England has had far more snow this winter than for many a long year – 18 according to the Meteorological Office.
When snow falls and does not immediately melt, what is it doing? In Scotland, it is said to be lying. In many parts of England it settles, but in the North West of England – and maybe elsewhere – it sticks. And in Wiltshire at least, it pitches. At first sight, this last seems the oddest, but we pitch a tent when we set it up, so this is a similar use of the word.
When we think of dialectal variation, we usually think of the unusual words that occur in one area but not others. Most speakers of English would not consider their use of ‘lie’, ‘settle’, ‘stick’ or ‘pitch’ in this sense as dialectal, but it is just as much part of local dialect as is Glaswegian ‘yin’ for ‘one’, or North Staffordshire ‘purvet’ for ‘rummage’.