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Since You Asked: We're ready for this cold snap to break

I noticed during the recent cold weather that you've often used the phrase "cold snap" in the paper. How and when did the weather become a snap?

— John N., Medford

The how isn't exactly clear, John, but the Americanism experts at the Since You Asked College of Etymology say the expression goes back to the American colonies in George Washington's day, first turning up in the 1770s.

The key issue is that not just any period of cold temperatures qualifies as a snap. The word is reserved properly for a sudden onset of a brief period of cold weather. If it stays cold all month, it's no longer a snap.

Frankly, we're ready for a hot snap.