The Gospel of Hyperbole

Jan Freeman, who writes The Word column for the Boston Globe, had a good one yesterday about two words that fell down with all the snow last week on the East Coast: snowmageddon and snowpocalypse. I love them both. Ms. Freeman explores their origins and delves into the root words, explaining why snowpocalypse might better reflect the mood under all that snow:

If you have any purist leanings, there are reasons to go with snowpocalypse. It’s based on apocalypse, the Greek word for “unveiling, revelation” and the alternative name for the Book of Revelation, that vision of the world’s end. Well into the 19th century, apocalypse could still be used as an everyday synonym for “disclosure,” but by the end of the century it had acquired a darker meaning: a catastrophe or disaster of the scale foretold in Revelation, one that does (in the Oxford English Dictionary’s words) “drastic, irreversible damage to human society or the environment, esp. on a global scale; a cataclysm.”

Armageddon, on the other hand, is just one battle, a single event in the long unrolling of the end times; its name is a site in Israel, says the OED, “the place of the last decisive battle at the Day of Judgement; hence [it is] used allusively for any ‘final’ conflict on a great scale.”

But she also thinks snowmaegeddon will win out. Read the full story to find out why.

As I write this late Sunday night, snow is falling on Louisville, making its way slowly east. It may be there by now. Search your souls, sinful, liberal East Coast types. The end is nigh. Or at least the beginning. Of more shoveling.