CFFC: Eight Ate (or Ate Eight?)

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge continues with word play. This week the theme is eight or ate.

The Numeral 8

Groups of eight

Eight windows
Eight windows with shutters
Eight kinds of candy
Coreopsis with eight petals
Eight Canada geese
Two parent swans and six cygnets taking a stroll! before someone ate it!

Homemade carrot cake with cream cheese frosting – Marcia and Sharon ate it!
Passengers on our cruise ship were served this cake on the 4th of July, and they happily ate it!
Jewish gay pride party – rainbow challah! (Everyone ate a piece.)
Christmas cookies homemade by my niece last December – of course we ate them all!

CFFC: Homophones & Homographs

English is such a crazy language! I’m glad I don’t have to learn it as a foreigner! We have many words with more than one pronunciation (homographs), and many words that sound alike but are spelled differently (homophones). Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week plays on the theme of red: a pair of homophones RED – READ; a pair of homographs READ (present tense) and READ (past tense); and another homophone pairing: READ and REED. So here are my REDS, READS and REEDS.

RED: (adjective) a bright primary color

Partial view of a park from a large sculpture with a red hole in the middle
An inviting little table at an Airbnb apartment near Paris
Our neighbor showed off his new toy: a snazzy, shiny, red sporty car!
An intelligent take off of MAGA (and red like MAGA hats!). I saw this sticker sign in Chicago.

READ: (verb) past tense of read: I read an entire book yesterday. But I have not read any of the books in the two photos below, which are written in other languages.

I wonder who has read these sacred Islamic books?
I wonder how many ancient Egyptians read The Book of the Dead in hieroglyphics?

READ: (verb) present tense. I like to read every day.

What book do I read in this photo? I don’t remember!
Sometimes I read magazines.
No one can read this book (except the pages I’m sitting on!) – it is a stone monument to the Russian author Pushkin, in St. Petersburg.

REED: (noun) any of several species of large aquatic grasses, such as those pictured below.

Word of the week: Graupel

We have had some weird weather here in Chicagoland lately. It’s unseasonably cold for April, and last Saturday the weather changed about 10 times! When I looked out the window at 3 pm, it looked like blizzard conditions, with the light snow whirling madly against strong winds. But at 5 pm, two hours later, the sun was shining!

The ground is too warm now for snow flurries to stay on the ground long. Especially when those snowflakes were not really snowflakes – they  were actually graupel!

Most people who live in areas with cold, snowy winters and volatile springs are probably familiar with graupel, even if they’ve never heard the word – I never had, until Monday, when my stepdaughter told me about it. She gets a daily email  with an unusual word and its definition. It just happened to be appropriate for these last few days of strange weather.

Graupel is precipitation that is formed when water forms around a snowflake and freezes. Similar in appearance to hail, it is distinguished by the fact that it is not solid like hail. If you squeeze a piece of graupel between your fingers, it will disintegrate, because only snow is inside. Since hail is actually a solid bit of ice, it will not disintegrate when you squeeze it.

graupel vs hail


Wikipedia gives this scientific explanation of the phenomenon:

Graupel, also called soft hail, snow pellets, or “grail” is formed when supercooled droplets of water are collected and freeze on falling snowflakes, forming 2-5 mm of rime. …

rime ice-graupel

Under some atmospheric conditions, snow crystals may encounter supercooled water droplets. … Contact between a snow crystal and the supercooled droplets results in freezing of the liquid droplets onto the surface of the crystal. … When this process continues so that the shape of the original snow crystal is no longer identifiable, the resulting crystal is referred to as graupel. Graupel was formerly referred to by meteorologists as soft hail. However, graupel is easily distinguishable from hail in both the shape and strength of the pellet and the circumstances in which it falls. Ice from hail is formed in hard, relatively uniform layers and usually falls only during thunderstorms. Graupel forms fragile, oblong shapes and falls in place of typical snowflakes in wintry mix situations, often in concert with ice pellets. Graupel is also fragile enough that it will typically fall apart when touched.

graupel diagram

The National Weather Service/NOAA has a chart describing different types of precipitation. For graupel to form, surface temperatures should be 45 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Cloud temperatures are mostly below freezing with some portion colder than 15 degrees Fahrenheit. It usually occurs when the lower atmosphere is very unstable.

When you see graupel on the ground, it may remind you of the dessert “Dippin’ Dots”:


In fact, one “Idaho Dad” has a blog post for “Graupel Delight”!

graupel delight

Origin: The origin of the word graupel is from German, according to 1885-90; < German; diminutive of Graupe hulled grain. However, its actual origin is probably from Serbo-Croat krupa; related to Russian krupá peeled grain.

Because of English speakers’ tendency to  create verbs out of nouns, I began to use graupel this way: Instead of “It’s snowing!” or “It’s hailing!” I could be more specific by saying, “It’s graupeling!”





Word(s) of the week: types of fog

I am pairing two weather-related words from two different places. The first is:

pogonip (noun). According to, it comes from a Shoshone word which refers to an ice fog that forms in the mountain valleys in Western USA. Being a “flatlander” in the Midwest, I of course had never heard of this term. I like the sound of it, though, especially the “nip” – when that fog comes in, the weather is quite nippy! A pogonip will nip at an exposed nose or ear!


Pogonip covering a mountain valley

The origin of pogonip in the Shoshone language (the Numic language group) is paγɨnappɨh, which means “thunder cloud.” Pogonip became an Americanism – in general use in that region – by 1865.

The pictures above show pogonip crystals.

The Shoshone people come from the Pacific Northwest. They may have several words derived from this root – just as the Inuit have many words for snow.


Crossing the Atlantic, another fog-related word comes from  eastern Scotland and Northeastern England.  A thick, white fog that comes onto land from the seacoast is called haar. It usually happens on the east coast of the British Isles between April and September, according to Wikipedia. The warm air comes into contact with the cold North Sea, causing the air to condense and creating the fog, which can spread several miles inland. This causes a substantial drop in temperature.


Haar covering half of the rail bridge over the Firth of Forth, Scotland

haar in Edinburgh

Haar descends on the city of Edinburgh.

The web site, dates this word to the late 1600s. It is a variant of the word “hoar.” Perhaps if we close our eyes and listen to what this fog sounds like, it might resemble haar– like a exhalation of air. This is, of course, pure speculation, since I have never seen – or heard – this fog.

The origin of haar may be Low German/Middle Dutch “hare”.

Here’s an especially dramatic picture of the haar:





Word of the Week: portmanteau

This week’s word is portmanteau. It has two meanings. The first comes from combining two French words: porter, which means “to carry” and manteau, which means “mantle” or “cloak” – in other words, clothes. So the first definition of portmanteau is a large suitcase to carry your clothes in.


Notice that the end of “porter” was cut off when combining it with manteau. This may serve as an example of the second definition, which is “to combine two words to make a new, related word.”

portmanteau2Examples in English:
smoke + fog = smog
breakfast + lunch = brunch
It’s different from a compound word, which combines two words together in their entirety, e.g. sunflower, raindrop.

Two more examples: information + commercial = infomercial
situation + comedy = sitcom

Can you think of any others?


You can make up your own portmanteau words – maybe they’ll go mainstream!!


The web site says that the second definition of portmanteau was created by Lewis Carroll (real name Charles L. Dodgson, born 1832, died 1898) for the kind of words he invented for “Jabberwocky”(1872): (noun) “two meanings packed up into one word.”