24th March 2016
(Above) Poor visibility above 700m for most of the day; quite dreich, too. View from the NE ridge of Sron a Ghoire looking towards Coire Chriochairein. Traces of melting fresh snow in amongst grasses and heather in the foreground.
(Above) Not the best conditions for photography! Looking down to Loch Laggan with a blurry Aberarder Farmhouse somewhere right of shot.
(Above) Fairly benign looking glide crack here. Much wider and deeper elsewhere on Sron a Ghoire.
(Above) It was wet. Vehicles tracks on the approach to Sron a Ghoire awash with rainfall run-off and melt-water.
If you read today’s avalanche report you’ll see a mention of sluffs. Since this is topical it’s a good moment to put to bed a minor issue that divides opinion amongst SAIS forecasters.
Is it sluff or slough?
Let’s see if we can bridge this etymological and pronunciation schism with a little common-sense and clarity of thought.
Sluff (rhymes with stuff). Â That’s clear and unambiguous.
Slough (pronounced sluff?, or sloff?, or slow?, or slau?) Confused? I am!Â
Putting âsnow sluffâ into Google comes up with 37,800 tightly relevant results. âSnow sloughâ comes to 468,000. But, the âsnow sloughâ references are all about snow clearing in Slough or something (The town made famous by Ricky Gervaisâs âThe Officeâ & John Betjemanâs âcome friendly bombsâ invitation in his eponymous poem). References to the loose snow phenomenon in question are relatively sparse â only two on the first two pages of results for slough. A win for âsluffâ then?
The pedants out there will be frothing at this and howling at the moon because slough is embedded deep in our language, having its roots in Middle English meaning âmoultingâ or shedding of skin like snakes do. The link to the snow feature, or movement of snow, is fairly clear here. So, an equaliser!
However, the BBC News website have made their mind up and are unequivocal:
Canât argue with the Beeb, the âkeeper of the flameâ and ne plus ultra of the written and spoken word, can we?
2-1 to sluff?
We do seem to revel in weird spelling/pronunciation combos on this side of the Atlantic. Where else in the world could we come up with Cholmondeley (pron. chumley), or the good burghers of Findochty on the Moray Firth coast knocking the edges off the name to pronounce it fin-ech-ty. The list of examples of where this has happened with words/names/place names is a very long one here on this sceptred isle of ours. Monty Python nailed the issue in their old âRaymond Luxury Yachtâ sketch, where Raymond Luxury Yacht is pronounced Throatwobbler Mangrove.
Our love of complification (now thereâs an excellent non-word!) is bewildering to other nations, not least the Americans. Yes, our North American cousins can and do butcher arcane parts of the English language and its medieval roots, but thereâs often method in their madness, surely?
Sluff: itâs just so much easier on the tongue and eye. Go figure!
3-1. Final score.
If you object to any of the above content please put your comments on a postcard and send them to: Raymond Luxury Yacht, c/o Pedantsâ Corner, Slough (pron. slau). Berkshire (pron. barkshire).
âSAIS Creag Meagaidh: Fighting back against Obsessive Compulsives & pedantry since 1990â
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24th March 2016 6:38 pm
I love it when there’s not a lot to report on the avalanche front (from Meagaidh at any rate).
The background musings are far more entertaining (and informative). You are a true Reithian.
PS. ‘Dog fan’ (re: yesterday’s canine-orientated post).
24th March 2016 8:07 pm
We aim to please. Plenty of time to muse when covering the kilometres at ‘Meggie!
24th March 2016 7:21 pm
Asked the wife, she ken’s it a’. It’s Slough!
24th March 2016 8:05 pm
I understand your predicament. Always best to agree with the wife!