Saturday, March 24, 2018

Still Life with Robin: Toby the Last (We Hope!)

by Peggy Robin

Earlier this week the East Coast experienced the fourth Nor’easter in a month. It’s officially spring and here we are, still having winter storms. And The Weather Channel is still naming them. Yes, this is the sixth year that The Weather Channel has appointed itself the name-giver of winter storms. See the complete list of the 2017-2018 storm names here:

From the very first season of storm-naming (2012-2013), I have used this column to object to the practice. The names are typically awful, like something you’d expect a kindergarten class to come up with (just two examples, Winter Storm Boo-boo (2016) and Winter Storm Yolo (2017). I’m coming to it late, I know, but I can’t let the current storm season end without my annual critique of the Weather Channel’s dopey name picks. So without further qualification, here is the list of names they’ve chosen for 2017-2018, followed by TWC’s definition/origin, and after that, my complaint (plus very occasional praise), followed by a letter grade. And then the grade point average for the year.

Aiden - From an Old Irish name meaning "fire." 
- You don’t use a name that means “fire” for frozen wintry blasts – DUH! 
Grade: D

Benji - Short for Benjamin, an old Hebrew name meaning "son of the south."
- You don’t use a name most commonly associated with a cute little Disney dog for a winter storm. And something that means “son of the South” should not be the name of a phenomenon associated with the North. Double-DUH. 
Grade: D-

Chloe - From Greek, it is a reference to blooming or the young green shoot of a new plant.
- Look at the definition/derivation of Chloe and you tell me if it’s a fitting name for a blizzard. 
Grade: D

Dylan - From Welsh words meaning "great tide."
- Once associated mainly with Bob Dylan, it’s now a ridiculously popular, unisex kid’s name, and there’s just nothing chilling and storm-tossed about this one. It’s a couple of notches better than Benji, so I will give it a C-.

Ethan - From a Hebrew name meaning "strong," "solid" or "firm."
- Another wildly popular baby name. It used to be the #1 boy’s name but is now down to #7. The meaning’s OK for a storm, so let’s give it a B.

Frankie - A nickname for Frank, Francis or Frances from the Germanic tribe the Franks.
- This choice would be a lot better if not turned into a diminutive. 
Grade: B-

Grayson - From the Middle English word that meant steward plus son.
- These days the name Grayson is the sort of thing you’d find as the hero’s name in a torrid romance novel. 
Grade: C

Hunter - From the time when people in England were named for their work.
- I think The Weather Channel’s naming scheme is meant to alternate male and female names, but with so many unisex names in the list, I’ve lost track of what gender we’re supposed to be on. “Hunter” is not a bad image/personification for a winter storm, though, so I’ll give it a B.

Inga - Related to the name of a people who lived on the North Sea called the Ingaevones.
- Ah, finally, a name that evokes a Northern, Viking image. This one’s OK.
Grade: A

Jaxon - From the son of Jack, which was a nickname for John in the Middle Ages.
- Wrong! The Jaxon spelling is pure 21st Century parental naming cuteness. If it had been Jackson, that would have been OK….but Jaxon with an X? Just silly. Grade: C-

Kalani - From the Hawaiian words meaning the plus heaven or sky.
- You don’t pick Hawaiian words for Nor’easters on the mainland. Plus, it’s not even a name….
Grade: D-

Liam - From Irish, a short form of William, which comes from German.
- Oh, this one’s OK, I guess. I have no objection to it. 
Grade: B

Mateo - The Spanish form of Matthew, which is distantly derived from the Hebrew word for gift.
- “Gift”? Really? They don’t really think these things through, do they? 
Grade: C-

Noah - From the biblical character Noah, derived from the Babylonian/Assyrian word for repose/rest.
- Noah is so associated with the Flood and the near-destruction of the earth, that we don’t need to deal with the derivation from the Babylonian word for “rest.” This one’s OK. 
Grade: A

Oliver - The English form of the French name Olivier.
- It means an olive branch, a peace offering. Not exactly weather-appropriate. Grade: F

Polly - From Molly, which is an old nickname for Mary.
- I know what we’re all thinking about this one…. “Polly wanna cracker?” 
Grade: D-

Quinn - Derived from an Irish Gaelic word meaning "chief" or "counsel."
- Nothing wrong with this one. In fact, my first association is with “The Mighty Quinn,” the Bob Dylan song about Quinn the Eskimo. 
Grade: A

Riley - Derived from Reilly, which comes from the Old Irish name Raghailleach.
- I looked up the meaning of Riley (or Reilly), and it’s “courageous, valiant” in Gaelic. Not bad, I guess.
Grade: A-

Skylar - A modified version of Tyler merged with the word sky.
- The derivation is silly, but at least the name is weather-related. 
Grade: B

Toby - Derived from Tobias, a name from old versions of the Bible.
- Tobias would have been OK, but choosing the diminutive Toby – perhaps more common these days as a dog name than a human name – brings it down a few notches. 
Grade: C

Uma - From multiple cultures including the Sanskrit word meaning "tranquility."
- You see the problem? The name comes from India (not exactly snowstorm-evoking land) and means “tranquility.” The Weather Channel is just going about this all wrong! 
Grade: D

Violet - Originally from the name for the Latin name for the flower, viola.
- Using the word for a bright little spring flower for a blizzard? I thought this one was the worst – Grade: F – until I got to what comes next…..

Wilbur - Mr. Ed’s owner in the TV show about a talking horse.
- This one scrapes the bottom of the barrel. Wiiiilll - burrrrr! (see 
Grade: F-

Xanto - From the Ancient Greek name Xanthus meaning "blonde."
- This is NOT a name. And not storm-appropriate, even if it were. 
Grade: D-

Yvonne - Related to a nickname for the Old French name Yves, which came from the name of a type of wood used to make bows.
- Yvonne sounds more like the name of the sexy French kitty in a Pepe LePew cartoon. 
Grade: C

Zoey - Derived from the Greek word for life.
- Can you hear Zoey these days without thinking of that Manic Pixie Dreamgirl, Zoey Deschanel? I can’t. 
Grade: F

Grade Point Average 1.8 or D+

…and here’s hoping that the Grade C Storm Toby was the last of this winter’s bunch!
Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.  

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