Friday, July 22, 2011

Arizonans outraged at weatherman’s use of Arabic word

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Sandstorm (“haboob”) over Khartoum, Sudan
This is why you shouldn’t mock ‘haboob’

When I hear the term ‘haboob’, my usual reaction is to ask for a dictionary. But, when some people hear the term for a sandstorm, the only thing their fevered brains jump to is “ARABS!”:

PHOENIX — The massive dust storms that swept through central Arizona this month have stirred up not just clouds of sand but a debate over what to call them.

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?”

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.”

I’m confused, though. If it’s so horrendous for them to hear words of Arabic origin, then why aren’t they also kvetching over such terms as “algebra, pajamas, khaki, coffee, giraffe, lemon, orange, mattress, zero, and alcohol”?

Oh, wait. They’re only against words that sound Arabic. Okay, then.

(via ThinkProgress)