One of the more widespread urban myths whose veracity is disputed is that the Inuit peoples have scores, even hundreds, of different words for snow. Whatever the precise truth, it is certainly the case that those who live in the Far North have more snow-words than those in the temperate latitudes, with the implication, of course, of many different kinds of snow.
Where the Inuits lead, we may be about to follow. The chairman of the Environment Agency is warning of a new kind of rain. Convective rain, says Lord Smith of Finsbury, does not sweep across the country as a curtain, but dumps a deluge in just one place. This altogether alarming, climate-change-related phenomenon may not only add to the problem of flooding; it may also add to the language. “What’s it like outside?” could soon be followed by: “It’s coming down convective”. A useful, if worrying, addition to cats and dogs.