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I'm trying to describe the sight of houses on the mountain appearing and disappearing alternately because of the fog. What verbs best describe that?

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  • 1
    Check out synonyms of "flash" and "blink" (and maybe "flicker").
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 12 '20 at 15:27
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    Another possible term (though probably reserved for brighter images) is "strobing".
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 12 '20 at 19:16
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    Houses on mountains either arise from the fog or are swallowed up by it. Example sentence needed; answer to the title is fade in and out.
    – Mazura
    Jan 13 '20 at 0:01
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    @Hot Licks: I think "strobing" would be reserved for something much faster.
    – jamesqf
    Jan 13 '20 at 1:00
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    Catching glimpses of the houses through the fog. We don't have an ergative verb where we could say the houses were glimpsing through the fog.
    – Phil Sweet
    Jan 13 '20 at 3:25
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Mike Graham answer made me imagine the houses inside the fog were appearing and disapearing reapidly.

Perhaps, the word "fade" captures better the idea that the houses disapear in the fog. Also, I do not think we need to be as metaphorical:

As the fog rolled through, the houses fade in and out of view.

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  • This is more of a fog behavior than "flicker" would be. Also, phase in and out of reality could also be a similar way to say this. Jan 13 '20 at 6:04
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You could use flicker somewhat metaphorically

As the fog rolled through, the houses seemed to flicker in and out of existence.

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  • thank you, I thought flicker is just used for light or flame Jan 12 '20 at 15:37
  • 6
    It's a good word, but to me a "flicker" is a quick event, so in this example (fog) I'm not sure it works.
    – z0r
    Jan 13 '20 at 0:35
  • This is a hugely confusing answer to a question that should just be on ELL ! OP now thinks that flicker can be used this way.
    – Fattie
    Jan 13 '20 at 12:04
  • It… technically can be used in this way. The first definition on hand does specifically reference of light or a source of light, however the second definition is generic: make small, quick movements. Alternatives at different implied rates of change: pulse (if the change is progressive and rhythmic), blink (the change itself is rapid, but may persist), fade (slow, progressive rate of change), or phase, as in phasing in and out of existence, though the general definition is entirely suitable: a distinct period or stage in a series of events or a process of change or development.
    – amcgregor
    Jan 13 '20 at 16:15
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intermittently
in a way that does not happen regularly or continuously; in a way that stops and starts repeatedly or with periods in between:

Example sentence: The house appears intermittently through the fog.

Source:Cambridge Dictionary

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    Or to match the OP more closely, "Houses appeared intermittently through the fog".
    – chepner
    Jan 13 '20 at 17:12
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The expression '[They] V-ed in and out of vision' is often used.

Choices of verb include:

  • move (very prosaic)
  • phase (formal)
  • shift (ordinary, and can sound unsubtle)
  • stream (for rapid flickering)
  • bob (on the comical side)
  • drift (languid, perhaps overly so)
  • ghost (evocative) (perhaps the best choice)

All these variants may be readily found on the internet; adding definitions of the verb included would not really be helpful in most cases.

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I come up with "ephemeral" or "transitory" images of houses through the mountainside fog (or use one of their synonyms).

https://www.thefreedictionary.com/ephemeral

https://www.thefreedictionary.com/transitory

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Packaging up a comment of mine as an answer:

Flicker (flickering)

The first definition on hand does specifically reference of light or a source of light, however the second definition is generic: make small, quick movements.

English uses modifiers (adjectives) to add additional detail, however it also has multiple distinct words with slight variations of meaning for many concepts, including this one. E.g. ephemeral (lasting a short time), transitory (temporary), or intermittently (at irregular intervals) could be used to modify the exact meaning of any of these verbs.

In the cold mist of the growing fog the houses flickered from view.

Pulse (pulsing)

If the change is progressive, rhythmic, and typically cyclic (repeating), and typically of a short duration, e.g. a few seconds.

The lights of the houses pulsed from the unseen movement of the fog.

Blink (blinking)

The change itself is rapid, but may persist afterwords in either the visible or invisible state. Things may blink into (or out of) existence. As a result of implied suddenness, something "blinking" away or to you is generally a surprising event.

Suddenly and alarmingly, the houses visible on the mountain blinked away, stolen by the fog.

Fade (fading)

Representing a slow, progressive rate of change over time, usually in the "Human time-scale" of a second or more.

The homes intermittently faded from view, obscured by the fog.

Phase (phasing)

As in phasing in and out of existence, though the general definition is entirely suitable: a distinct period or stage in a series of events or a process of change or development.

Phasing evokes a "(partial) shift out of reality", which may be… too strong. Or possibly exactly right. Depends on how sinister the mist is. ;)

As the fog rolled into the valley, the homes phased from visibility.

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