in Wacky Word Wednesday

Have you been feeling a bit under the weather? Want to clear your head of all that fog? Well, you’re just in time for today’s fog-tastic Wacky Word Wednesday, a weekly celebration of the wackiest and most interesting words from around the world!

The definition from

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a dense fog containing ice particles

quo botPogonip - Wacky Word Wednesday

According to the online Merriam-Webster dictionary, the first known use of pogonip was in 1865. Most sources concur that the etymology of this word comes from the Shoshone Native American tribe, which Sacagawea happened to be a member of. The Shoshone word that pogonip is derived from, payinappih, means “cloud”.

Because of the precise environmental conditions required for pogonip to occur, it can be experienced only in certain places, such as western United States, in parts of Alaska, and in Siberia. Some prerequisites for pogonip include a very low temperature that is below freezing point. At the same time, the humidity in the air has to be around 100 percent, which is a common requirement for most fog formations. As the humidity creates moisture and the temperature drops, ice crystals will form and settle in the air. Only then will the conditions be set for pogonip, more commonly understood as ice fog.

Word on the etymological street is pogonip is also know by another name: White Death. In our research, we found some reasons for this alternate name. Because ice fog is so thick and requires such low temperatures, outside exposure could result in death from the cold or in lung damage in the case of too much inhalation. The thickness of the fog also contributes to getting lost due to poor visibility, which could lead to either (or both) of the two aforementioned outcomes.

In the United States’ northernmost city, Barrow, Alaska, pogonip certainly makes an appearance. Aside from ice fog, a visit to Barrow at the right time of year will also allow one to witness other natural wonders that many other cities do not offer…such as the absence of the sun for about two months annually. As one weather observer of the National Weather Service put it when he saw the sun for the first time this year on January 23rd after its hiatus since November 18th, he treated himself to “an extra cup of coffee” that day.

If you head to Santa Cruz, CA, people there have also most likely heard of pogonip, but not in the meteorological sense; rather, the University of California Santa Cruz borders Pogonip Park, one of the city’s five greenbelts.

For some more examples of pogonip, we’ll follow the mantra a picture’s worth a thousand words, and send you onward to see what we wouldn’t be able to describe with words.

If you’re interested in translation, localizing, or even if you just like to read the occasional blog, check out our website here.

  1. That picture is gorgeous!
    Hope you guys post more pictures with your wacky word posts =]

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