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So I'm trying to describe a scene set in winter, and I've this sentence I can't write to my satisfaction. Basically, I'm at a loss trying to figure out the precise verb that should go into the blank space. The sentence is:

The lull of the winter night was broken by the intermittent --- of snow sliding down the metal roofs.

I assume you get the picture. I don't have the word for this type of sound. The closest candidates I found are swish/swoosh, but I've reservations as to their felicity.

Could anyone please supply the appropriate verb for the given context? (Bonus points if some writer of note has used the sought word in a similar setting.)

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9 Answers 9

16

The sound is whoosh and the action is slide.

The lull of the winter night was broken by the intermittent whoosh of snow sliding off the tin roofs.

From the Oxford English Dictionary (login required):

whoosh, v.

2. transitive. To cause to move rapidly with a rushing sound. Also figurative. Const. up, to enliven.

DERIVATIVES

whoosh n. a sound of this nature (also reduplicated); also, an exclamation ‘whoosh!’; a movement accompanied by a rushing sound; a gushing or ‘whooshing’ style.

From Billy at billy.com:

Is a Metal Roof Right For You?
. . . metal roof owners will be pleased when, as the sun heats the roof up, they hear the whoosh of a small avalanche as the snow slides off the house.

I can’t vouch for the notability of these writers, but . . .

Every noise outside the house distracted her, the whoosh of the snow sliding off the roof, the crack of a branch.
Christmas In Delaney Mountain

The truth hit me with a whoosh, a heap of snow sliding off the roof.
North by Night: A Story of the Underground Railroad

. . . a place where at night you will listen to the whoosh of the snow sliding off the roof.
The Mountaineer

More at Google; search ”whoosh” “snow” “sliding” “roof”.

 

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  • 1
    The sound of snow sliding off the roof, as I had said in my comment that was erased. ludwig.guru/s/snow+sliding+off+the+roof. No need for whoosh at all.
    – Lambie
    Dec 29, 2021 at 18:23
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    @Lambie: The OP asked for "the word for this type of sound" — an onomatopoeia. Dec 29, 2021 at 19:58
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    The sound of snow whooshing down/off the roof. The sound of snow sliding off the roof/ Both are too much. The OP doesn't know that. L:ess is better in this kind of writing.
    – Lambie
    Dec 29, 2021 at 22:26
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    @user405662 I just gave you two ways to write it in my previous comment.
    – Lambie
    Dec 30, 2021 at 14:34
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    @user405662 That is your decision to make. With or without the onomatopoeia.
    – Lambie
    Dec 30, 2021 at 14:39
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A Canadian's perspective: It depends on how you want to convey the image of the quantity of sliding snow. Having frequently heard the sound (and on occasions been frightened by it - especially in the middle of the night), I like the "the grumble of snow sliding off the roof" (relatively small quantity, slow movement) or, with a thaw in process, "the roar of the accumulated winter's snow being dumped from the roof" (huge quantity, rapid movement, nightmares).

David

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whisper (n.)

Figurative. A soft rustling sound resembling or suggesting that of a whispering voice. OED

Literary A soft rustling or murmuring sound. Lexico


Yet through it all he heard the whisper of snow seeping beneath the doors, seething along the floor toward his father lying there on the concrete, motionless, looking nowhere and breathing nothing. David Wroblewski; The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

Earlier he had glimpsed the evening star through the scudding clouds, but now the clouds had thickened and he heard the whisper of snow being driven against the window panes. J. Sawyer and G. Devon; A Christmas to Cherish

Every time he stopped to breathe, he could hear the whisper of melting snow sliding down the cliff around him... Heather Albano; Timebound

3

Having no context, I would alter the line as follows:

The still of the winter night was interrupted only by the occasional sound of snow racing down the metal roofs.

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    "the occasional sound of snow racing down the metal roofs" suggests that the snow is constantly racing down the metal roof and is occasionally heard, rather than occasionally falling from the roof. Dec 29, 2021 at 17:30
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    snow does not race off a roof.
    – Lambie
    Dec 29, 2021 at 18:25
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    Occasional means the same as intermittent when used here, but I feel like it gives it a more irregular feel than intermittent, which I tend to associate with windshield wipers. They seem regular, which makes me think of snow regularly falling rather than on occasion. If snow doesn't race off a roof, then the original question can't be answered, which is why I altered the line instead of trying to invent a sound for it. The only sound that comes to mind is "whoosh" as the snow falls, but when you add in "metal roofs", it adds another layer. Let the reader interpret the meaning.
    – falloc
    Dec 29, 2021 at 20:10
  • Actually, you're both 100% right, and I'd also like to steal whisper for this one and drop metal completely: The still of the winter night was interrupted only by the whisper of snow as it tumbled down the roofs.
    – falloc
    Dec 29, 2021 at 20:18
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I propose

The lull of the winter night was broken by the occasional slithering of snow [racing] down the tin roofs.

I would leave out racing.

From Lexico

slither
VERB

1 Move smoothly over a surface with a twisting or oscillating motion.
1.1 Slide or slip unsteadily on a loose or slippery surface.

we slithered down a snowy mountain track

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  • Thanks for suggesting this nice word! :-)
    – user405662
    Dec 29, 2021 at 8:57
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    Related: "the slithy toves" from Jabberwocky Dec 29, 2021 at 9:12
  • To me, 'spasmodic' has negative connotations, as in muscle spasms. 'Slithering' as per the first definition, invokes a twisting motion, like a snake, not the straight line motion of snow sliding.
    – Glen Yates
    Dec 29, 2021 at 18:00
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    @GlenYates the word 'spasmodic' was in the original post, before it was later edited. Also, when snow breaks free, a slab of it often does twist and turn on its way down. Dec 29, 2021 at 18:02
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    snakes and people slither, not snow.
    – Lambie
    Dec 29, 2021 at 18:24
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whoosh is not quite right -- it suggests speed. Olympic bobsleighs whoosh. If I were writing your piece, I would use crump, which Wiktionary defines as "the sound of a muffled explosion".

And "racing down" is also too fast. I would say "sliding down" or "sliding off".

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    "crump" as the snow impacts the ground after sliding off the edge, right? I think the question is asking about the sound it makes as it slides down the metal roof. Dec 30, 2021 at 4:19
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    @Peter Cordes That's right.
    – user405662
    Dec 30, 2021 at 6:04
  • @PeterCordes: You are right. But it's better than whoosh.
    – TonyK
    Dec 30, 2021 at 11:55
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As someone who lived in the northeast, I would propose rustling

Let not the creaking of shoes nor the rustling of silks betray thy poor heart to woman. Keep thy foot out of brothels, thy hand out of plackets, thy pen from lenders' books, and defy the foul fiend. -King Lear Act III Scene IV (Page 4), Shakespeare

Generally rustling applies to lighter objects (that reach a somewhat higher frequency when there is some sort of friction). Thus, depending on the intensity of the snow (viscosity, stickiness, volume, velocity etc.) and what is causing it to slide in the first place.

Alternatives may be crackling, murmuring as per the aforementioned conditions.

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If you want a poetic word, susurrus (or susurration) might work. It is often used to indicate a low natural background sound, similar to whispering or murmuring, such as leaves in the wind, water flowing in a stream, etc.

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    Don't you think it's too soft a sound to apply to snow sliding off a metal roof?
    – user405662
    Dec 29, 2021 at 16:12
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    @user405662 I guess that depends on how much snow, and how fast it's sliding. I pictured something like this... youtube.com/watch?v=frojJUUaiGc
    – barbecue
    Dec 29, 2021 at 20:15
-2

I would go with this suggestion "The lull of the winter night was broken by the intermittent whoosh of snow sliding off the tin roofs"

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    Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Dec 29, 2021 at 1:30
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    This word was already given in the accepted answer Dec 29, 2021 at 8:44
  • Thank you @Muchina for the suggestion. Not my downvote. :-)
    – user405662
    Dec 29, 2021 at 16:13

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