanding of the
[TRISTAN TZARA, 1924, “To make a dadaist poem”].



iskeleti tintin nagbada nuga dada helikoskos
Özgür Soğancı– 2004