Last spring, I was talking with a ski journalist based in San Francisco. He had recently used the word gaper in an article. His editor crossed it out and substituted the word “newbie.” My friend wasn’t happy and thus unleashed his finest persuasive and argumentative powers to explain his word choice. His editor remained unswayed. “Newbie” remained in place.
Specialized Language or Slang?
Every sport has specialized vocabulary, short-hand phrases, abbreviations and slang. If it’s not your sport, you may not understand the language (or you may just find it annoying).
We were driving a lot this fall while the Denver Broncos were playing. Without fail (and to my great annoyance), when the Broncos were on offense the radio announcer would proclaim “Manning’s in the gun.” Yes, I know that this refers to quarterback Peyton Manning standing well back of the center to receive the ball in the “shotgun” position, but really, “the gun”? Annoying.
Our younger son is annoyed by something I say. He cannot stand the acronym SUP, for stand up paddleboard. “Is it really so hard to say standup paddleboard?” he asks me, his voice dripping with derision at the laziness (or perhaps trendiness) of his mother. “It is so tiring to say the words?” he asks me.
“But everyone calls them SUPs,” I patiently explain. He’s having none of it.
Gaper Versus Newbie
So, what is a gaper? According to Urban Dictionary, a “gaper is a skier or snowboarder who is completely clueless.” In defense of my journalist friend, let’s now look at the definition for “newbie.” Again from Urban Dictionary, “a newbie is a newcomer to anything.”
So let me ask you: Clueless versus New? Same or different? In my mind they’re different. One can be new at something, yet not be clueless, just as one can be a newbie, without being a gaper.
Let’s Make a List!
As the mother of two teenage boys, and as someone who spends a lot of time on chairlifts, in ski shops, and on snow, I’ve learned some skiing vocabulary. Some of the words are relatively new, some quite old, some very trendy and some dusty with disuse.
Here are five of my favorites. There are thousands more out there. Rather than trying to be exhaustive (and ending up exhausted), I’ll start this lexicon off and invite you, dear reader, to please add your favorite skiing words and phrases.
A Skiers’ Lexicon (Begun)
Gaper Gap: The space on the forehead between the helmet (or hat) and goggles. The dead giveaway of a gaper. One can be a newbie without said gap. But can one be a gaper without it?
Stease (steeze, steezey, steasy, steasey): My new favorite word. A winning combination of “style and ease.” I want to live my life with stease (seriously).
Dude: Definitely old-school, yet “dude” never goes out of style. Urban Dictionary defines it as “the universal pronoun.” Others say it’s a contraction of “dud” and “attitude,” used to describe arrogant city slickers playing cowboy in the West and wearing their city duds with attitude. I just remember the first time my boyfriend (now husband) called me dude. I knew I ranked right up there with his college roommate.
Grom (grommet): This word started out meaning a young surfer. Skiers and snowboarders liked it so much that now it also means a youngling on skis or a board. If you’re a brave ski mom or dad, your offspring are probably groms.
Stoke: Something really cool or amazing. Like skiing, no?
And your words are?
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