Sick of hurricanes

Linguist Geoffrey K. Pullum raises the question of whether the way we name storms might be counterproductive:

I think it’s becoming clear that alternating male and female personal names to individuate Atlantic tropical cyclones is not a good idea. These storms are becoming far too nasty. Calling a storm “Harvey” makes it sound like your friendly uncle who always comes over on the Fourth of July and flirts with your mom. And “Irma” sounds like a dancer that he once knew when he was in Berlin.

Insufficiently intimidating, apparently. Here’s the fix:

Accordingly, next year the National Hurricane Center is planning to name tropical cyclonic storms and hurricanes after unpleasant diseases and medical conditions. Think about it. The state governor tells you a hurricane named Dracunculiasis is coming down on you, you’re gonna start packing the station wagon.

If you came back after Anthrax, Blastocystosis or Chlamydia, that is.

Anyway, that takes care of 2018. What comes next?

For 2019, the plan is to use names of parasitic worms and flesh-burrowing insects. After that, probably venomous snakes.

Politicians for 2021, I suggest.


  1. fillyjonk »

    22 September 2017 · 7:16 am

    That’s a good idea, but why not go Full Latin and use the Latin (or Ancient Greek, or Sanskrit, or whatever, to be inclusive) Name For Bad Things?

  2. McG »

    22 September 2017 · 8:18 am

    Disagree about Harvey. The one on “Suits” would call the hurricane a vulgar word otherwise associated with cats.

  3. McG »

    22 September 2017 · 8:22 am

    Politicians for 2021, I suggest.

    If the hurricane’s name is retired can we retire the politician too?

  4. Holly H »

    22 September 2017 · 8:23 am

    haha! That Harvey has ruined the name for all mild-mannered versions, for sure.

  5. Francis W. Porretto »

    22 September 2017 · 12:10 pm

    Name them all Cruella, with a year and sequence suffix. Thus, the first hurricane of 2018 would be Cruella-2018-01, the next would be Cruella-2018-02, and so on. (A year in which there are more than 99 hurricanes would solve the problem by completely depopulating North America.)

  6. ETat »

    22 September 2017 · 10:51 pm

    Latin? right, take on people can’t answer in kind – being dead, that is. What ancient Romans ever do to you, except GOOD? even your toilets came from them, let alone roads, baths, laws, concrete, multistory buildings and REPUBLIC itself.

    hurricanes are not live, ppl. don’t anthropomorphize them.

  7. CGHill »

    23 September 2017 · 12:13 am

    I knew I’d heard that spiel before:

  8. ETat »

    23 September 2017 · 5:58 am

    …and you’re still not convinced?

  9. September rambling #3: taking a knee | Ramblin' with Roger »

    30 September 2017 · 7:33 am

    […] Hurricane names are Insufficiently intimidating Last weekend, I went to two street festivals in Albany. Larkfest I used to go to all of the time when I was single and lived nearby, but it had been a while. I was helping Albany Public Library staff to get folks to get library cards. The Madison Street Fair is smaller, but closer. At both events, the weather got HOT; sunburn at Larkfest, which is particularly bad for me with the vitiligo, so I used an umbrella at Madison. […]

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