Last week, when a massive dust storm scoured Phoenix, Arizona, a lot of people learned a new word when the meteorologists on the news began talking about "haboobs" as they tried to explain to their listeners just what it was that was stripping the paint off their new SUV. ("Haboob" is an Arabic word for this type of storm that has been is use for some time.)
Of course, this being America, there was a lot of giggling over the use of any word that sounds like "boob", but because it happened in Arizona, where xenophobia isn't just a bad idea, it's the law, there were outraged callers complaining about the use of a foreign word, especially an Arabic one.
From the New York Times:
“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... “How do they think our soldiers feel coming back to Arizona and hearing some Middle Eastern term?”
Diane Robinson of Wickenburg, Ariz., agreed, saying the state’s dust storms are unique and ought to be labeled as such.
“Excuse me, Mr. Weatherman!” she said in a letter to the editor. “Who gave you the right to use the word ‘haboob’ in describing our recent dust storm? While you may think there are similarities, don’t forget that in these parts our dust is mixed with the whoop of the Indian’s dance, the progression of the cattle herd and warning of the rattlesnake as it lifts its head to strike.”
Not everyone was put out by the use of the term. David Wilson of Goodyear, Ariz., said those who wanted to avoid Arabic terms should steer clear of algebra, zero, pajamas and khaki, as well. “Let’s not become so ‘xenophobic’ that we forget to remember that we are citizens of the world, nor fail to recognize the contributions of all cultures to the richness of our language,” he wrote.
Be seeing you.
Additional thanks to TYWKIWDBI, one of my favorite blogs and sources.