Friday, February 1, 2019

Still Life with Robin: Stormy Weather Names of 2019

Conn Ave during Snowpocalypse - Photo by Bill Adler

by Peggy Robin

Here we are, over halfway through winter, and I am just getting around to my annual critique of the list of winter storm names chosen by The Weather Channel for the 2018-2019 winter storm season. Oh well....last year I was even later -- in fact, a few days into spring before I took on the task (see ). Every year for the last seven years, no matter when in the season I get around to it, I have lodged my objections to so many silly, ill-suited or flat-out un-storm-like names among the 26 selected by the PR folks at TWC.

This year, however, they haven’t done quite as badly as in past years. Still a few outstanding clunkers, of course, but this time mixed in with a fair number that manage to convey a satisfactory sense of the destructive force of a blizzard. With that faint praise, let me do as I’ve done in prior years, and list each storm name, followed by the derivation of that name, as copied from the official list found here:; then, on the line just beneath, you will find my comment on the name and its various associations, and then the letter grade (on a scale of A to F) I think it merits.

Avery: Old English surname meaning “elf ruler.”
-Not bad, not bad. Elves are generally mischievous, and occasionally event malevolent creatures. So Avery the Elf Ruler could be a good fit for a winter storm.
Grade: A-

Bruce: Scottish surname meaning “from the town of Bruis”; refers to the town of Brix in France.
-And in my mind, Bruce tends to call up the image of the Scottish warrior king, Robert the Bruce, and that’s a good image for a winter storm.
Grade: A

Carter: Middle English surname meaning “one who uses a cart.”
-Now we’re starting to get farther afield. The name Carter is most associated with Jimmy Carter, the kindly, if a bit ineffectual, 39th President of the United States, now heading up the nonprofit Habitat for Humanity, which builds low-income housing. Not destructive, not fearsome, but warm-hearted and giving – just the opposite of a winter storm. So not a good name at all.
Grade: D-

Diego: short form of Santiago, the Spanish name meaning “Saint James”; Latinized as Didacus, who derives from the Greek word didache, meaning “teaching”.
-I would venture to guess that the first association most Americans have with Diego is with the city of San Diego, which has never seen a snowflake. So why name a snowstorm for it?
Grade: D

Eboni: African-American variant of Ebony, meaning “dark black-wooded tree”.
-Ebony is a very lustrous, polished wood, used in cabinetry and other crafts done with precise, careful workmanship. Can’t come up with any stormy word-associations for this one.
Grade: C-

Fisher: cognate of the German occupational name Fischer, meaning “fisherman”.
-Well, prudent fishermen always brings their boats into harbor at the first storm warning, so fishers are not friends of the storm.
Grade: C

Gia: short form of the Italian name Gianna, meaning “God is gracious”.
- One doesn’t say “God is gracious” when a bone-rattling blast is on the way.
Grade: C

Harper: Old English surname that belonged to a person who either played the harp or made harps.
-And what about the tinkling, angelic sounds of the harp suggests a winter storm? That’s right….nothing! If you want to pick a name of an instrument player, pick Piper (for the player of the windy, wailing bagpipes) or Cymbelline (for someone who clashes the cymbals) – but not the gentle harpist!
Grade: D-

Indra: ancient Hindu warrior god of both the sky and rain
-At last, a perfectly fitting name for a winter storm. Well done, whoever picked Indra.
Grade: A+

Jayden: American form of Jaden, meaning “thankful” or “he will judge” in Hebrew.
-When I looked up the origin of Jaden, there was much doubt cast on the story that it came from Hebrew. Far more likely, it’s just a nice-sounding rhyme of the trendy name Aiden. Or a way to turn that pretty little girl’s name, Jade, into a boy’s name. Either way, it’s not a good name for a winter storm.
Grade: C-

Kai: Hawaiian word meaning “ocean” or “sea”.
Why use a Hawaiian word for a storm that blows down from the polar regions? Totally at odds with the scheme of things.
Grade: F

Lucian: English and Romanian form of Lucianus, meaning “light”.
-Storms darken the skies, they are not bringers of light.
Grade: D

Morgan: Celtic name of Welsh origin meaning “sea chief” or “sea defender”.
-Morgan is perhaps best known as the evil witch in the King Arthur legends. Not a bad association for a winter storm.
Grade: A

Nadia: Slavic transcription of the name Nadya, meaning “hope”.
-Hope, as Emily Dickinson told us, is a “thing with feathers that perches in the soul”….but the poem goes on to assert that Hope “sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm - That could abash the little Bird That kept so many warm –“ That makes it clear that hope lives on in the storm. And so it’s a fitting name, after all.
Grade: A

Oren: Hebrew word meaning “pine tree”
-Well, pine trees are hardy and evergreen in winter. So this is at least evocative of the right season.
Grade: B+

Petra: Greek word meaning “rock”; feminine form of the name Peter; she was also the name of an ancient city in the region that is now Jordan.
-Petra is an ancient city carved into the face of rocks in the desert Jordan. It never snows there. It rains a fair amount in the winter, but otherwise it’s hot and dry. Why name a winter storm for it?
Grade: C

Quiana: African-American variant of Qiana, meaning “singer”.
-I suppose that singers can croon of the winds of winter to come.
Grade: B

Ryan: Irish surname meaning “little king”.
-The first Ryan that comes to mind is Ryan Gosling, who started his career as a kid-actor on the Mickey Mouse Club, then went on to star in some rom-coms, some sci-fi, and a nice, fluffy movie musical, La-La-Land. Another rom-com Ryan is Meg Ryan, best known for When Harry Met Sally. Is any of this making you think of sub-zero wind chills? Me neither.
Grade: C

Scott: English and Scottish surname that refers to either a person from Scotland or a person who speaks Scottish Gaelic.
-Yes, it’s cold up there in the Scottish highlands and snowy atop the bens.
Grade: A-

Taylor: English surname meaning “one who tailors clothes”.
-Taylor Swift. ‘Nuf said.
Grade: C

Ulmer: German surname meaning “famous wolf”.
-This may be the best of the bunch. Wolves are most fearsome in winter when food is scare and they get desperate.
Grade: A

Vaughn: Welsh surname meaning “little” or “small”.
-Nothing about a Welsh diminutive makes me think of winter winds.
Grade: C-

Wesley: Old English surname meaning “west meadow”.
-Wesley is better known as the boy genius/navigator in Star Trek: The Next Generation. That Wesley had a tendency to get into some deep trouble, too. And then there’s Westly, A/K/A The Dread Pirate Roberts, from the Princess Bride. Both brooding types with a bit of a dark and stormy side.
Grade: B+

Xyler: Medieval Basque variant of Zilar, meaning “silver”.
-Silver suggests glistening icicles.
Grade: A-

Yvette: French feminine form of the name Yves, meaning “yew”.
-Yvette is a good name for a French poodle. Anyone old enough to remember that kittenish actress, Yvette Mimieux? Can’t think of any stormy associations for the name, though.
Grade: D

Zachary: Hebrew word meaning “remembered by God”; derives from Zacharias, a name used in most English versions of the New Testament.
-Then there’s Zachary Taylor, the 12th President, also known by his nickname from when he was a general: “Old Fuss’n’Feathers”. Sounds like he was kind of a mild storm of a general.
Grade: B

Grade point average for the whole shebang: 2.44, or just on the borderline between a B- and a C+….but still an appreciable advance over last year’s GPA of 1.8 or C-.

Weather Channel, you are improving but still have a long way to go. Already looking forward to the winter storm names of 2019-2020!

Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.   

No comments:

Post a Comment