VOA Special English
Don't Get Caught in a 'Whirlwind'


    Now, Words and Their Stories from VOA Learning English.

    When we talk about weather, a whirlwind is a very strong wind that moves in a spinning or swirling motion. Whirlwinds can cause great damage to trees, buildings, and other types of property. They can be violent. But they can also happen in a limited area and for a limited time.

    We can use whirlwind to describe things in our lives, too. These things happen in a confused rush. For example, a whirlwind day is filled with back-to-back activities. And all those activities happen very quickly. It is a frenzy! Let’s say your life has suddenly become very busy. You can say, “Lately, my life has been a whirlwind!”

    Palm trees blow in the wind near the Haulover Park Ocean Rescue Lifeguard Station at as Hurricane Irma passes by, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017, in North Miami Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
    Palm trees blow in the wind near the Haulover Park Ocean Rescue Lifeguard Station at as Hurricane Irma passes by, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017, in North Miami Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

    This can be good or bad.

    In life, whirlwinds involve many quickly changing events and feelings. Again, it is hard to keep track of everything that is happening.

    Sometimes we use whirlwind with other words, such as activity. For example, during elections the senator’s office was always a “whirlwind of activity.” You can also make that activity specific. You can say, “The office was a whirlwind of political activity.”

    Let’s say you had a day filled with a whirlwind of meetings. You had SO many meetings that the day is a blur. All the meetings happened quickly and seemed to run together.

    You can also use this word as an adjective. It describes something that is like a whirlwind especially in speed or force. So, if you find success as a singer, you may find yourself having a whirlwind, world-wide tour one day.

    One day, you may also find yourself in a whirlwind romance. This type of romance happens fast and is very exciting. Whirlwind romances usually are good subjects in movies. In real life, they may happen fast, seem crazy, and then end just as fast – like a weather whirlwind. (That is quite a tongue twister -- weather whirlwind!)

    Here’s another example. I don’t really like shopping – unless it’s for food. But once, I had to go shopping to prepare for a friend’s wedding. I had to buy a fancy dress, fancy shoes, and other fancy things to look, you know, fancy. I went to a big department store and was a whirlwind of careless shopping. After I left, every area was a mess!

    A whirlwind can also describe something that happens violently and causes damages. Let’s say I have friend who is beautiful, but is also a bit of a mess. Things always seem to go a little crazy with Cornelia. But you can’t tell men that. They just don’t listen. So, I’ve stopped trying. When men want to date her, I’ve learned just to mind my own business and watch the craziness happen.

    So, a whirlwind can be both a good or bad rush of activity. We here at VOA Learning English are a whirlwind of English teaching programs. Hopefully for you … that’s a good thing.

    Until next time … I’m Anna Matteo!

    Anna Matteo wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Susan Shand was the editor.


    Words in This Story

    spin – v. to turn or cause to turn round and round rapidly

    swirl – v. to move in circles or to cause (something) to move in circles

    rush – v. to move or do something very quickly or in a way that shows you are in a hurry

    frenzy – n. great and often wild or disorderly activity

    track – v. to follow and find (someone or something) especially by looking at evidence

    blur – v. something that is difficult to remember

    tour – n. to make a journey or trip through an area or place

    romance – n. to have or try to have a romantic relationship with (someone)

    crazy – adj. wild and uncontrolled

    fancy – adj. not plain or ordinary : very expensive and fashionable