While the US has been naming its storms since the 1950s, the UK only adopted the practice in 2014. Not all storms are given names – only those big enough to cause significant damage. Giving a storm a name also holds the added benefit of making it easier for people to follow the storm’s progress via news updates and social media.
In the UK, the Met Office is responsible for selecting each storm’s name, although they have asked members of the public to make suggestions as well. The 2015 campaign called #NameOurStorms prompted more than 10,000 suggestions in its very first year, providing a diverse list of potential names.
Suggestions are also taken from the Met Office’s Irish counterpart, Met Eireann. This year, they have also teamed up with the Dutch weather organisation, Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) to provide the most eclectic list yet.
Once names have been submitted by the public, the Met Office takes the most popular entries to form a list, with one name beginning with each letter of the alphabet. They then move though the list in alphabetical order, alternating between male and female names as they go – that’s why Ciara was followed by Dennis this year. The Met Office also rejects names which are not “proper names” and these ones have been disregarded on that basis: Apocalypse, Baldrick, Big Boss, Bluetooth, Forkbeard, Gnasher, Hot Brew, Megatron, Noddy, root ripper, Stormageddon, Ssswetcaroline, Vader, Voldermort and branch wobbler.
For nearly 150 years, the Jeffrey asbestos mine in the town east of Montreal was one of the world’s largest – and the biggest employer in town. Over the years, however, as experts learned of the dangers associated with asbestos, the town’s name has become somewhat tarnished. Amid growing frustration from residents, officials have launched a bold plan: renaming the town.
The new effort marks the second time Asbestos has tried to rebrand itself. In 2006 town councillors proposed the idea but received little support. While the current attempt will probably cost nearly $100,000, there is hope the contest will bring attention – and potential investment – to the region.
Some residents have advocated names that pay homage to the region, including City of Three Lakes. Other suggested reaching out to Indigenous groups to guidance on the traditional names for the region. Most, however, have been tongue-in-cheek, including Poumontousse (a portmanteau of “lung” and “cough”), the Hole and Asbestos 2.0.
This article at Vox examines the use of names like “Karen” to identify a class of people in American society. Increasingly, “Karen” in particular has emerged as the frontrunner for the average “basic white person name” — a pejorative catchall label for a wide range of behaviors thought to have connections to white privilege.
Former ANS President Dr. Iman Nick, as well as long-time member and Name of the Year Coordinator Cleve Evans, are quoted in this article, providing a scholarly and historical view of this phenomenon. Here’s a sample:
This trend might have also gotten a boost from social media, according to Dr. I.M. Nick,a nomenclature scholar and former president of the American Name Society. “The general tendency which social media users have been shown to manifest is a high frequency of shortenings and abbreviations,” she said in an email, though she hesitated to speculate on how this tendency might apply to specific names.
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Actor Lorraine Toussaint (Photo Source: Caitlin Watkins)
Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his January 31st column, he looks at the history of the name Lorraine.
Lorraine is a region in northeastern France. It’s the modern form of Lotharingia, a medieval kingdom named after its first ruler, Lothair II (835-869), a great-grandson of Charlemagne. France and England fought to control northern France for centuries. In the 1300s, prophecies claiming France would be saved by “a virgin from the borders of Lorraine” began to spread. Today in English, that virgin is called St. Joan of Arc (1412-31). Though in France, she’s most often “Jeanne d’Arc,” she’s sometimes called “Jeanne de Lorraine.”
A few American parents named daughters Lorraine, probably as a variation of Laura, in the early 19th century. The 1850 census found over 30, most in upstate New York. Publicity about the Franco-Prussian War helped the name rise. This accelerated after American novelist Robert W. Chambers published “Lorraine: A Romance” in 1897. There, Lorraine, daughter of the Marquis de Nesville, is saved by (and marries) American adventurer Jack Marche after her father is killed piloting a military balloon.
Though Lorraine stayed in the top 100 until 1949, it then swiftly receded except for a minor uptick in 1985, when Lea Thompson played Marty McFly’s mom, Lorraine, in “Back to the Future.”
With the reality that a previously unknown animal virus has started infecting people, the world faces a recurring question: What does one call it?
The pneumonia-causing virus, which is spreading rapidly in China and beyond, is currently being identified as 2019-nCoV, shorthand for a novel or new (i.e. “n”) coronavirus (CoV) that was first detected in 2019. The disease it causes doesn’t yet have a name, either, though Wuhan SARS or Wu Flu are among of the options being thrown around on the internet.
None of these is likely to be the virus’ or the disease’s permanent name. They almost certainly would be unacceptable to the Chinese, and to the World Health Organization, which discourages the use of place names in the naming of diseases. As for the virus, the longer it spreads the less novel it becomes.
So how to name it? And who gets to name it?
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary site is an epicurean and sometimes mercurial presentation of language that tantalizes even the most Draconian and martinet-ish of word lovers. A case in point: The delightful “Eponym Quiz,” which tests your knowledge of many of the words in the previous sentence that are based on the names of people. This article in the Columbia Journalism Review discusses well-known – and more obscure – eponyms. Here’s a sample:
In traditional usage an “eponym” is something that has loaned its name to something else. By extension, in everyday usage and many dictionaries, the “eponym” is also the thing that borrowed the name.
Some eponyms have retained the capitalization of their namesakes, such as “Bakelite” (1909), a trademark for the first synthetic plastic, created by Leo Baekeland. Most have lost their capitalization, though some are recognizable as deriving from names. For example, “béchamel” sauce, named for the Marquis Louis de Béchamel, a steward to Louis XIV of France in the late 17th century. The sauce had probably been brought to France at least a hundred years earlier, but the Marquis got naming rights. (The Oxford English Dictionary says it first appeared in English in 1789 spelled “bishemel.”)
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Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg attends a climate strike in Stockholm on Friday, Dec. 20.
Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his January 18th column, he looks at the American Name Society’s Name of the Year.
Do you know where Arrokoth is? At its meeting in New Orleans on Jan. 3 2020, the American Name Society voted Arrokoth 2019’s Name of the Year.
In November, NASA announced this as the name of “minor planet 486958.” Before the New Horizons probe flew over this far-away rock in the Kuiper Belt on Jan. 1, 2019, NASA received about 34,000 name suggestions. Their initial selection, Ultima Thule, was abandoned when it turned out that Ultima Thule was used by Nazi occultists as the mythical home of the “Aryan race.” Arrokoth means “sky” in Powhatan, an extinct Algonquian language formerly spoken in eastern Virginia.
ANS chose Names of the Year for place names, artistic-literary names, personal names, trade names, e-names and miscellaneous names before picking the overall Name of the Year.
“Greta Thunberg” won personal name of the year. Swedish teen Thunberg, who turned 17 on Jan. 3, leads a global youth movement addressing climate change. She was chosen as Time magazine’s Person of the Year for 2019, and her name has become a byword for youth climate activists. Their influence on politics is called the Greta Effect. A documentary film about the movement is titled “Make the World Greta Again.”
Intrepid sleuths at XDA-Developers have uncovered code in the latest Google App, buld 10.93, that may be part of a new feature to improve the apps pronunciation abilties when it comes to proper names. Right now if your name is hard for Google to pronounce, your best option is to find the Nickname settings and enter a more transliteral spelling that forces Google to say it the way you prefer. Quite inelegent.
The new feature gives you the option to “record your own” pronunciation. It is unclear what happens then, once Google has a recording. At best there will be some sort of AI methodology to analyze the way you pronounce the name, then transpose your pronunciation onto the Assistant’s voice. At worst it may just play the recording of you reading your own name, but that seems unlikely.
Dick Gautier as Conrad Birdie in the 1960 Broadway Musical BYE BYE BIRDIE
Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his January 3rd column, he looks at the history of the name Conrad.
Conrad is the modern form of an ancient Germanic name combining “kuoni” (brave) and “rad” (counsel.) The first famous Conrad was St. Conrad (900-975), bishop of Constance, a city on Germany’s border with Switzerland. He once drank a chalice of concentrated communion wine a spider dropped into. Because they thought that all spiders were poisonous, Conrad’s contemporaries saw this as proof of great bravery.
In 1880, when Social Security’s yearly baby name lists began, Conrad ranked 262nd. Though its use then drifted downward, this very German name surprisingly rebounded during World War I. Two men whose last name was Conrad may have helped. During the war, Austrian Field Marshal Franz Conrad, Baron von Hötzendorf (1852-1925), was considered a military genius despite many defeats. Perhaps more importantly, Polish-born British novelist Joseph Conrad (1857-1924), best known today for “Heart of Darkness” (1899), was then at the height of his fame.
Though hotel magnate Conrad Hilton (1879-1979) countered that image with one of wealth and power, the name fell to 836th in 2005.
Ellen DeGeneres and wife Portia de Rossi
Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his December 7th column, he looks at the history of the name Ellen.
Ellen is the English form of Helen, derived from a Greek word for what’s today called “St. Elmo’s Fire,” light appearing around ship’s masts during thunderstorms, caused by electrical discharge. St. Helen was the mother of Constantine, the first Roman emperor to accept Christianity. Ninth-century English priest Cynewulf wrote about Helen’s travels to Palestine to find the “true cross” in “Elene,” one of the earliest surviving Old English poems.
In the 18th century, educated parents reintroduced Helen. Though Helen quickly took over in Scotland, in England and America, Ellen had more staying power. The 1850 United States census found 121,770 Ellens and 19,849 Helens. Around 1875, Helen started its American boom. Between 1900 and 1919, it ranked second for newborn American girls.
Though Ellen fell to 290th in 1985, it inched up the next decade as similar sounding Ella rose. After 1995, Ellen plummeted. This may be partly due to DeGeneres becoming a “one-name celebrity” through sitcom “Ellen” (1994-98) and her talk show. Of course, the Ellens born around the name’s 1946 peak are now in their 70s, giving it a “grandma” vibe to modern young parents.