Monday, February 06, 2006

Frosty February

One of the many roles of an English teacher is to be a mind reader. Usually I’m pretty good at this: when my single student stutters “When I went to the restaurant, the, she was very beautiful” – I can quickly supply “The waitress?”; and in summer, if my student complains “At the – swimming place – the – like the Autobahn”, I’m able to fill in “At the swimming pool, the lanes were very crowded”.

But winter often stumps me. Being brought up in a city with temperatures which have never in history dipped below zero has left a significant blank chunk in my English vocabulary and an inability to supply names for numerous objects which are quite everyday objects for my students. (In fact, I still don’t really know if referring to the “ice scraper” when clearing car windows every morning is the right name). And this week I was stumped by yet another phenomenon entirely new to me: Raureif. What I initially thought was a fine layer of snow which had magically formed barbed-wire like formations on every surface was in fact what my reliable online dictionary tells me is hoar frost, glazed frost or for the technically inclined, rime. You learn something every day.

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