It was on July 5, just about a month ago, that Arizona was the center of a swirling linguistic fight over—the weather.
When what some have dramatically dubbed the “Great Arizona Dust Storm of 2011” struck, weather-folk immediately began calling it a “haboob.” They have been doing that for years, apparently (some say the term was introduced to the state by then-meteorologist Sean McLaughlin). But in any case, the term has been in use for quite a long time, all around the world. (Here is a pretty good description of the haboob, Arabic for “strong wind.”)
That seems to have been the problem for some listeners, who could not abide our home-grown “dust storm” being dubbed with some Arabic name. Plus, it made those people think of boobies.
(Speaking of overwrought, here is a little huffy coverage of the controversy by Salon.)
Was the media chagrined (a French word, I think) by the tumult over foreign usage? Could be. Last night, we had another dramatic hab–, I mean “dust storm,” and through the deluge of ridiculously overwrought news coverage, I don’t think I ever heard the “h” word.
Have the American-language-first folks won? Mon Dieu!
In any case, here’s a story about last night’s storm.
Here is some background on the ancient haboob, courtesy of Arizona Highways Magazine.
And for more cool images of the “H” in action, go to the Arizona Department of Transportation page. (Their title on the page is “Gallery of Dust Storms,” but they include haboobs.)
Here is a remarkable image of the haboob, by photographer Daniel Bryant (on the Arizona Highways page).
Finally, I share my own two funny memories of the haboob-amania.
First, in Phoenix we endured the reporters who were ordered to fill time and video about the storm, even after it had passed. One correspondent pointed to his dust-covered news van and solemnly indicated that the soil we saw came from the haboob (it looked exactly like most Phoenix cars any day of the week). Another anchor, as they rolled video of the storm sweeping through the Valley, said “We’ve sped up the video so you can see how quickly the storm moved.” (Wait for it—it’ll come to you.)
My second laugh came this week outside Revolver Records near downtown Phoenix. They have apparently come out on the affirmative side of the Arabic lexicon, for their sign out front proclaimed chirpily and simply, “Haboob!!!” (and haboob to you).
See, it is fun to say.
Have a great weekend.Follow @azatty