The massive dust storm, also called a "haboob" in Arabic and around Arizona, is all locals could talk about Wednesday. It moved through the state around sundown Tuesday, halting airline flights, knocking out power to nearly 10,000 people, turning swimming pools into mud pits and caking cars with dirt.It looked like a scene from the American "dust bowl" of the 1930s, or from modern-day middle-eastern desert regions. Since it was Arizona, I bookmarked the links, planning a future post about a subsequent epidemic of coccidiomycosis.
Instead, what I encountered this week is an article in the Times reporting that some Arizona residents were offended that the storm was referred to as a haboob.
“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?”Fortunately, some rebuttals have been offered -
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.”
“Meteorologists in the Southwest have used the term for decades,” said Randy Cerveny, a climatologist at Arizona State University. “The media usually avoid it because they don’t think anyone will understand it.”
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.