Haze, according to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, is ‘air that is difficult to see through because it contains very small drops of water, especially caused by hot weather: a heat haze’.
In the Southeast Asian media, however, haze is the usual word referring to the yearly phenomenon of thick and often life-threatening smoke thoughtfully sent our way (and Malaysia’s) by Indonesian farmers.
Why not call it what it is, i.e. toxic smoke? Because ASEAN, with its policy of non-intervention, chooses to use vocabulary that it hopes will fool its populations into believing that the ‘haze’ is less serious than it actually is (and hence excuse chronic inaction on the part of ASEAN governments).
Just imagine if the above headline (Straits Times, 4 August 2008) were to read: Toxic smoke returns to region as Sumatra’s illegal fires rage.
Haze in the Southeast Asian context, then, is a weasel word: ‘a word used in place of some other word that would be more direct, honest, or clear’ (Longman).