Since we’ve no place to go

We’ve had a very strange Chicago winter, with big temperature shifts but very little snow. I was on vacation last week and got back to snow everywhere and more on the way today, so it seems like a good time to go over a couple of winter words:

Winter = الشِتاء (al-shitāʾ, pronounced “ash-shi-ta” and clip off the last “a” abruptly; I assume you recall that ش is one of the “sun letters” that assimilates the definite article, yes?). This is the verbal noun of a root (شَتا, shatā) meaning “to winter” or “to hibernate.” For most Westerners I’d imagine that the idea of “wintering” in a different place is associated with those who are wealthy enough to own at least two homes, but for arid-zone nomads like the Bedouin “wintering” means moving the herd to new grazing territory that has hopefully sprouted due to Autumn rains, so as to give the summer grazing areas a chance to recover. It’s common for Bedouin to have more or less fixed wintering sites where large family units can come together after having summered at some distance from each other, and if that is the case then these fixed winter sites may very likely include stone houses for the Bedouin and shelters for the herds.

Cold = بَرَدَ (barada) is the verb meaning “to be cold,” and from it is derived words like بارِد (bārid), the state of being cold as in أنتَ بارِد؟ (anta bārid?) or “Are you cold?” and بُرودّة (burūdah), which is “cold” as in the meteorological condition. Of course, “winter” in a place like Qatar, where the temperature rarely goes below 60F, is somewhat relative, but it can get quite cold in the deserts of Saudi Arabia, and at any rate the more important seasonal marker is that it rains a bit, whereas summers are often bone dry.

Snow = ثَلْج (thalj, plural ثُلوج thulūj), from the verb ثَلَجَ (thalaja), “to snow.”

Rain (since rain, moreso than snow, is the marker of the season in much of the Arab world) = مَطَر (maṭar, plural امْطار amṭār), from the verb مَطَرَ (thalaja), “to rain.”

Ice = جَليد (jalīd); this derives from a verbal root (جلد J-L-D) that can have a few meanings depending on how it is voweled. جَلِدَ (jalida) means “to freeze” or “to be frozen,” but جَلَدَ (jalada) means “to lash or whip” and جَلُدَ (jaluda) means “to be tough, steadfast.” جَليد itself can also mean “sturdy, staunch, steadfast,” so watch the context.

Coat = مِعطَف (miʿṭaf, plural مَعاطِف maʿāṭif), from the form V verb تَعَطَّفَ (taʿaṭṭafa) meaning “to wrap in a coat or cloak.” This derives from a form I root, عَطَفَ (ʿaṭafa), meaning “to bend, incline, turn” because of something something and also I’m not a lexicographer. Also could be سُترة (sutrah), from the verb سَتَرَ (satara) “to cover”; this is more likely to refer to a lighter jacket rather than a heavy coat.


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