Wednesday, September 04, 2002

Etymology Today from M-W: pogonip \PAH-guh-nip\
: a dense winter fog containing frozen particles that is formed in deep mountain valleys of the western U.S.

In the mountains of the western U.S., the fog condenses into tiny, biting ice particles in extremely cold weather. The English-speaking settlers who encountered this unpleasant and sometimes scary phenomenon when they went out West in the 1800s needed a word for it. So they borrowed "paginappih" ("cloud") from the Southern Paiute, a Shoshonean people of the southwestern U.S., altering it to "pogonip." "Pogonip" is also the designation of an aptly named wilderness area north of Santa Cruz that is often enveloped in fog.

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