Several Texans near Lubbock got their gauze in a garble last week over the National Weather Service's (NWS) use of an Arabic word on their Facebook page.
By the way, gauze and garble are both Arabic words
"A haboob is rapidly approaching the Lubbock airport and may affect the city as well," the meteorologists wrote as a friendly heads-up to the Lubbockians.
Well, according to the Washington Post, the Texans didn't want no fancy weather people using no foreign words to talk about their weather.
One reader, John, 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."
It's like refusing to use American money, and only using credit cards.
Another NWS reader, Brenda, said, "In Texas, nimrod, this is called a sandstorm. We've had them for years! If you would like to move to the Middle East you can call this a haboob. While you reside here, call it a sandstorm. We Texans will appreciate you."
Nimrod, which means "Mighty Hunter," is the great-grandson of Noah. He's also the king in the Book of Genesis who built the Tower of Babel. His kingdom included Babel, Erech, and Accad.
Which are all in the Middle East.
Xenophobic racism aside, the NWS used the correct word, even for this part of the world.
Not only has the word been used in the meteorology circles since 1925, there are times that "sandstorm" isn't specific enough, and we need to borrow a word from another part of the world.
A sandstorm or dust storm covers a very large area, while a haboob covers a relatively narrow zone. Further, says Weather Underground meteorologist Bob Henson, a sandstorm occurs when "sand grains are blown across the lowest few feet of the landscape, usually in true deserts rather than semiarid regions."
Lubbock is in a semiarid region, which means it probably wasn't an actual sandstorm.
Furthermore, there are at least 50 different synonyms for sandstorm, including dust devil, dust storm, cyclone, and sirocco, which is also the name of a terrible model of Volkswagen.
Volkswagen is a foreign car manufacturer that many people in Texas drive.
According to the Washington Post, a haboob is "a situation in which a collapsing thunderstorm exhales a burst of wind. This burst of wind. . . collects dust in the surrounding arid environment. The dust can grow into a towering dark cloud. . . cutting visibility to near zero."
Zero is an Arabic word. Also, our other numbers — 1, 2, 3, 4 — are Arabic.
There is also a khamsin, which Wikipedia says is "a dry, hot, sandy wind blowing from the south, found in North Africa and the Arabian peninsula," and simoom, which means "poison wind." It's a cyclone that carries so much dust and sand, it can suffocate humans and animals, as well as cause heat stroke.
Wikipedia says the only recorded American simoom blew in Santa Barbara, Calif. in June 1859. Animals died on their feet, fruit fell from trees, scorched, and a fisherman received blisters on his face and arms. Local residents were able to survive by hiding inside their adobe walled houses.
Adobe is another Arabic word.
If these Texans are against using foreign words in their weather, they should stop using El Niño, La Niña, hurricane, and tornado, which are all Spanish.
Typhoon is Arabic.
Other Arabic words the haboob-haters should stop using include alcohol, candy, coffee, cotton, jar, loofah, magazine, mattress, orange, sugar, syrup, and tuna.
Which is too bad, because a jar of candy-flavored alcohol sounds pretty good right now.
Finally, in a March 2008 article, the Stars and Stripes military newspaper explained how people in the Middle East, including Iraqis, have two different types of winds, the "sharqi" and the "shamal."
(One colonel was nearly court-martialed when he made the dad joke, "If you've seen one sharqi, you've seen shamal.")
Stars and Stripes stated that the sharqi is the dry, dusty southern wind that blows from April to June, and can recur in late September and November. The shamal comes from the north or northwest, and can cause sandstorms that reach a few kilometers into the air. It blows from mid-June through mid-September.
The U.S. military felt it was important to know these specific terms, because "sandstorm" just wasn't specific enough. So if it's good enough for the U.S. military, it ought to be good enough for the Texas panhandle.
So, checkmate, Texans. Checkmate.
Also, checkmate is an Arabic word.
Photo credit: A haboob in Ransom Canyon, Texas, by Leaflet (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 3.0)
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