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11 Obscure Regional Phrases to Describe the Cold

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It's very cold, and we're running out of ways to say that. So we reached out to the editors of the incredible Dictionary of American Regional English for some suggestions.

1. "It's so cold, milk cows gave icicles"

Editor Roland Berns dove into the DARE freezer to find phrases survey recipients used to describe frigid weather over the years.

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2. "Whizzing cold"/3. "Cold as whiz"

Some of these may have been popular in the past in certain regions.
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4. "It gives a body the flesh-creep"

Others, like this one meaning "the shivers," never caught on.

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5. "It's so cold, ager bumps a-poppin’ out all over me"

Some are overdue for a comeback.

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6. "Cold as blixen"

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7. "Colder than the hinges of hell"

This was also the title of an article by Hank Green.

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8. "Hasn't been this cold since eighteen-hundred-and-froze-to-death"

Probably hasn't been used since then, either.

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9. "Cold as Blue Flujin, where sailors say fire freezes"

According to Herman Melville.

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10. "As cold as Finnegan’s feet the day they buried him"

From the Raymond Chandler novel Farewell, My Lovely.
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11. "Colder than a brass toilet seat in the Yukon"

Thanks to Dr. Joan Hall and DARE science editor Roland Berns for their assistance! You can keep up with the Dictionary of American Regional English on Twitter and Facebook.

All images via Getty

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“Merry Christmas” is a special greeting in English, since it’s the only occasion we say “merry” instead of “happy.” How do other languages spread yuletide cheer? Ampersand Travel asked people all over the world to send in videos of themselves wishing people a “Merry Christmas” in their own language, and while the audio quality is not first-rate, it’s a fun holiday-themed language lesson.

Feel free to surprise your friends and family this year with your new repertoire of foreign-language greetings.

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Big Questions
What’s the Difference Between a Gift and a Present?
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It’s that time again when we’re busy buying, wrapping, and giving them. Sometimes we call them gifts, sometimes presents. Is there a difference?

The words come to us from different language families. Gift comes from the old Germanic root for “to give.” It referred to an act of giving, and then, to the thing being given. In Old English it meant the dowry given to a bride’s parents. Present comes from the French for "to present." A present is the thing presented or bestowed. They were both in use for the idea of something undergoing a transfer of possession without expectation of payment from the 13th century onward.

The words gift and present are well-matched synonyms that mean essentially the same thing, but even well-matched synonyms have their own connotations and distinctive patterns of use. Gift applies to a wider range of situations. Gifts can be talents. You can have the gift of gab, or a musical gift. Gifts can be intangibles. There is the gift of understanding or the gift of a quiet day. We generally don’t use present for things like this. Presents are more concrete. A bit more, well, present. If your whole family gave donations to your college fund for your birthday would you say “I got a lot of presents”? It doesn’t exactly sound wrong, but since you never hold these donations in your hand, gifts seems to fit better.

Gift can also be an attributive noun, acting like an adjective to modify another noun. What do you call the type of shop where you can buy presents for people? A gift shop. What do you call the basket of presents that you can have sent to all your employees? A gift basket. Present doesn’t work well in this role of describing other nouns. We have gift boxes, gift cards, and gift wrap, not present boxes, present cards, and present wrap.

Gift appears to be more frequent than present, though it is difficult to get accurate counts, because if you compare occurrences of the noun present with the noun gift, you include that other noun present, meaning the here and now. However, the plural noun presents captures only the word we want. Gifts outnumbers presents in the Corpus of Contemporary American English by four to one.

Still, according to my personal sense of the words, present—though it may not be as common—is more casual sounding than gift. I expect a child to ask Santa for lots and lots of presents, not many, many gifts. But whether it’s gifts or presents you prefer, I wish you many and lots this year, of both the tangible and intangible kind.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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