Saharan dust is how to say it?


credit: from penphoto

Light to moderate amounts of Saharan dust are headed into Southeast Texas which means a few things: skies will be a bit hazy with spectacular sunrises and sunsets, the dry air will inhibit a whole lot of rain showers from forming, and your eyes or nose may feel the itchy effects.

The upside to this monstrous dust layer is that the dry air also keeps much tropically from happening in the Atlantic Basin so storms trying to form out there are having a tough time. In addition, iron and phosphorous from the dust are terrific for marine ecosystems and, especially, the rainforests. I found a truly informative article about the dust in Vox magazine.

So just as there is an upside and a downside to this dust, there are two ways to pronounce “Sahara”! Believe me, I get emails. For whatever reason, I prefer Suh-HAR-ah while a lot of Texans apparently prefer Suh-HAIR-ah. And they are quick to let me know that I am wrong in my pronunciation.

Not so fast, cowboy. First, the word “Sahara” is derived from Arabic: great desert of northern Africa, 1610s, from Arabic çahra “desert” (plural çahara), according to Klein, noun use of fem. of the adjective asharu “yellowish red.”

This word “cahara” is pronounced “ka-HAR-ah”, so “Sa-HAR-ah” basically rhymes.

In addition, while I’m not a foreign language expert, most languages other than English rarely pronounce the same vowel in one word two different ways. English is big on short vowel sounds, long vowel sounds (apple vs ape) and we often use two different vowel sounds in the same word, like “language” for instance! I’ve always taken issue with “Appalachian” which correctly should be “Apple-achen” not “Apple-A-chen”, but tell that to the university.

Herewith, a pronunciation guide on “Sahara” from the on-line Oxford-English dictionary. You can go here to reach a page that looks like this:

from the Oxford-English dictionary

Click the black arrows for an audio pronunciation, but you can see above that the British say Suh-HAR-uhn while U.S. English can go either way--Suh-HAIR-uhn and Suh_HAR-uhn are both perfectly fine.

So what do you call this?

Kevin took this picture this morning during our walk!

Yeah, that’s a HAIR-en.....have a swell day and watch out for the dust, no matter how you say it!


Email me (not about how to pronounce the dust) with ideas and comments!

About the Authors:

KPRC 2's chief meteorologist with four decades of experience forecasting Houston's weather.

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.