Monday, December 31, 2007

Snow berm: A word I needed!

Over at the Columnist Manifesto, Oscar Madison casually used a word for something I didn't have a word for: It's the (sometimes massive) row of snow that a plow leaves blocking your driveway. He called it a berm, and in fact 'snow berm' gets a lot of g-hits, including from municipal websites stating policies about this. People usually call the big piles along the side of the road a snow bank, but that's awkward when it's a relatively small amount. (Bank doesn't work for 6 or 8 inches of snow, only big amounts!) I had learned the phrase to be plowed in for driveways years ago, but lacked a noun for the situation.

Thanks, Oscar!

Image from this Forest Service website. (I would have happily called that a snow bank.)

9 comments:

The Ridger, FCD said...

Yeah, it's a berm. A berm made out of snow... I know berms as made by landscapers and guys who make airstrips, but I have to admit I would never have thought of "snow berm" - but that's exactly it.

Tulugaq said...

For me, a berm doesn't have to be small, it just has to be man-made. I vividly remember a snowplow accidentally burying my parents' station wagon once when I was a child. I could only call that a berm, not a bank, even though it had to have been at least four feet tall to bury the car.

For me, snow bank develops naturally, from snowfall, drifting in the wind, or whatnot, but a berm is almost always from a snowplow. I checked with some other lifelong Alaskans and people who've lived here 40 years or more, and they also came up with a definition of berm as man-made. Could be regional, of course.

Mr. Verb said...

Thanks. Right, a berm just needs to be man-made, so it works well for this. I've asked a couple of Wisconsinites and they seem to prefer 'snow bank', so it might indeed be regional.

Anonymous said...

bank and berm aren't necessarily synonymous. Berms have banks. A berm is a mound of earth, bank is often used to mean specifially the sloped side of a mound or earthen feature. Thus, you can find the phrase "berm bank" in use.

Mr. Verb said...

Thanks. Yeah, that makes sense. They clearly aren't real synonyms for other reasons, as I noted earlier, because a tiny little thing seems to get called a 'berm', but 'bank' doesn't quite work for that.

Of course, after an official 13.3 inches of snow here yesterday, there's nothing tiny about the berms OR banks we have today!

Anonymous said...

I've also seen the word "berm" used as a verb. As in "The area was bermed..". I'm not sure of this usage. Comments? Thoughts?

Anonymous said...

In the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the drifts left by snow plows are definitely "berms".

javieth said...

I must to say i love the snow, the cold climate, although i´m not a child anymore i remember my happy childhood and all the beutiful time that i spent with all my friends. Now when is snowing i prefer to spend my time with my boyfriend, most of all that he decided to buy viagra, we enjoy all the time.

edcastle said...

"Windrow" is also used for snow pile left on driveways by snowplows.