Haboobs vs. sandstorms: Arabic weather terminology causes controversy in small-town Texas
A haboob, similar to the one that swept over small-town Lubbock, Texas on Sunday, is seen over Khartoum. Intense dust storms caused by downward-flowing winds from thunderstorms, haboobs are common in the American southwest and parts of the Middle East. (AFP/File).
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When the U.S.’s National Weather Service warned a small Texas town of an approaching cloud of dust Sunday, locals were apparently more upset by the name of the storm than by the storm itself – that’s because meteorologists used the Arabic load word “haboob” to describe the oncoming weather system.
“A haboob is rapidly approaching the Lubbock airport and may affect the city as well,” meteorologists posted on Facebook.
Texans, miffed by the Weather Service’s use of “haboob,” took to the comments section. One reader wrote:
“Haboob!?! I’m a Texan. Not a foreigner from Iraq or Afghanistan. They might have haboobs but around here in the panhandle of TEXAS, we have dust storms. So would you mind stating it that way. I’ll find another weather service.”
Others voiced similar opinions, while many more expressed their disappointment that the Arabic-originated term would cause so much fuss.
"To all of you people complaining about a word. Do you all realize how stupid y'all look? I mean, the rest of the country and the world is laughing at y'all. Lmao stop getting offended over nothing," one commenter wrote.
In any case, "haboob” is a term long recognized by meteorologists. According to the Weather Channel, it’s an intense dust storm caused by downward-flowing winds from thunderstorms, common in the American southwest and parts of the Middle East, where the term gets its Arabic roots.
“Haboob,” though perhaps attention-grabbing in more ways than one, isn’t the only word that English borrows from Arabic. English speakers hoping to remove Arabic loan words from their vocabulary should also consider removing “alcohol,” “algebra,” “cotton,” and “ghoul,” for starters, in addition to “haboob.”