Back in 2013, the excellent blog called odamaki posted about an unusual word that the OED had missed (and it’s still not there):

It is incredible to me that the Oxford English Dictionary does not have the word pogonip. Merriam-Webster say that they have a cite from 1865. I had thought that the OED had put all of their material for the letters M through R online, before the editors started jumping around more last year. How did this word fall through the cracks in the OED’s reading program for American genre fiction?

Perhaps pogonip got swept up into general-use dictionaries because it was used in a Louis L’Amour story “Down the Pogonip Trail”. Later writers of Westerns and frontier fiction seem to have propagated the word after that. […]

Is pogonip the only word in English from Shoshoni (besides Shoshoni nɨmɨ “person” in the linguistic term Numic)? I really like having these rare words in the dictionary. Imagine the pleasure of reading a Western in which this word is dropped, wondering where it came from, and then looking it up in the dictionary to find its origin with the sinking feeling that it will not be entered. But there it is!

The Random House Dictionary (always the best general dictionary for the origins of Native American words, thanks to the contributions of Ives Goddard) gives the following etymology:

Origin: 1860–65, Americanism; < Shoshone paγɨnappɨh thunder cloud; compare soγovaγɨnappɨh fog (with soγo- earth), yaγumpaγɨnappih fog (with yaγun- valley).

I must see if there is a further Uto-Aztecan etymology for paγɨnappɨh. To be continued…

So I thought I’d bring it here for the general edification and see if anyone knew any more.


  1. J.W. Brewer says

    For other allegedly Shoshone-derived loanwords: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Category:English_terms_derived_from_Shoshone

  2. odamaki has reminded me of suridane, which is:

    Spicy seasoning made of chili pepper, sesame, and sansho pepper, stir-fried with oil

    Suridane condiment

    Sanshō pepper

    The main condiment that is typically used with Yoshida udon is called suridane, which consists of spices like chilli pepper, sesame, and other peppers and then fried with oil. It is a spicy condiment, but how spicy it is varies with each shop.


  3. Sounds good!

  4. From Wick R. Miller, James L. Tanner, and Lawrence P. Foley, “A Lexicostatistic Study of Shoshoni Dialects” Anthropological Linguistics vol. 13, no. 4 (Apr., 1971), pp. 158:

    In the central and northern area, pakənappəh (A) is fog, especially low, valley fog, or fog off a lake; and tomo (B) is cloud, especially storm cloud. Cp. tommo year, winter (item 65). In the Panamint and the more southern Shoshoni area, pakənappəh is used for cloud, and sometimes also for fog. In the Panamint area, -kəna was said to mean to cover; pa- is clearly water, and -ppəh a noun forming suffix. wəkənappəh is used for fog by some Panamint speakers (wə-, unidentified), wəppakənappəh by some speakers from Duckwater through Skull Valley, and sokopakəna (soko- ground, earth) by some speakers at Gosiute.

    Here is the Wiktionary entry for Proto-Uto-Aztecan *pa-. From this protoform, as far as I can ascertain, Cahuilla also has páxiš, and Serrano pakiit, and Kitanemuk pakit, all ‘fog’. Is the -ki- of these forms akin to the -kəna of the Shoshoni? As for the Shoshoni suffix -ppeh, Richley H. Crapo (1976) Big Smokey Valley Shoshoni says this suffix is used on ‘stative nouns, or nouns viewed as by nature haing certain static characteristics or being in an inalterable state’.

    You can hear recordings of several speakers saying the Shoshoni word at the Shoshoni Talking Dictionary by typing pakenappeh into the search box.

  5. DARE has some citations: https://www.daredictionary.com/view/dare/ID_00044401

    It’s also the name of a former golf club, polo club and now a regional park near Santa Cruz, California. I’m not sure why, as Santa Cruz is not cold enough for a true pogonip (ice fog). Maybe from Louis L’Amour?

    Apparently the term was frequently used in The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

  6. The Santa Cruz name goes back to at least the 1880s. There’s a Pogonip Creek and there was then a Pogonip Hose Company. It does get foggy there.

    As to the etymology, Stubbs’ Uto-Aztecan Dictionary (nos. 500a/500b) adds little to what Xerîb has gathered. The Takic (Cahuilla. Cupeño, Serrano, Kitanemuk) forms appear cognate to each other, and likewise the Numic forms, but I don’t see any way to make ki- cognate to kɨna-.

  7. I actually am currently based in the very heartland of the pogonip—Reno, NV. I was aware of the term, and it crops up in local media occasionally (with a gloss) but it’s definitely a “crossword word” rather than an actual word in parlance.

    The Santa Cruz association is just weird, as I’d also lived there. Santa Cruz, CA, never even gets chilly. Foggy, sure…but never cold, let alone icy.

  8. I learn from maidhc and laowai’s comments that the pogonip in Gillian Welch’s “Wrecking Ball” is not generally “somewhere in the mountains out West” or even “a cloud of pot smoke”, but most probably specifically the Pogonip park in Santa Cruz, where Welch went to university. Excellent!

  9. ktschwarz says

    “To be continued” — it *was* continued at the American Heritage website, which now has an etymology clearly drawn from the same sources cited above:

    [From Western Shoshone pakenappeh : pakena-, fog (akin to Cahuilla páxiš, fog, both Shoshone and Cahuilla from earlier *pa-ki-, perhaps ultimately from Proto-Uto-Aztecan *pā-, water) + -ppeh, suffix for stative nouns or nouns considered to be in an inalterable state.]

    where in the last print edition (2011) it was just “[Shoshone pakenappeh.]”

    Something else praiseworthy about the Random House dictionary is that they actually explained the non-English pronunciation symbols in “paγɨnappɨh”, in the front matter under Etymology, “Treatment of Non-European Languages”. Readers at Language Hat probably don’t need to be told what gamma and barred i represent, since they’re IPA, but most dictionary readers would, and most dictionaries are very incomplete in their documentation of the transcriptions in their etymologies.

    Unfortunately, the etymology uses γ (U+03B3 Greek Small Letter Gamma), difficult to distinguish from y in italics or a sans serif font; the front matter more correctly uses ɣ (U+0263 Latin Small Letter Gamma), which is more distinct from y and is the IPA symbol. Merriam-Webster seems to have cribbed the etymology from RH, and Peter Sokolowski must have thought the gamma was a y when he prepared a “Word of the Day” podcast on pogonip: he pronounces the Shoshone word as if it had a y, and spells it that way in the transcript. Too bad.

  10. Too bad indeed!

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