|The Weather Channel|
The day before Tuesday’s snowstorm, the local real estate blog, CurbedDC, sent out a warning about the coming weather event under the headline, “Winter Storm Stella will bring heavy snow to D.C.“ That was the first time I saw a local media outlet calling the storm by name. Maybe it’s because we haven’t had any other snowstorms this year, and I haven’t been paying close attention to storms elsewhere -- but suddenly it hit me that we’re just a few days away from the end of winter, the snow is mostly melted, and I have completely neglected to do my annual critique of the winter storm names issued by The Weather Channel. This is the fifth year that The Weather Channel has taken on the storm-naming task, and in all four previous years, I have dedicated at least one column to bashing their choices. If you want to look at all four previous years of chosen snowstorm names (and my snark about each and every one), here they are:
First year 2012-2013 “A Storm Named Boo-boo”
Second year 2013-2014 “Name That Storm”
Third year 2014-2015 “Name That Storm Redux”
Fourth year 2015-2016 “Name That Storm - 4th Annual Excursion”
And now for the main event, the take-down on the silly names on this year’s list. But hey, wait a minute….These names are actually pretty darn good! Let me start where we were on Tuesday, with Stella.
Stella is a fine name for a storm. Any name that brings to mind the image of Marlon Brando (as Stanley) bellowing up at the sky is fit for use as a winter storm name. Even if the setting is sweaty, sultry New Orleans.
Let’s continue with the rest of the alphabet in order:
Theseus. The mythical hero/demi-god/king of ancient Athens. He slew the minotaur, and he can easily lend his name to a blizzard.
Ursa. A she-bear. Another very good storm name.
Valerie. From the Latin, meaning strong, valiant. Also associated with the character of the witchy wife of “Miracle Max” (from “The Princess Bride”), whose hair was like a frizzy white storm cloud.
Wyatt. From Middle English words for battle and brave. In American history, the name calls to mind Wyatt Earp. Perfectly storm-worthy.
Xavier. A name made famous by a Spanish missionary, St. Francis Xavier. Probably the most frequently mispronounced name ever. People say “Ex-zavier” when they should just say “Zavier.” Of course, in Spanish, it’s pronounced “Ha-vee-air. Expel some breath at the beginning, as they do in Spain, and it sounds like a whoosh of wind. A bit of wintry wind, perhaps?
Yuri. Brings to mind Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space. Blast off – you stormy rocket man!
Zeno. A variant of Zenon, which is ultimately a form of Zeus, who liked to throw thunderbolts.
Nothing to snark about so far. Now let’s go back to the beginning of the alphabet:
Argos. One of the city-states of ancient Greece. The name may come from a related word in ancient Greek, meaning “white plain” – that is, white like a land blanketed with snow.
Blanche. The French word for white. – another snowy reference.
Caly. A nickname derived from Catherine, Greek for “pure”….as the driven snow.
Decima. It’s the name of one of the three Fates in Roman mythology, but it sounds a bit like “decimate,” meaning “to wipe out.” (Don’t get persnickety and tell me that it actually means, “to destroy one-tenth of something.” The meaning has shifted a bit since the Roman Legion’s practice of killing every tenth captive in a conquered land.)
Europa. From Greek mythology, the name of the princess carried off by Zeus, who had taken the shape of a rampaging bull.
Fortis. Latin for strong.
Gregory. From the Greek word “gregoros” meaning watchful or alert – advisable for anyone who learns there’s a storm on the way.
Helena. The name of the lady who had “the face that launched a thousand ships.” Anyone who can trigger a ten-year war can certainly have a storm named for her.
Iras. In Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, Iras is one of Cleopatra’s waiting women. But the sound calls to mind, “irate” (angry) or “irascible” (easily roused to anger).
Jupiter. The Roman equivalent of Zeus – also the name of the largest planet, the gas giant with the red eye that is actually a perpetual raging storm, about 12,400 miles long and 7,500 miles wide, with winds up to 450 mph.
Kori. From the Old Norse name, Korí, derived from the Old Norse word “kárr”, meaning “curly (hair), obstinate, pugnacious.”
Leo. The Latin word for lion. ROAR!
Maya. A variation of Maia, the goddess of spring. In the list of names so far, this is the first bad choice! The goddess who gave her name to the pleasant month of May should not also lend her name to a winter storm!
Niko. A nickname for the Greek name Nikolaos, meaning “the victor” – the one who won the battle or the war.
Orson: An English name derived from the Latin word for bear, ursus.
Pluto. The Roman name for Hades, god of the Underworld. Also the name of the planetoid that was formerly regarded as the ninth planet in the solar system, until it was demoted to “dwarf planet” status in 2006 by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). It’s still just as frigid and unwelcoming as it ever was….
Quid. Latin for “what.” It’s not a name, much less a good one for a storm. Definitely does NOT belong on this list.
Reggie.: A nickname for Reginald, a Germanic name from roots meaning “wise ruler.” Now, probably most commonly associated with Baseball Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson. Baseball may be a summer game, but he could sure play up a storm!
Stella – and we’re back to where we came in!
Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.