Dear Tom, 

 Is “snain” the unofficial term used to refer to a rain and snow mix? Or what we would call sleet. I have heard that the Canadians and British use this term.

Jeannee Nordin, La Porte, IN

Dear Jeannee, 

“Snain” is a slang term that has been used to describe a combination of snow and rain falling simultaneously, or snow that has not completely melted and reaches the ground as droplets of slush. Sleet, or ice pellets on the other hand occur when rain falls through a sub-freezing layer of atmosphere that is sufficiently deep enough to allow the raindrops to freeze into beads of ice. Some Chicago-area residents may remember “snain” as a term used on-air by the late John Coleman while a forecaster with ABC-7 in the 1970s. Though officially still considered slang in Canada and the UK as well, “snain” has been submitted to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as well as the OED and Canadian Oxford Dictionary.