What’s in a name?

wind-godA while back, I blogged about the winds and how the ancients connected weather to the whim of the gods. Before my health scare last Thursday, I had written about the Alberta Clipper weather system that was blowing through my area. That left me thinking about how we name weather.

One weather event I can think of off the top of my head is the hurricane. To begin, according to the American Meteorological Society, the word hurricane is a Spanish corruption of the Carib Indian name for Hunraken, the Mayan storm god. Aptly named if you think about it, for who else but a storm god could wield that much power?

The study of this Picturem1weather phenomena was a relatively new science up to the 1940s.  Before then, hurricanes that regularly appeared on our coasts weren’t officially named unless they proved severe, and even then they were more likely named for the place or day they wrought the most damage. The Galveston Hurricane of 1900 was one worth noting.

You can tell at a glance where the Galveston Hurricane took place, but unless you looked it up, you’d never know where the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 occurred. Some time passed before someone decided to differentiate one hurricane from another by naming them individually. The very first hurricane to take on a person’s name was 1947’s Hurricane George. I couldn’t find a reason it was named George. Apparently it was an “unofficial naming”.

Interestingly enough, the next hurricane was named Hurricane Bess, after First Lady Bess Truman. Again, I can’t find a reason for this naming. Bess Truman was a rather sedate president’s wife (Harry Truman 1949). It’s not like her personality blew into town and caused havoc. Perhaps it was just out of respect — power of the office/ power of the storm? Who knows.  Naming hurricanes was hit or miss until 1953. That year the powers that be decided to use women’s names from A to Z, A being first in line. Perhaps this went with the adage Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned coined by William Congreve 1697. Or perhaps it was a nod to the old maritime habit of referring to ships as she. However naming hurricanes after women began, this trend would continue until 1979. It’s all unisex now.

The names are picked years ahead of time.


I remember this one. I also recall the tagline “Camille was no lady”.

A little extra — Classifying hurricanes.


phraseologyThis weather naming business has me thinking about phraseology. Why do we choose words the way we do? Rather than start another 100 Words, I think this would be a fine A to Z topic to mull  for a while.
The phrase for today is…

A Cappella
Now here’s a convoluted phrase. The singing style refers to singing unaccompanied in chapel. But look a little deeper and you find the Old French word chapele. Go deeper still to the Latin and you get cappella, the hooded cape worn by men of the church. Sing like the robed men in church do — A Cappella.
I just love words.


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About ~RoseAnderson

Rose Anderson is an award-winning author and dilettante who loves great conversation and delights in discovering interesting things to weave into stories. Rose also writes under the pen name Madeline Archer.
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2 Responses to What’s in a name?

  1. treknray says:

    Another interesting story of weather phenomena. In the Gulf of Mexico near Gulfport, Mississippi there was a barrier Island called Cat Island. Since a hurricane in the 1960s it has been East Cat Island and West Cat Island with a channel between the two.

    Norfolk, VA has an interesting Peninsula called Willoughby Spit and another unusual name for hurricane (Harry Cane). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willoughby_Spit

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