Haboob

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In our recent discussions of anti-Americanisms-ism in Britain, commenters have occasionally brought up the question of whether or not Americans ever show similar linguistic xenophobia. The fact that we're as human as the Brits is demonstrated by Marc Lacey, "'Haboobs' stir critics in Arizona", NYT 7/21/2011:

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.”

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65 Comments »

  1. Vance Maverick said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 7:20 am

    On the plus side, Ms. Robinson exhibits more colorful, vividly written linguistic xenophobia than your average bigot. Actually, I guess that's not much of a plus.

  2. tk said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 7:25 am

    "…the whoop of the Indian’s dance…" ????

  3. Stan said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 7:28 am

    I'm going to adopt the term "brown particles".

  4. JT said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 7:33 am

    I didn't realize people needed the right to use a word from any language, especially one that accurately describes a phenomenon. Did Ms. Robinson get written permission from the language gateholders to use words derived from languages other than English?

  5. Oskar said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 7:37 am

    Out of curiousity is it pronounced /hɑbɔb/, like the name "Bob", or /habuːb/, like "boob"? My natural inclination was to pronounce it the first way (instinctive "Middle East"-ernization, I suppose), but the second one is perhaps more reasonable in English with that spelling.

  6. Wm Annis said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 7:43 am

    The online OED gives /hæˈbuːb/, with several spelling variants. There's a 1973 citation of impeccably American provenance, Scientific American, Jan 46/3, "The American haboobs are not so frequent as the Sudanese (two or three a year at Phoenix as compared with perhaps 24 a year at Khartoum)."

  7. Nicholas Waller said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 7:44 am

    Isn't it likely the term "haboob" was introduced to the USA precisely by soldiers returning from the Middle East?

    And if the complainers look into Arizona's night sky they'll find it full of Arabic star names, yea, unto the zenith.

  8. Nick Lamb said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 7:59 am

    Why does the sequence 'hate » –>' appear between the byline for this entry and the previous/ next post links ?

  9. Trimegistus said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 7:59 am

    What did the Indians native to Arizona call them?

  10. Toma said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 8:03 am

    I think we just like saying "haboob." And I wonder if it can be used more generally: "The haboobie weather in Phoenix this month…"

  11. S.Norman said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 8:04 am

    So, out of repect for soldiers, should we not use words like 'falafel'?

  12. janwo said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 8:20 am

    @ Nick Lamb: The title of the preceding entry contains something that was interpreted as a closing HTML tag character, so the link to the previous entry got messed up.

  13. Nick D. said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 8:34 am

    @S.Norman: That's what I was thinking. I hope Don Yonts isn't giving any returning soldiers alcohol, or teaching them algebra.

  14. Rob P. said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 8:41 am

    Is there a real difference between a "sandstorm" and a "haboob"? In my visits to West TX and Arizona, I've only ever heard the former – sometimes "dust storm" but never haboob until recently. But given the 1973 citation above, that might reflect some difference between technical jargon and everyday use.

  15. Q. Pheevr said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 8:48 am

    @ S.Norman – And are they also petitioning the U.S. Navy to abolish the rank of admiral?

  16. slobone said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 9:03 am

    Clearly Arizona is a mecca for what Mencken called the habooboisie. Oops, is it OK to say "mecca"?

  17. Alexa said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 9:05 am

    Do we have to stop saying algebra too?

    Actually, I'm still having trouble believing this didn't come out of the Onion.

  18. Daniel von Brighoff said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 9:21 am

    Sadly, I'm having no trouble at all. If you've been following the news lately, you could be forgiven for thinking that Arizona (or, more precisely, Maricopa County) has engaged on an aggressive marketing campaign to brand itself as the xenophobia capital of the USA.

  19. Jason said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 9:23 am

    http://www.azdot.gov/CCPartnerships/haboob/index.asp

    The Arizona Department of Transportation seems to endorse the usage.

  20. Tom O'Brien said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 9:28 am

    The rainy seasons in Arizona have been called monsoons for decades without causing any uproar. Maybe they'll want a new word for that. With xenophobia, once you let the genie out of the bottle, it's hard to put it back in … oops, can't say genie either.

  21. Jason said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 9:35 am

    HWAET! Nu scal we spraecan in tham riht ylde engliscum spraece. Fortham aenig othrum spraece be niht gode for Americans to spreccane.

    I wish I paid more attention when I was learning Anglo-Saxon.

  22. Soto said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 9:40 am

    And when the Arizona monsoonal season arrives, do these same Arizonans complain about the use of the Arabic rooted word "monsoon" (according to OED monsoon comes from the Arabic 'mawsim' which means 'season')?

    Hurricane (from the Taino 'huracan'); tsunami (from the Japanese); typhoon (from Arabic or Greek or Chinese, depending on who you ask); we get a lot of our weather and geology words from foreign languages. I love that English regularly 'appropriates' colorful and descriptive words from other languages.

    I don't understand why this bothers people so much. . .

  23. GeorgeW said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 9:46 am

    @Alexa: And give up alcohol?

  24. Daniel said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 9:54 am

    @GeorgeW: They're going to demand that it be call dizzy juice or

  25. Marc Leavitt said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 10:22 am

    As Jason said, if the Arizonans had their way, we'd all be speaking Old English. Are they charter members of the Queen's English Society?

  26. Emily said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 10:39 am

    @Trimestigus: What did the Indians native to Arizona call them?

    They have sixty words for the haboob, all of which sound like "whoop."

  27. PanTardovski said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 10:55 am

    http://etymonline.com/?term=adobe

  28. BeSlayed said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 11:21 am

    @Nicholas Waller: That was exactly my first thought when I read this too. My guess is if (some) people in Arizona are using "haboob", it's most likely because soldiers returned from Afghanistan are using the word… A number of Indo-Aryan words entered English via British soldiers.

  29. Chandra said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 11:56 am

    The difference, of course, between "algebra", "alcohol", "monsoon" et al. and "haboob" is that the former were absorbed into the language long before the current wave of Islamophobomania hit, whereas the latter is new and conspicuously foreign-sounding, thus easier for people to pick on. Not that this excuses them.

  30. richard howland-bolton said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 12:05 pm

    They'll just have to follow the law of Hobson-Jobson.

  31. Jerry Friedman said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 12:14 pm

    Maybe people haven't noticed Wm Annis's 1973 citation from Scientific American showing that the term in English didn't originate with veterans of American wars in the Middle East.

    There's also been some discussion of this at alt.usage.english. A poster named Yusef Gursey, who I trust on Middle Eastern languages, said that Arabic habu:b just means "strong gale or wind". However, according to Wikipedia, in English haboob means a particular kind of dust storm that's a downburst created as a thunderstorm collapses. (See the references there for more pre-Gulf-War uses of the word in English-language meteorology.)

    @Trimegistus: Your question is the one that started the thread in a.u.e. I doubt any of the Indian languages have a word for this specific kind of dust storm (but if I'm wrong, it's not the first time). I'll spare you my partial success in looking for the Navajo for "sandstorm".

    We're having the "monsoon" in New Mexico too. This is one of my favorite examples of hyperbolic borrowing, as I suspect the amount of rain we get in our whole monsoon is about what falls on a similar-sized area of India in the first hour. (With people sitting inside eating mangoes with their friends?)

    But enough of this. I'm hungry, so I think I'll eat some freedom fries.

  32. Mark F. said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 12:33 pm

    Given the 1973 citation, my guess is that it doesn't come from returning soldiers but from meteorologists.

  33. slobone said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 12:34 pm

    @Tom O'Brien the etymology of genie is disputed. AHD says:

    French génie, spirit, from Latin genius, guardian spirit ; see genius

    COD says:

    mid 17th century (denoting a guardian or protective spirit): from French génie, from Latin genius (see genius). Génie was adopted in the current sense by the 18th-century French translators of The Arabian Nights' Entertainments, because of its resemblance in form and sense to Arabic jinnī 'jinnee'

    and M-W says:

    French génie, from Arabic jinnī
    First Known Use: 1748

    So all agree that it came into English via French, but they disagree as to the exact relationship between the French word and the Arabic word.

  34. Bloix said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 1:20 pm

    They just like to say "boob" on TV.

  35. GeorgeW said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 1:23 pm

    Mark F: "Given the 1973 citation, my guess is that it doesn't come from returning soldiers but from meteorologists."

    Or further indication of how persistent and pernicious is this global jihad. They are slowly and steadily infecting our language. And we know that once they control our language, they control our mind.

  36. HP said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 1:48 pm

    A few months ago, I was looking at the Wikipedia article "Tornado," when I got distracted by the "Languages" sidebar on the left. Apparently, up until relatively recently, most major language families had their own word for this weather phenomenon (e.g., "whirlwind," "Großtrombe," "trombe d'aria." "hvirvelsky," etc.), but at some point in the last century, variously localized versions of "tornado" came to predominate languages globally.

    Assuming that the same principle is at work with "haboob," I think I agree with Mark F that what we're seeing is the spread of technical terms from meteorology.

  37. Aaron Toivo said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 3:08 pm

    "Haboob" is horrible, not for its origin but simply for containing "boob", for the twin reasons that a) technical terminology is not supposed to be something 12 year old boys will giggle over and b) it's phonosemantically hideous.

  38. Terry Collmann said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 3:45 pm

    Talking of jinni, don't think this stuff is limited to Arizona – there are people in Iran who will insist that "jeans" comes from "jinn" and jeans will make you infertile.

  39. Keith M Ellis said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 4:13 pm

    @Jerry Friedman, I think you'll find that the meaning of the term monsoon both presently and historically had far, far more to do with seasonal changes in wind patterns in conjunction with strong changes in patterns of precipitation than with the magnitude of the rainfall and thus the usage in the SW US is not an example of "hyperbolic borrowing" nor is the vast difference in amounts of rainfall between Asian monsoons and SW US monsoons crucially relevant.

    The Wikipedia entry describes monsoon as

    traditionally defined as a seasonal reversing wind accompanied by corresponding changes in precipitation, but is now used to describe seasonal changes in atmospheric circulation and precipitation associated with the asymmetric heating of land and sea. Usually, the term monsoon is used to refer to the rainy phase of a seasonally-changing pattern, although technically there is also a dry phase.

    The Flagstaff NOAA National Weather Service office more directly makes the point (my emphasis added):

    The word "monsoon" is derived from the Arabic word "mausim" which means season. Ancient traders sailing in the Indian Ocean and adjoining Arabian Sea used it to describe a system of alternating winds which blow persistently from the northeast during the northern winter and from the opposite direction, the southwest, during the northern summer. Thus, the term monsoon actually refers solely to a seasonal wind shift, and not to precipitation.

    …and the NWS goes on to discuss the particular SW US application:

    Even though the term monsoon was originally defined for the Indian subcontinent, monsoon circulations exist in other locations of the world as well, such as in Europe, Africa, and the west coasts of Chile and the United States. Arizona happens to be located in the area of the United States that experiences a monsoonal circulation. During the summer months, winds shift from a west or northwest direction to a south or southeasterly direction. This allows moisture from the Gulf of California and the Gulf of Mexico to stream into the state. This shift in the winds, or monsoonal circulation, produces a radical change in moisture conditions statewide.

    This monsoonal circulation is typically referred to here in Arizona as the Arizona monsoon. What we experience during the summer months, however, is only a small part of a much larger circulation that encompasses not only Arizona, but much of the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. Thus, it sometimes is also known as the Mexican monsoon. Others call it the North American Monsoon.

    Granted, many of us collected everything we know (or knew) about monsoons from Hollywood movies and idiomatic expressions about the weather and in that context concluding that it's all about a torrential downpour is understandable.

    I didn't know any better until at some point a few years ago I bothered to consult a reference authority on the term. Growing up here in the 70s/80s, I just assumed like many others do that the term's usage is owed to the notably heavy thunderstorm rains that appear in the mid-to-late summer. And during that period (70s/80s) those thunderstorms were much more frequently almost Biblical in their ferocity. This last decade, not so much.

  40. Sili said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 5:14 pm

    Indeed, these things should be called "freedom storms".

  41. octopod said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 8:03 pm

    Soto, I thought "huracán" was from Quechua? I distinctly recall running across it in the Popol Vuh, one of the names of the weather god (aka Feathered Serpent, Tepeu-Gukumatz, Kukulcan, Quetzalcoatl, etc.)

  42. Rodger C said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 8:10 pm

    @octopod: You mean Quiché, don't you?

  43. Rebecca said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 9:22 pm

    I wonder if this is an issue in Bagdad, Arizona.

  44. Ric Locke said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 10:54 pm

    "English doesn't just borrow words, it mugs other languages in dark alleys and picks their pockets for vocabulary."

    Mr. Yonts and Ms. Robinson are ignormai :-)

    Regards,
    Ric

  45. D. B. Propert said,

    July 22, 2011 @ 11:09 pm

    The 1973 reference does not rule out the term having been brought back by US soldiers. The Army would certainly have encountered the phenomenon and term in Tunisia in 1943 (which is the first context from which I recall it) or the Marines a century and a half earlier in and around Tripoli.

  46. Jerry Friedman said,

    July 23, 2011 @ 12:26 am

    @Sili: How about "desert storms"?

    @Trimegistus again: Also courtesy of a.u.e., here's a blog post from the Phoenix New Times about haboob, including the Pima for "dust storm".

    @Keith M Ellis: You have a good point about monsoon meaning seasonal winds as well as rain, and if you intended to imply or implicate that I hadn't consulted a reference work, you were right. Nevertheless, the NWS has committed the etymological fallacy: the word does sometimes mean rain. Certainly that's the only way I've heard it from non-meteorologists here in the Southwest. Also, there's some disagreement over whether what we have here is a true monsoon, as in this book on climatology.

    @Ric Locke: You're quite right, but the correct quotation from James Nicoll is "The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary." Thanks to one of MYL's posts for this link.

    @D. B. Propert: In Google Books, most of the hits on haboob from 1973 or earlier are from either meteorology or travel writing, though I did see one military one. The earliest one I can find is from Expedition to Discover the Sources of the White Nile in 1849. Of course returning military people may have had something to do with the adoption of the word in English, but it looks to me like they didn't have much influence on it except maybe recently.

  47. michael farris said,

    July 23, 2011 @ 2:04 am

    While it's always amusing to look down on protectionist Arizonans, I don't really think 'haboob' is especially needed or well-formed as an English word. As pointed out, the boob syllable doesn't help. And it does not improve in any way on plain old 'dust storm'.

    It sounds to me like a SWPL affectation, much like tsunami.

  48. Rubrick said,

    July 23, 2011 @ 5:15 am

    It sounds to me like a SWPL affectation, much like tsunami.

    Good point, michael. Why should we use a Japanese word like tsunami when we have available the perfectly ordinary English term seismically-caused giant wave thingy?

  49. Ø said,

    July 23, 2011 @ 7:56 am

    @Rubrick: English has "tidal wave".

    True, the phenomenon is not tidal, and before "tsunami" was adopted in English many teachers spent some of their precious class time saying "It doesn't actually have anything to do with tides. It usually starts with an earthquake under the ocean …"

    On the other hand "tsunami" is said to be compounded of words meaning "harbor" and "wave". Maybe the Japanese should adopt the to them opaque term "tidal wave", so that their teachers don't have to be always saying "Of course this giant wave thingy affects a whole coastline, and also it is really more of a series of waves than a single wave …"

  50. neuromusic said,

    July 23, 2011 @ 8:15 pm

    I find the commenter's offense on behalf the the troops particularly absurd.

    Growing up in Arizona, my understanding was that "monsoon" was imported into the local lexicon by troops returning from the South Pacific to Arizona after the second World War. They were the ones who initially noted the similarity between Arizona's rainy season and the rainy season in Southeast Asia.

    When I first started reading the news reports of the "haboob" in Arizona, I was totally surprised… I had grown up in Arizona, experiencing large dust storms every summer and we had never used the term "haboob" to describe them.

    I had assumed that the word entered the lexicon the same way that "monsoon" did… from troops returning from Iraq.

  51. Bathrobe said,

    July 23, 2011 @ 9:02 pm

    Strangely, I feel a similar kind of indignation when I hear Australian bushfires referred to as 'forest fires'. Not quite the same situation, of course, but still based on a feeling of incongruousness at having a local phenomenon referred to by an out-of-town name.

    In fact, there are all kinds of phenomena that have specific local names (think 'mistral', 'sirocco'), where using a different name, even if scientifically accurate, feels like a violation of nature.

  52. Keith M Ellis said,

    July 23, 2011 @ 10:47 pm

    Growing up in Arizona, my understanding was that "monsoon" was imported into the local lexicon by troops returning from the South Pacific to Arizona after the second World War. They were the ones who initially noted the similarity between Arizona's rainy season and the rainy season in Southeast Asia.

    Given that it's a technical meteorology term unlikely to be understood as such by most people and likely to be misunderstood as a direct application of what they know in popular culture about "monsoons", I think there's a good chance this is a false folk etymology.

  53. neuromusic said,

    July 24, 2011 @ 2:01 pm

    @keith

    I will acknowledge that the Arizona-centric description of the introduction of the term may not be accurate.

    But my point is that the story of the term "monsoon" coming from the troops was told with pride by the very same types of Arizona "old-timers" that seem to be complaining about the introduction of the term "haboob".

  54. Tian said,

    July 25, 2011 @ 12:34 am

    Since I am living in PHX area, I heard all about it.

    Recently I had to explain this word to an acquaintance whom lives in Midwest of US, and here is what I said:

    "Haboob" is an word with Arabic origin used to describe large sand storm. It should be pronounced as "ha! boob!" as if a teenager boy first discovered girls' tits. Somehow I always get the image of a woman wearing sports bra in my head whenever I hear this word. As sports bra typically squeeze both breasts into one giant mono-boob. Therefore I propose "haboob" is only used as plural "haboobs".

  55. Alan Palmer said,

    July 25, 2011 @ 10:26 am

    Wikipedia tells me that "Arizona" comes from a Navaho word. Presumably it's OK for these English-speakers to borrow a foreign word for the name of their state, but not OK for them to use another foreign word (albeit from further away geographically) for a dust storm?

  56. M Williamson said,

    July 26, 2011 @ 12:22 am

    Alan Palmer, where on Wikipedia does it say that Arizona comes from a Navajo word? That would be wrong. The article does give the Navajo *translation* of the name Arizona (which is "Hoozdo Hahoodzo"), but the word "Arizona" definitely doesn't come from that. However, it is probably a native word, just not from Navajo but rather from the O'odham language word "Ali Sonak", which you would have known if you'd actually read the part of the article about name origin.

  57. Tsu Dho Nimh said,

    July 27, 2011 @ 10:01 am

    I remember the word "haboob" being used by a Phoenix weatherman in the 1960s to describe the big "wall-o-dust" storms, to distinguish them from the far more common blowing dust that usually precedes a thunderstorm.

    I know it was the 1960s, because I was out of Arizona in the 1970s.

  58. AnonymousCoward said,

    July 27, 2011 @ 11:16 am

    @Tian

    I dunno. I think I prefer haboobies as the pluralization.

  59. abdul said,

    July 27, 2011 @ 6:30 pm

    haboob mmm how about zero/algebra/sugar/cotton/coffee/candy/massage/alcohol/azimuth/zineth/assassin/nadir/algorithm /cotton/magazine/ apricot/mascara/chemistry/magazine/safari/mattress/admiral/……………etc there are more than 6000 yes six thousands Arabic loanwords and meanings /average/cipher/tuna/ream/hazard/ghoul /arsenal/saffron……….etc

  60. Deuce Everhart said,

    July 29, 2011 @ 4:47 pm

    I am a native Arizonan. I have lived 7 of the last 20 years of my adult life abroad, and I speak 3 languages. And I find nearly all of the previous comments nothing more than excellent examples of just how much people in general can't wait to demonstrate to the rest of the world just how sophisticated, erudite and non-provincial they supposedly are. But these comments do just the opposite. For all of you who have gleefully written down various words of arabic origin that we utilize daily in the English language – and for all of you who have happily lined-up to march to the drum-beat of just how closed-minded and hate-filled we Arizonans are, you are missing the very simple reason why "haboob" has caused a minor linguistic uproar here.

    Arizonans are annoyed by the term "haboob" for a very clear, non-xenophobic reason – the use of this word by the news media here in the Phoenix area is nothing more than an affectation. And affectations are annoying wherever and whenever they occur. Here are some common affectations along with their intended connotations:

    1. Extending your pinky finger when you sip your tea – this is to done so as to cause speculation amongst others in the vicinity to speculate that you are probably a duke or a dutchess of some vast realm or another.

    2. At a cocktail function, holding your wine glass in an interesting and unconventional way while at the same time maintaining a bland slightly bored look on your face – this is done so as to cause speculation amongst others that you are probably a duke or a dutchess of some vast realm or another.

    3. Sobbing loudly at a Greenpeace meeting as the topic of discussion moves to this year's Japanese whaling quota – if you are a man, this is done to demonstrate to the hippie ladies at the meeting that you are an uber-sensitive type, and therefore highly desireable as a mate. If you are a woman, this may not be an affectation.

    4. Telling someone that you saw the Mona Lisa is Paris, and pronouncing the word "Paris" in your best inspector Clouseau accent – this is done to cause your interlocutor to speculate that you have lived much of your life in the fabulous City of Lights – or at least that you visit once a month.

    4. Calling an Arizona dust storm a "haboob" – this is done by local Arizona news media outlets because the word "dust storm" is so dull, while the word "haboob" is so vibrant, exotic and quirky and it causes winter visitors to speculate that Arizona must be vibrant, exotic and quirky

    The point I am trying to make is that "haboob" has not risen in Arizona from the bottom-up, unlike nearly every "foreign" word that has been adopted into English – it is being pushed only by the local news. This ridiculous word has been popping up for the last 20 years – only on the news. No soldiers of ours returning from the middle-east have romantically brought this delightful new name for our beloved dust storms back with them. I have 3 friends who are ex-servicemen – Marines, Army and Airforce – each of whom spent more than a year in Iraq, and not one uses the word "haboob".

    Foreign words and phrases are usually adopted into a language when they fill a linguistic hole – so not surprisingly, most foreign words are going to be food-related. Most Americans did not eat raw slices of fish placed upon small cakes of rice in America before this delight was introduced from Japan – hence we call this food by its Japanese name.

    But if you have a perfectly good word that means the same thing in your plain and simple language as does a fancy word in another fancy language – you typically don't adopt the fancy foreign word to replace it. Occassionally pedants who have an academic axe to grind try to foist new words into our daily lexicon – but this usually fails. I know that people in the midwestern US have funnel storms that they call tornados – or if Hollywood is to be believed "twisters". Should the local news stations there begin calling them "windhosen" or "tatsumaki" (German and Japanese for tornado)? These words certainly sound more colorful and exotic than boring old tornado. And if local people complained if the local news media began using these words, should we jump to the conclusion that midwesterners are just a pack of unforgiving xenophobic haters of our erstwhile World War II enemies? Or could we come to the conclusion that when a contrived and affected attempt to replace a perfectly useful existing word with a new and unnecessary foreign word, that most of us would react with annoyance?

  61. abdul said,

    July 30, 2011 @ 6:43 pm

    probably the term "haboob" has caught on in the media and among meteorologists for the following reasons:
    1-as Mr.Deuce Everhart has put it, the words is exotic, quirky and vibrant .
    2-it is a two-syllable word which is made up of accidental occurance of semantic connotations.
    3-the indigenousness of the word haboob, just like it would be an akward affectation to call sushi raw fish or tsunami other than the japanese word.

  62. Jane said,

    August 16, 2011 @ 6:43 pm

    I have been in Arizona since 1965, I have enjoyed the dust storms and have lived in Scottsdale, Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa, Chandler, Gilbert and Heber. And during these 46 years that I've lived here, I have never heard the word haboob before. They have always been "dust storms" . Why does the media feel they need to change to this name.? Why does it have to be an Arabic name? Why not look for the Native American name to call these
    dust storms if you feel such a need to give them a name other than just plain ol "dust storm"? Stick to American roots, to Arizona roots..

  63. Bob said,

    August 19, 2011 @ 3:46 am

    I dont feel that referring to the dust storms as *haboobs* is offensive in any way, but i do think it's funny that a handful of people try to be *different* than those around them, possibly as a way to stand out??…who knows, but the sheep like mentality of many others jumping on this bandwagon because it's *cool and new* sets them apart in their mind. It's trendy and it seems to be the basis of The United States culture these days. Someone I know pointed out to me that It's funny how the same people who would bash and discredit anything middle eastern in the name of patriot-ism a few years ago are now latching on to *Haboob* Because everyone else is doing it. people are trendy and Don't seem to think for themselves. I don't care one way or the other about *haboob* The fact that it's popular for no good reason is what annoys me. I guess i have a people problem.

  64. Jen W said,

    August 19, 2011 @ 12:28 pm

    There is very little likelyhood that the name 'monsoon' came from soldiers returning from the South Pacific after the WWII. The population of Arizona was less than 1 million in 1950 and only 1.3 million in 1960. Population did not expand much until the air conditioning came a long. A/C was not in use until after the war and certainly not common in individual homes until sometime in the late 60s or later. As a native Arizonan, I grew up in the 60s and 70s with a 'swamp' or evaporative cooler. Seems to me, with limited population, the number of war vets would have been too small to have affected local venacular. The word 'monsoon' likely came from meteorologists and news reports, just as 'haboob' is now.

    On the point of soldiers bringing home the word 'haboob', my husband, who is also an Arizonan, has experienced dust storms/sand storms in both Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan during his 26 years in the military. He has never used the term 'haboob'. In both Saudi Arabia and in Afghanistan, the word the locals used for dust storms/sand storms was 'Shamal'. He grew up with dust storms in the Arizona desert and doesn't feel the need to try to sound worldly by calling it something that sounds more exotic, nor do I.

    I agree with Deuce Everhart. There is no reason to change a perfectly descriptive name such as 'dust storm' for something that makes one sound 'worldly'. Shall we adopt British venacular for cigarette or car trunk just because it sounds cool? It's no different from grown adults adopting the teenage words 'sick' or 'beast' to make themselves sound cool. It's ridiculous. It has nothing to do with hate.

  65. Monroe Thomas Clewis said,

    August 21, 2011 @ 1:50 pm

    Certain winds, such as haboobs and harmattans, have their origin in local topography and climate conditions. Therefore, it can be somewhat restrictively argued the words "haboob" and" harmattan" apply only to those local winds, and not to similar winds elsewhere.

    That said, it is impossible to bottle winds and words. They have a way of escaping confinement.

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