Now, the VOA Special English program WORDS AND THEIR STORIES.
Some popular American expressions come from areas of the United States where people experience problems of living in cold winter weather.
Winters in the northern United States are always cold and snowy. Sometimes, heavy snow is brought by violent storms with high winds and extremely low temperatures. Americans call these storms, blizzards.
Blizzards are usually described as blinding, because no one can see through the blowing snow.
Until about one hundred twenty years ago, the word blizzard had nothing to do with snow. It had several other meanings. One was a sharp blow, like hitting a ball with a stick. Another meaning was a gun shot. A third was any sort of statement or event that was the most extreme of its kind.
An especially violent and heavy snowstorm struck the state of Iowa in eighteen seventy. The newspaper editor in one small town called the terrible storm a blizzard, because it was the worst winter storm in a long time. This use of the word spread across the country in the next few years. Soon, any especially bad winter storm was called a blizzard.
Although no one likes a blizzard, many people love snow. It changes the appearance of everything around us. When snow is falling, the world seems somehow soft, peaceful and quiet. Snow, especially in large amounts, covers everything.
But too much snow is a real problem. Heavy, deep snow is difficult to move. Clearing snow from roads and sidewalks is hard work. Someone who is snowed under has a lot of snow to clear.
That expression, snowed under, also has another meaning. Anyone who has too much work to do is snowed under. You might explain to a friend that you cannot see her tonight, because you are snowed under with work.
It also is possible to snow someone under with words. The idea is to change someone’s mind by making a great many pleasant, but false, statements or claims. That is a snow job.
A boy may use a snow job, for example, to try to get a girl to go out with him. The pretty words of his snow job are like the snow flakes that cover the real world around us. However, snow jobs, unlike blizzards, are easily seen through.
We hope you have enjoyed our attempts to explain some popular American winter expressions. And that wish is no snow job.
This VOA Special English program, WORDS AND THEIR STORIES, was written by Marilyn Christiano. The narrator was Maurice Joyce. I’m Warren Scheer.