Snowmaggedon or Snowpocalypse? This week's NYC snowstorm brought me emails about which recent coinage is to be preferred. What's the answer? How do we decide when and if to use new words? Should we? Remember: It's not a crisis -- it's an opportunity!
Both snowmaggedon and snowpocalypse are recent coinages thought up by wits and wordsmiths and disseminated by media desperate to get our attention -- and a catchy, emotionally resonant new word is often the right way to do it. Both of them trade on existing words that imply the end of days, a cataclysmic event of world destruction and nearly unimaginable personal adversity. Both made me think of the snowy cover and inspiring story of
The Adversity Advantage, by blind mountaineer Erik Weihenmayer and co-writer Paul Stoltz, with a foreword by leadership authority and mega-best-selling author Stephen R. Covey.
I'm not sure whether contemplating a world in which a fairly normal January snowstorm is labeled with words redolent of the end of the world is the adversity or the actual snowstorm is the adversity, but I do agree with the author, Erik, that any adversity can be transformed through attitude and action. Not that all bad events are actually good events, but that although we cannot command outside circumstances, or even our reaction to them, we can transform our response. Just look at how Mayor Bloomberg transformed the response to a snowstorm, from the disastrous response of 26 December to the more effective response of 11 January.
And how do our new words frame and, possibly, transform our discourse and our experience? Snowmaggedon combines snow with a reference to the Battle of Armaggedon, a future fight between good and evil, personified as the Messiah and the Antichrist, in the end times of the world. The battle is described in the last book of the New Testament, the Apocalypse of John, or Book of Revelation. Prophecies about the battle feature prominently in premillennial and millennial Christian belief systems.
Snowpocalypse combines snow with apocalypse, from the Greek word for revelation. Apocalyptic literature is concerned with the revelation of hidden things and so with prophecy. Many apocalyptic writers have prophesied the end of time or end of days; all have been inaccurate to date.
Apocalyptic literature and art and depictions of the Battle of Armageddon are fascinating subjects, ranging from the Apocalypse of John (or the Book of Revelation) to the 1998 movie Armageddon, with Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, and Billy Bob Thornton, and beyond.
So which word would I advise, snowmaggedon or snowpocalypse? Well, to me snowpocalypse seems too strong; it's not the end of days. In fact, the days continue: days of slush, ice, winter boots, soot-covered mush. Snowmageddon calls to mind a battle, and many of us feel embattled against the snow, either shoveling it away or surmounting it, climbing past mounds of the stuff at corners and on sidewalks. I'd have to go with snowmaggedon here.
Regardless of your preferred diction, a snowstorm can bring adversity -- and advantage. It's all in how you look at it, and neither the arrival of January snow nor the arrival of silly new words to describe it are cause for despair. In fact, both can be rather fun. So if you can, enjoy the snowmaggedon!
Which is your favorite: snowmaggedon or snowpocalypse?
Ellen Scordato has 25 years' book publishing experience as an editor, copy editor, proofreader, and managing editor. She's now a partner in The Stonesong Press, a nonfiction book producer and agency. In addition to her work at Stonesong, Ellen has taught grammar, punctuation, and style at the New School for more than 12 years in the English Language Studies department and taught English as a Second Language at Cabrini Immigrant Services.
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