Thursday, August 2, 2012


A haboob in Iraq
The first word is HABOOB, which is kind of fun to say, even if you don't know what it means.  This word comes from the Arabic word habb, which means "wind."  A haboob is a really big sandstorm or dust storm.  It can happen in any really arid place where there is a bunch of sand just lying around, waiting for the wind to pick it up and blow it somewhere.  Haboobs like to make a big entrance by rolling into town as a wall of sand or dust that can be 3,000 feet tall.

Haboobs are common in countries around the Sahara Desert, such as Sudan, and they also happen in places like Arabia, Kuwait, and Iraq.  Australia has haboobs in its deserts, for instance around Alice Springs.  A haboob might blow sand and debris several kilometers into the sky.  And after the haboob is over, there can be a foot of sand left behind.

In North America, there are sometimes haboobs in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.  I don't think there are any haboobs in Missouri, but if we don't get some rain soon, it could happen!

Exodusters on St. Louis levee, waiting
for steamboat to take them to Kansas.
Library of Congress photo
If you look at the word EXODUSTER, you might think it meant somebody who was making an exodus from a haboob.  But if you thought that, you'd be wrong.  Because it turns out that an exoduster was an African-American who left the southern U.S. in 1879-1880 and moved to Kansas.  The reason people did this was because there was all sorts of scary stuff going on, such as the Ku Klux Klan and racial oppression and rumors that blacks might have to be slaves again.  So people packed up all the stuff they owned, which wasn't very much, and they left.

Kansas was the place people wanted to go because John Brown had been there before the Civil War started, and he had freed a bunch of slaves and took them to Canada on the Underground Railroad.  Also, Kansas had entered the union as a free state -- after people first did a lot of fighting over the issue -- so Kansas seemed like a more tolerant state than some others.  There were several agencies that tried to help the exodusters, but most of these people still ended up being very poor.  After the summer of 1880, African-Americans pretty much stopped coming  to Kansas, and the Exoduster movement died out.

SPOONY is another funny-sounding word, and you can use it to describe somebody who is silly and sentimental, fond, weak-minded, or soft.  A spoony person is goofy and lovable, and just wants to have fun.

The word was first used in English popular literature before 1835.   It's a term that was used by sailors who were out sailing around in those big, tall ships.  When a storm came up that was really strong, the ship had to put right before the wind, which was called "spooning."  The same thing might happen to a young man who was in the storm of courtship.  When he was in danger of being swept away by a look from his lady, he might have to "spoon" in order to stay upright and afloat.

The last word is FOMITE, which is a very important word to know if you want to keep from getting sick.  Any inanimate thing that can help germs get from one person to another is a fomite.  Some examples are towels, money, clothing, dishes, books, and toys.  This is one reason people use hand sanitizer after they handle something that might be a fomite.  Some of Mom's favorite fomites are (1) money, (2) gas pump handles, and (3) stair railings.  She tries to wash her hands after she touches any of these icky things.  Dogs don't usually worry too much about fomites.  But ear mites are a different issue!


  1. It's always nice to learn some new words. But I'm really wanted to let you know that we figured out why we don't have many zucchinis. We have boy flowers. Did you know that zucchini plants have boy flowers and girl flowers? We did not know that. And sadly we have lots of dud, er I mean boy, flowers in our little bed of weeds, er I mean garden. And you don't get anything from boy flowers.

    hungry as ever,
    Zest, superstar in training

    1. Oh, so you have boy flowers, do you? Well, of course we girls know that boys are practically useless, so now it's obvious why you don't have zucchinis! But anyway, who cares about some old vegetable? Tell your mom and dad to grow RABBITS instead, and then you will have plenty of yummy things to eat!

      Your friend, Piper (also always hungry!)