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If Eskimos Have Fifty Words For Snow

Pizza. One word, so many meanings. I want more words for pizza. In exchange, I’ll help you talk about reindeer testicles.

A sigh is just a sigh, or so the song says.

I beg to differ.


Pukak? Maybe. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A few nights ago, someone asked me if a pizza I was eating was as good as another I’d had recently. I couldn’t answer. It wasn’t because one was so much better than the other. It was more because they were two different dishes with the same name. A linguistic flaw put me in a corner.

Nobody puts Omawarisan in a corner.

If Eskimos Have More Than Fifty Words For Snow…

A pizza is not just a pizza, just as a sigh is not just a sigh.

The blend of dough, cheese and tomato has so many permutations. Some versions of the dish barely resemble others that carry the same name. New York, Chicago and New Haven each have their own style of pie. Pizzas made by some of the big chain restaurants will barely taste similar to one from the oven of a mom and pop shop.

Eskimos have more than fifty words for snow. There is a world of difference between maatsaruti and pukak. While you’d be right in calling them both snow, being able to ask where to find the one you want is important when you need the right sort of snow to ice your sled runners with.

English: A series of animated wireframe holida...

I wonder what the Sami word for crappy department store light up reindeer is? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the region where the Scandanavian countries meet Russia live a group of people called the Sami. The Sami have over one hundred eighty words to help them communicate about snow and ice. These people are very precisely articulate. They’ve got over a thousand words for reindeer.

One thousand ways to refer to reindeer. Let’s count how many words we have for reindeer in English.

…Why Do We Have Only One Word For Pizza?


One word for reindeer.

One word for pizza.

English: Picture of an authentic Neapolitan Pi...

This, and a Domino’s pizza are two different things. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If the Sami have a word that describes a bull reindeer with one large testicle (busat) and one to describe one with short, branched horns (snarri) why don’t we have words that differentiate a hand-tossed, brick-oven baked, whole wheat crust white pie from an oily Pizza Hut cholesterol bomb?

Italian immigrants brought us pizza, the word and the dish. Those hard-working folks aren’t responsible for all the versions of that proud and filling dish that we’ve created on its basic architecture. Their language isn’t responsible for naming these twists on the traditional recipe.

The word is over worked and losing meaning. If I say “let’s go get a pizza”, you’ve no way to know if I’m proposing that we get some greasy fast food style slices, a gourmet pie with pesto on a flat-bread style crust or a Chicago deep-dish. Your answer, and your happiness, might hinge on understanding which pizza I’m considering.

A sigh is sometimes more and sometimes less than just a sigh. A reindeer can be a busat or a snarri (or both). But a pizza is just a pizza? Nah.

English is a growing language.  Thirty years ago, someone getting a text meant something different from what it does today. Getting a new cell was something prisoners did. It is time for our language to grow in a productive way.

We’ve got to expand our pizza vocabulary.

About omawarisan (25 Articles)
Most who read my blog don't know me from the man in the moon. But they seem nice and I am, in fact, The Man In The Moon.

37 Comments on If Eskimos Have Fifty Words For Snow

  1. I agree. My vocabulary might be too limited, also, in responding to this post. I found it funny, interesting, enjoyable, smart, well-written, and delightful. I am glad, happy, and thankful that I read it today.


  2. English isn’t a language conducive to brevity. We’re descriptive, colorful, and aren’t relegated to an iceberg full or reindeer 10 months out of the year. To me, using the word “pizza” is a basic concept. Unless you’re allergic to tomatoes or cheese, or the crust that goes under it; pizza contains those elements. Pan, round, thick crust, are descriptors just like green is used to describe a color.

    So no matter what’s on the pizza, if you find a green pizza in the back of your fridge, you know it’s time to dump it.


    • But there isn’t anything stopping us from using modifiers on precise words. Sure there are lovely snarri.


      • How about a Pizza naming contest: Create a word that describes a specific kind of pizza and then ask everyone to start using it. You go up to the guy at Dominoes who just wants to go home and watch the monster truck races and say, “I want the Pizzilian.” Act as if he should know that you want a Sicilian style Pizza and why the hell doesn’t he know what that means. 🙂

        The first one to succeed at getting a major Pizza chain to adopt a word gets the grand prize: A compliment from you.


  3. Pizza is one of my favourite ‘exotic’ dishes. Unfortunately, where I live, Domino’s is the only place to go. The picture of pizza looked delightful. You are right. It deserves more than one word.


  4. Reblogged this on Blurt and commented:

    Hi kids! Guess what I did? I wrote something new. Re-run week is over. Click on over to Long Awkward Pause and read about pizza, snow and reindeer parts.


  5. Agreed. I could never get tired of deep dish with onions and sausage, but I could get tired of what they served in the cafeteria in school. They are completely different species.


  6. So that’s why my wife calls me busat.


  7. We do have more than one word for a reindeer: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen… 🙂
    But, of course, I do see the need to have 1000 words for reindeer for Sami people – for them, a reindeer is transportation, food, heat source, coat hanger, friend, pelt storage, and probably 994 other things.


  8. Brieuse Bernhard Piers-Gûdmönd // November 29, 2013 at 1:21 pm //

    We might not have a thousand words for pizza, and a thousand words for reindeer, and fifty words for snow. But we have a million adjectives for pizza, and a million adjectives for reindeer, and a million adjectives for snow. We don’t need more than one word for the thing itself. Look at that poor sick reindeer in that dirty snow eating my left-over inedible sausage and pineapple pizza.


  9. Thank you for having the … balls… to post this. We truly do need to use the flexibility of English to make our world more awesome and precise. Please don’t hire me to do this, or you’ll still have “pizza” along with “awesome pizza” and then “bitchen awesome pizza” to elucidate the levels of gastronomic joy that is … pizza.


  10. Also, pizza, like ice cream, is virtually identical to sex… even mediocre sex is good.


  11. Finding another word for pizza? A worthy research project in your retirement, Oma. I see it involving eating a LOT of pizza. And perhaps a part-time job as a pizza delivery guy. Because you’ll be able to do some market research with customers, and make some tip money for Christmas at the same time.


  12. We found him Captain!! // November 29, 2013 at 10:21 pm //

    This is a very interesting message which you convey! You make your point so well that even I, a busat with horns like a snarri, can understand it. We don’t get to eat much pizza where I come from. I live in a village full of Samis who eat whale blubber morning, noon and night. Once I was standing behind my busat talking to my friend Sammy the Sami when all of a sudden the busat cut one and almost blew me into the path of a school bus.


  13. Man, I could go for a pizza right the fuck now.

    Gaantz!!!! Order me a pizza!


  14. Well what do you propose? Presenting a problem without a solution is most unlike you…..surely your administration has some names under consideration. Did you consult with your advisory board? If it helps, we just put the word “good” in front of pizza to let people know that Pizza Hut is not what we have in mind and then we head to Uno’s or Gino’s.


    • I think there’s going to have to be a committee.

      Nah, I want to avoid adjectives. If we’ve got a specific word for a specific pizza, then we bring in the modifiers.


  15. We found him Captain!! // November 30, 2013 at 8:45 am //

    I have enough room in my pants for a yo-yo and a large pack of double stuff Oreos. I’m just saying!

    Please be advised that henceforth I wish to be known as “The Busat…..

    The Busat


  16. As a family whom has always described pizza by where we were getting it and type, fast food thin from…, or a pie from certain restaurant, Mom’s..each so different. We’d also say do you good or ok to make the decision. Getting pizza involved a debate, it would have been much easier for me if they had different names, good point.


  17. Agreed! He-Who fancies himself a pizza connoisseur. He knows everything there is to know about pizza and where to get the best one but I can tell you right now that life would be easier if each type had a different name. His favourite is Patsy’s Pizza in El Barrio (New York Spanish Harlem). Unfortunately, they don’t deliver to Canada.


  18. You’re a writer. You could put out a list of new words, tell people you got them from some obscure site, build up the views, and voila!


  19. You should see the “pizza” in Japan. Their favorite topping here seems to be mayonnaise.

    I think pizza is a general term for baked flat bread with toppings…but I’ll agree if someone deviates from the traditional Italian or Sicilian style pizza then it should be named something new, but that would mean people need to be creative n shit. Good luck with that.


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