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posted: 7/27/2011 5:00 AM

Haboob stirs up Anti-Arabic sentiment

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It seems that some residents of Arizona are having some difficulty with the recent sandstorms in that state. Actually not with the storms themselves, but with the name "haboob" that the National Weather Service is using for the storms.

"Haboob" is an Arabic word for sandstorm that has been used for 40 years or so to describe a particular type of sandstorm in the Southwest. It seems that some residents of Arizona resent the use of Arabic words. Here is a short paragraph with just a few Arabic loanwords in it. See if you can spot them all.

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As the haboob swept across the alfalfa fields I was safe in my bungalow searching for zeros in my algebra algorithms while sipping coffee and snacking on artichokes and tuna. Wearing my favorite pair of crimson cotton pajamas I was listening to the sugary strains of a guitar while reclining on the mattress.

If you guessed haboob, alfalfa, algebra, algorithm, zero, coffee, artichoke, tuna, crimson, cotton, pajamas, sugar, guitar and mattress, you are correct. These words are all descended from Arabic -- bungalow comes to us from India.

Without the contributions of Arabic, our language would be much more boring and we would still be counting in Roman numerals. My advice to those Arizonans who are upset over the use of Arabic words is to get out of the heat and the dust, uncork (Arabic) your favorite elixir (Arabic), sip a mint julep (Arabic), or nonalcoholic (Arabic) drink made from lemons (Arabic), limes (Arabic), oranges (Arabic), or tangerines (Arabic). Serendipity (Arabic) will follow.

John Ritchie

Geneva

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