After herald, let’s have another word that appears in various seasonal songs:
- Chestnuts roasting on an open fire;
Jack Frost nipping at your nose… (The Christmas Song, Wells and Tormé)
- Frosty the Snowman
Was a jolly happy soul… (Frosty the Snowman, Rollins and Nelson)
Here, we’ve got the noun form frost together with the adjective frosty – at least, normally an adjective, when it’s not the name of a snowman.
What do I need to know about frost?
First of all, it can be an uncountable noun, meaning a thin layer of ice crystals that forms on a cold surface. For example, something we might say this week in England is:
- It feels cold this morning. I wonder if there’s any frost outside.
Frost can also be countable. A frost is an instance of frost.
Gardeners worry about a hard frost – also called a heavy frost – causing frost damage to tender plants.
Some plants are killed even by a light frost. Even where I am, in southern England, we may have several light frosts coming up to the end of December and I worry that some of my young plants may be susceptible to frost (= likely to be damaged).
Meanwhile, poets and photographers welcome the first frost of the year, running out to look for hoarfrost: that’s the pretty kind that appears on spiders’ webs and washing lines.
And how about the adjective, frosty?
Easy – a frosty day is a day with frosty weather.
You can also use it metaphorically, to mean unfriendly:
- His email had a distinctly frosty tone.
- My aunt invited us for Christmas lunch, but I don’t think we’ll go. Last year we had a frosty reception from the whole family. I never found out why.
The reception in the second example isn’t specifically a wedding reception or that kind of event: reception refers to being received as a guest. So a frosty reception is a general feeling of being unwelcome.
Of course, there are other words for cold weather that you can use in a similar metaphorical way, with some slight differences in usage. For instance:
- As soon as she had spoken those words, a chill descended.
- “I have no idea what you mean”, Robert replied icily.
What can I say if someone was unfriendly and now is friendly again?
A relationship or reception can be warm, but that’s too basic a word, right?
So here’s a nicer one: thaw. You can use it as a noun, meaning a gradual warming:
- There seems to be a thaw in relations between my aunt and mother.
This phrase, a thaw in relations, is more typical of geopolitics (a thaw between North and South Korea, etc.), but there’s no reason why we can’t use it for families!
More commonly, thaw is used as a verb:
- The garden is thawing out! I think my plants are going to be okay!
What about the crystalline ice in my freezer – is that frost?
But if you’ve got a lot of it, maybe you need to defrost your freezer. I know, defrosting is a messy job, especially once it thaws and makes a puddle under the freezer, but it’s got to be done sometimes.
The opposite of defrosting is freezing:
- I’ve left some chicken out to cook later today, but I’ll freeze the rest.
Is frosting not a word?
It is, but it’s got a different meaning, also kitchen-related. See the green stuff on this cupcake?
You can also use frost as a verb:
- I’m not finished the cupcakes yet; I still need to frost them. You remembered to buy sprinkles, didn’t you?
So a cake can be frosted. Anything else?
Glass can be frosted. You know how some glass has a pattern that looks a bit like ice-crystals, so that you can see light coming through but don’t get a clear view?
Drinking glasses can be frosted, as can bathroom windows. Offices often use frosted glass for internal windows, as in the picture here:
That’s all for today! Don’t forget to ‘like’ and follow, and you can also find us at Facebook.
Well, I’d better go and check on my plants.
Keep warm, and see you for the next instalment of winter vocabulary!