Saturday, October 17, 2015

Still Life With Robin: Name That Storm - 4th Annual Excursion

Snowmaggden on Conn Ave - Photo by Bill Adler
by Peggy Robin

In what has become an annual tradition, I take on the list of winter storm names put forward by The Weather Channel in this, the 4th year of its assumption of naming rights to the blizzards of winter. After the first few years of objecting to this practice, my favorite crew of meteorologists at the Capital Weather Gang have now come around to accepting and even embracing the concept, and have made their case quite well in this piece posted on their weather blog on Tuesday:

I, too, started out in the negative, having written two columns of harsh critiques of the practice – see and for those takes -- but came around last February, when I realized it was a lot easier to tweet about a storm on the way if it could be referenced with a short, punchy name, convertible into a hashtag (see for the turnabout).

My main difficulty remains with the insipidity of so many of the names that the people at the Weather Channel have dreamed up. This year they turned to a high school Latin club in Bozeman, Montana, to come up with some of the selections. Since high schoolers were involved in the creation of this year’s list, I thought I would employ the standard high school grading system of giving their efforts letters from A to F. In the list that follows the first line contains the name of the storm and the brief explanation of its origin, copied straight from The Weather Channel's listing at; the second line is my own comment, followed by the letter grade I have given it – and then, at the end, the grade point average for all the names of the year 2015-2016:

Ajax – From Greek mythology: a hero in Homer’s epic, Iliad, about the Trojan War known for his strength and courage.
   The list begins with this rather standard mythological reference, dull but serviceable. A solid B.

Bella – The feminine form of the Latin word for beautiful. Also, coincidentally, Latin for wars. So bella bella means beautiful wars.
   I like the double-duty nature of the name. This one’s an A.

Cara (CAH-ruh) – From Latin, meaning beloved.
   Since when is any winter storm “beloved”? This one should have been rejected. D-

Delphi (DEL-fahy) – An ancient Greek city best known as the home of the oracle and the sanctuary of Apollo in Greek mythology.
   Not bad, not bad. The oracle of Delphi was mysterious and often scary, and always hard to follow. B+

Echo – From Greek mythology: Echo was a nymph given a speech impediment so she could only repeat what she heard.
   Nymphs are light, nimble, magical fairy-like beings – and not at all evocative of something heavy, threatening, and cold. And since you may not be able to hear your own voice in the winds of a blizzard, “Echo” does not ring a bell. F.

Ferus (FAIR-us) – From Latin meaning wild or untamed.
   This one fits. Not imaginative, but apt. A-

Goliath – From the Hebrew name Golyat. Best known as Goliath of Gath in the biblical story of David and Goliath.
  Excellent choice, fits the story – and it’s also a subtle reminder that if you are smart and well-prepared and have a good plan, you can beat this storm. A

Hera – From Greek mythology: The perpetually jealous sister and wife of Zeus and the goddess of women and marriage.
   There seems to be some sexism inherent in choosing the nagging, jealous Hera as the embodiment of the woes of winter, but the name does go with the storm and bluster. B-.

Ilias (IL-ee-as)– Derived from the Greek name, Elias, which derives from the Hebrew name, Elijjah.
  Elijah is the silent, invisible prophet who is called to drink a cup of wine at the feast of Passover….in the springtime. No one is calling for a blast of cold air to blow through the open door. This one’s a D.

Jonas – From the Latin spelling, Ionas, of the name Jonah.
   Jonah in the Bible is known for having been swallowed by a great fish (some say a whale) and surviving….but did you know how he ended up in the ocean? A fierce storm arose at sea, and the other sailors blamed Jonah, and tossed him overboard. So it’s Jonah’s revenge to lend his name to a storm. A+

Kayla (KAY-la rhymes with say-la) – Short form of Katherine. Associated with the Greek word, katharos, meaning pure.
  If purity calls to mind the snow imagery that goes along with the phrase “pure as the driven snow” then it can be argued that Kayla is a fitting name for a winter storm. A-

Lexi (LEX–ee) – Short for Alexander or Alexandra. From the Greek name, Aléxandros, meaning defender/protector of men.
   I can’t come up with any possible connection between a “protector of men” and a blizzard that men, women and children need protection from. C-

Mars – From ancient Roman mythology: the god of war.
   Now here’s the kind of name you expect to find on this list. Good, strong, fierce one. A

Nacio (NAH-see-oh) – Short for Ignacio, derived from the Ancient Roman name, Ignatius, related to the Latin word, ignīre, meaning to set on fire.
   Fire? Really? The exact opposite of ice! An effing F!

Olympia:  An ancient Greek city. The site of the ancient athletic competitions which became known as the Olympic Games.
   I suppose you could argue that there are Winter Games, and so Olympia can work as a winter name. It’s something of a stretch to get there, though. C+

Petros (PEH-tros) – From Greek meaning stone. Evolved to be spelled Peter.
  Petros or Peter, either way the main image that comes to mind is of the white-robed saint who sits at the gates of heaven in cartoons and admits or rejects people. Where’s the storm imagery there? C-

Quo – Latin word which generally translates in which or similar.
   Hey, Weather guys, Quo is not even a name! F

Regis (REE-jis) – The possessive form of the Latin word for king.
   Regis may mean “king” but to millions of TV viewers it’s that genial chat show guy who used to be on with Kathy Lee. This one makes the D List. (Yes, I know it’s the wrong Kathy!)

Selene (She-LEEN) – From Greek mythology. The goddess of the moon.
   When in the grip of a winter storm, the night sky is covered in clouds and you never see the moon. Also, “Selene” sounds much like “Serene” – the opposite of storminess. Another D.

Troy – Best known as the site of the Trojan War described in the Homer’s ancient Greek epic, the Iliad.
   A city laid waste by warfare. It doesn’t exactly call to mind the travails of winter….unless you are thinking of how all the store shelves get stripped bare by people buying supplies the minute they hear the forecast of snow. I was going to give this a B- but on further thought, I have raised it to a B+.

Ursula (ERR-sel-uh) – Character name from William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, from Latin meaning little bear.
   Think of little bears hibernating in dens under the snow until they finally emerge in the spring, and give it a B (for bearable).

Vexo – From Latin meaning I annoy or harass.
   A storm may annoy or harass you, but that doesn’t make “Vexo” a name. Maybe in a video game somewhere it is…. C-

Waylon (WAY-lun) – Derived from Wieland from German mythology: a craftsman in metal of the highest skill.
   Metal-working at a red-hot forge has nothing to do with woes of winter. And when most people think of Waylon, the next thing they think of is “Jennings,” the country singer. Although I’m not a big fan, I don’t think his name should be slapped onto a bad weather event. C-

Xenos (ZEE-nos) – Greek word meaning stranger or alien.
   Snowstorms are not alien to us. We have them every year. It’s true, many of us treat each winter storm as if we’ve never seen one before. If that’s the idea behind the name Xenos, then give it a B.

Yolo (yo-lo) – An acronym for you only live once.  The modern version of the Latin phrase, carpe diem, which is usually translated seize the day.
The worst of the bunch. It’s not a name, and it’s already a stupidly overused Twitter hashtag for “You only live once,’ a clichéd acronym used whenever someone has done something they think of as thrilling or daring -- but just as often it’s something really idiotic.) If I could give a grade lower than an F, I would.

Zandor (zan-door) – Derived from Alexander.  From the Greek name, Aléxandros, meaning defender/protector of men.
   See Lexi, above. Two “Alexander” derivatives in the same list -- they really weren’t trying too hard, were they? D-

And now for this year’s GPA of winter storm names:  Average score, a bit over 2.0….or a gentleman’s C. Last year’s names were much better, but the storms were perfectly awful. Let’s just hope none of these chosen names come to town!


Still Life With Robin is published on the Cleveland ParkListserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

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