It was on July 5, just about a month ago, that Arizona was the center of a swirling linguistic fight over—the weather.

A July haboob arrives in Phoenix (not via Southwest Airlines)

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.

Everett Dirksen

“A billion here, a billion there. Pretty soon you’re talking about real money.”

Illinois senator Everett Dirksen may or may not have uttered that pithy phrase. But either way, it came to mind as I read the news yesterday afternoon that a jury had returned a $10 million verdict against Taser International.

Even in today’s inflated world, I think of that as a lot of money. And so I expected pretty solid coverage of the jury’s decision.

I needed that because I wanted to link to the news on the brand-new Arizona Attorney Magazine News Center. Taser’s an Arizona company, they came up on the short end of a legal case, it all made newsy sense.

But as I searched for a solid story on it, all I came up with were … company press releases.

The first link I saw came from a respected business weekly. The headline about $10 million grabbed me. But the story sounded like Taser’s PR department had penned it. It appeared to be factual, but the entire focus was on the number of jury verdicts they have won, and on the plaintiff arguments that the jury rejected.

Hmm, I thought. There has to be something better out there.

But after about 30 minutes of searching, I’ve come across the same release about 20 times, all posted as news by multiple publishers. I really have to hand it to Taser’s web-optimization people.

This occurred the same day that news-ish mogul Rupert Murdoch was hammered with a cream pie as he testified to Parliament. We here in the States appear to take great pride in the assertion that journalists here would never engage in such phone-hacking behavior.

Rupert Murdoch's hit a bad patch.

I think they’re right. But our web-ified news regime deserves a cream pie of its own. Passing off press releases as news was considered poor form even before the Internet. But the Web has intensified the scramble for content. And corporate PR mills appear happy to fill the gap.

As for linking to the story, I’ve decided to wait 24 hours. I’m sure I’ll find something of value tomorrow. It’ll keep.