When weathermen in Arizona started calling the region’s huge, recent sandstorms haboobs, they got hate mail. People were “insulted,” by the term, demanded that weathermen explain “what gave them the right” to use it, and asked: “how do you think our soldiers feel?”

The fact is, haboob is a perfectly good English word. It’s in your dictionary. It is of Arabic origin however, and therein lies reason for the objections.

Aside from the ridiculous xenophobia this represents, it also indicates complete ignorance about how the English language works.

English is composed largely of words that were borrowed from other languages. Much of our vocabulary is of French or German origin, but English has borrowed words from virtually every language on Earth. A few representative examples:

Finnish (sauna).

Tagalog (boondocks).

Bantu (banjo).

Mandinka (jazz).

Mikmaq (caribou).

Australian Aboriginal (dingo).

Afrikans (trek).

Chinese (tea).

Czech (robot).

Etrucan (arena).

Hawaiian (taboo).

Urdu (bandanna).

Malay (amok).

Tamil (conundrum).

Arawakan (barbecue).

And on and on it goes.

This is part of the genius of English – the reason why it is arguably the most expressive language on Earth. Thanks to many centuries of borrowings, it contains more words than any other language – nearly twice as many as French or German. How many English words are there? Roughly 800,000, counting technical terms; but an exact count is impossible because new words enter the language, both from borrowings and coinings, almost every day.

And. of course, lots and lots of everyday words have been borrowed from Arabic. Off the top of my head, here are a few. Let’s see if the idiots who object to “haboobs” can do without:

Admiral.

Alcohol.

Apricot.

Borax.

Caliber.

Camel.

Candy.

Chemistry.

Cotton.

Elixir.

Garble.

Ghoul.

Guitar.

Jar.

Julep.

Lemon.

Magazine.

Mask.

Massage.

Mattress.

Nadir.

Orange.

Pajama.

Racquet.

Safari.

Scarlet.

Sofa.

Sugar.

Syrup.

Tariff.

Tuna.

And zero.

In fact, the very concept of zero originated with Arabic mathematicians. Perhaps the yahoos would like to ban it from our arithmetic.

 

APPETIZERS

Smokin’ Chicken Satay Tastees—if you don’t clean your plate, the terrorists win. Our spicy-pineapple chipotle-grilled chicken skewers are served on a bed of molasses-rubbed cornbread, piled high with honey-toasted crispy tortillas strips and served alongside sweet-bleu Dippin’™ sauce. For a true taste of Indonesia, minus the effort of international bridge-building—$3.59

French Onion Soup—we go next door and buy the onion soup they sell there, then bring it to you, still warm, sort of. After it occurs to you that you’re eating French food, your server will help you relieve your shame by sharing a good Sarkozy joke or two.—$4.99

Tuscan Bread Bowl—say bon appetit! We core an entire loaf of Russian bread, then fill it with our special hothouse pico de gallo hummus and chopped callaloo. Did you finish the entire thing yourself? Hide the evidence by eating the bowl. For added fun, every serving arrives at your table with six sparklers and a mariachi band.—$3.99

Salad-Tossers™—your waiter personally throws each bite into your mouth.—$3


BEVERAGES TO GO WITH YOUR STARTERS

Specialty Cocktails—$10

The Lonely Traveler Martini—we make a classic martini, strain it into a martini glass, then dump it out. You consider your empty glass while reflecting on the transience of life.

Red Bull and Hi-C Sangria—the fruity taste is so exciting, you won’t sleep for six days.

Normal Beers$4

Budweiser, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Yuengling

Beers That Will Earn You Suspicious Looks$8

Trappist Ale, Cherry Lambic, Weissebiere

 

MAINS

Secret-Dragon “Stir-Fry”—it may be a little unpatriotic to eat, but it’s good! To offset the security risk of promoting Chinese food, we begin by executing a communist cow. Then we round up all the teenagers in town who listen to Metallica and intimidate them into wearing less black clothing. Finally, we flash-fry the beef strips in a wok (just kidding) with snow peas, barbecue sauce and a whole Maine lobster. A titillating taste of the orient! (Note: all diners must first consent to a background check by the NSA.)—$9.89

Baby-Got-Baby-Backs—an entire side of pork is marinated in sweet cider overnight, then we hang it in a YMCA sauna for a month. Broiled to perfection.—$7.89

Grilled Sole Scampi Asada—delivered to your table by our dayboat skipper, Captain Dave, who will sit down and, despite our stern warnings, probably ask you to have a serious talk about overfishing in international waters. This delectable Cuban-Roman wonder encourages heavy drinking and very little eye contact. (Warning: management not responsible if your night ends in a threesome with Captain Dave.)—$11.99

Crispy Pizza “Napolitano”—we serve it upside down on a sizzle platter. A free visit to the emergency room is included.—$8.29

 

DESSERTS

Note: all menu entries have enough sugar to be considered desserts. Just pick another entree.

McPerspective

By Keith Dixon

Essay

The saddest aspect of the many sad aspects of xenophobia is that it’s essentially a plagiarized hatred—a copycat hatred borrowed from someone else, from something one has read or heard—and therefore a failure of the imagination. Xenophobia, after all, simplifies rather than complicates, by reducing individuals to types.