Some in Arizona are objecting to their newspapers’ use of the word haboob, which is the actual meteorological term to describe the kind of dust storm that was seen in Arizona last week.
The blinding waves of brown particles, the most recent of which hit Phoenix on Monday, are caused by thunderstorms that emit gusts of wind, roiling the desert landscape. Use of the term “haboob,” which is what such storms have long been called in the Middle East, has rubbed some Arizona residents the wrong way.
“I am insulted that local TV news crews are now calling this kind of storm a haboob,” Don Yonts, a resident of Gilbert, Ariz., wrote to The Arizona Republic after a particularly fierce, mile-high dust storm swept through the state on July 5. “How do they think our soldiers feel coming back to Arizona and hearing some Middle Eastern term?”
I have been calling intermittent streams (or temporary washes) using the Arabic wadi for awhile. And I am sure many of us grew up using the words alcohol, guitar, algebra, and chemistry without thinking twice about their Arabic origins.
My suggestion to these people in Arizona is to stop using English altogether, lest they accidentally utter an Arabic word that would offend the fragile sensibilities of returning soldiers and Marines.