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Category: quirky names



Hurricane Names: Oddballs on the Lists

Baby Holding Teddy Bear

Reflecting upon recent hurricanes, Nameberry’s newest intern Deanna Cullen delved into “the eye of the storm,” so to speak, and returned with a flood of information on the hurricane naming process.

Mother Nature gives birth to a whole set of little terrors each hurricane season, so it’s only natural that we have a set of names by which to reprimand them- six sets of names, actually.

You don’t have to be a Weather Channel enthusiast to know that hurricane names are, by design, short, distinctive male and female names, listed in alphabetical order each year . What you may not know, however, is who is responsible for naming the hurricanes and why odd names like Gaston and Virginie made the 2010 list.

Since 1979, there have been six lists in rotation for Atlantic hurricane names, each established and maintained by an international committee of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

A sanity check for all of you who may have thought “I swear I remember a hurricane with that name before…:” You’re right. Each list is repeated every seventh year, so this year’s list will reappear in 2016.

An exception to the rule. If a storm is so deadly or catastrophic that its continued use would be inappropriate for reasons of sensitivity, the offending name is stricken from the list and another name is selected by the WMO committee to replace it. Katrina, Floyd, and Ike? All gone.

So how are new names decided upon by the WMO? Just like any proud mother and father, a lot of thought goes into naming a newborn.

The committee takes into consideration the public’s response toward a name.  While a child with a complicated name may become exasperated by teachers’ constant mispronunciation of their names, a complicated hurricane name could have more catastrophic consequences. Thus, hurricane names should be easy to recall and on the shorter side.

The popularity of the first letter in a name is also a factor in the naming process. Current lists exclude Q, U, X, Y, and Z due to the dearth of names starting with those letters (Though hurricane names from 1958 included Udele, Virgy, Xrae, Yurith, and Zorna.)

The committee also considers ethnic names. Atlantic Ocean hurricanes, much like many of our country’s immigrants, have ties with European nations. Thus, the names may be French, Spanish, and English, in lieu of the  major languages bordering the Atlantic Ocean.

Here are some hurricane names that really stand out (and haven’t made it into the Top 1000 in the last ten years), whether their respective hurricanes have been but a blip on the radar or otherwise.

On this year’s list:

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I remember how, when I first read the novels of Evelyn Waugh and the plays of George Bernard Shaw, a whole new universe of names opened up for me. A world of sophisticated, eccentric, kind of uppity and veddy veddy Victorian and Edwardian  British names, many of which I had never heard before, but instantly became enamored with.

The comic novels of Waugh and P.G. Wodehouse and the plays (and novel) of Oscar Wilde and Shaw are still a good place to start if you’re looking for a name with a certain elegance, gentility, swank—and sometimes a bit of quirkiness as well.


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posted by: Nephele View all posts by this author

By Nephele

Now that the Social Security Administration has released its annual baby names listings beyond the top 1,000 (including all names that had at least five occurrences in any given year), names researchers can better track the influence of popular culture on our names.

For example, a girl’s name appearing in 2009 for the first time on the SSA lists is “Greidys” – with an astonishing count of 186 baby girls having been given that name in 2009.  Its variants “Greydis” and “Greidy” also appear for the first time on the 2009 list, again in the astonishing numbers of 100 and 25 occurrences respectively.

Another girl’s name appearing in 2009 for the first time on the SSA lists is “Chastelyn” with 150 occurrences.  Its variants “Shastelyn” and “Chastelin” also appear for the first time in 2009, with 34 and 33 occurrences respectively.

While we may expect new names to appear on the SSA lists each year, these new names generally don’t have more than a dozen occurrences, if even that.  Why are the names “Greidys” and “Chastelyn” (with their variants) suddenly so prominent in their first appearance on the SSA list?

Our Latin friends can answer that question easily enough.  These names shot to popularity with those who watch the Spanish television network Univision’s reality TV show called Nuestra Belleza Latina * (which translates into “Our Latin Beauty”).  The winning contestant in the show’s third season (2009) was a Latin beauty from Cuba, named Greidys Gil.  Another popular contestant was Chastelyn Rodriguez from Puerto Rico.  And thus were two new names embraced by American moms (or dads!) in search of baby names.

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British Baby Names: The Latest Crop


Every few months, about as often as I allow myself to relish a hot caramel sundae and with about the same amount of delicious anticipation, I dip into the London Telegraph birth announcements to see what the upper-crusty British baby namers are up to.

And as with that sundae, the results rarely disappoint.  There are always plenty of eccentric three-name combinations, lots of charming sibsets, and a collection of names not often heard in my neighborhood of New Jersey.

One trend asserting itself in this collection: R names, with a raft of children (far beyond those mentioned here) called Rory, Rufus, Rupert, Rex, and Rowley, and on the girls’ side, Ruby, Rose, Rosemary, Rosalind (and Rosalyn) and Romilly.  R is a letter that’s seemed dowdy for quite some time — blame all those Baby Boom Roberts and Richards — and is due for a resurgence.

The best of the recent British baby names are, for girls:

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Fiona, aka ‘dreamingfifi,’ the creator of the fantastic Tolkien-based website Merin Essi ar Quenteli, leads us through the complex, magical world of Tolkien-inspired names and beyond, offering some savvy caveats and lists of Elven names that could appeal even to non-fantasy fiction fans.

I’m a linguist and the owner of Merin Essi ar Quenteli!,* a website devoted to providing translations in Tolkien’s languages for Lord of the Rings RPGs (Role Play Games) and fanfiction. Most of the time, I deal with requests for characters’ names, so I find myself dealing with some interesting problems when being asked to make names for real world, our world, children.

When I make a name for a character, there is no uncertainty. I already know that the Noldorin Son of an Exile will grow up to lead a battalion of warriors in a brave clash with Morgoth’s troops, and win the love of a fair Doriathrin maiden. I know that his favorite color with be the greenish brown found on fish-scales, because he loves to fish. I know that I will have to give the names in both the Exilic dialect of Quenya and in the Exilic dialect of Sindarin; one version to use with his Exiled parents, the other to use with his Sindarin neighbors.

When naming children… I know the child’s parents are fans of The Lord for the Rings, that the child’s parents think that Elven languages are pretty, and just about nothing (beyond gender) about the child. I have to take into account a completely different set of cultural and phonetic rules, that don’t match and often contradict the Elven rules. Here is a little guide for dealing with these problems, and a list of Elven names (using Tolkien’s languages), for we nerds out there. This guide could also be applied to naming children in any fantasy/sci-fi language out there.

First, three questions you need to ask yourself:

Will you and your spouse still be a fan of that series in 20 years? If you’ve already been a fan for ten years, you probably still will be by the time your kid’s heading off to college. But otherwise, hold off on giving your child a fan-name.

Are you prepared to deal with explaining to all those people who don’t “get it” what your child’s name means? Even with famous, popular series, like The Lord of the Rings, most people won’t be able to recall anything but vague details. Most people (and by most, I mean “the vast majority”) will not care that your child’s name means “the musical rustling of leaves” in the Woodland dialect of early 3rd age Sindarin, and will start thinking, “poor kid” as soon as they hear the words, “I named him/her in Elvish.”

Are you sure your child will want to have anything to do with your obsessions? Think about it. You aren’t the one who will have to live with this name attached to you for the rest of your life. Your child is. Your child might be one of those majority that doesn’t “get it”.

Not scared away from fantasy names yet? Good! That wasn’t my intention. Let’s move on. There’s a few do/don’t to get out of the way.

Do consult several linguists studying the conlang (constructed language) before ransacking a dictionary. On your own, you could come up with something that sounds cool, but is meaningless garble. You are trying to pay homage to the fandom, so do it right. There are plenty of linguists that are willing, able, and eager to help you out.

Do make certain that the name is pronounceable with little to no practice. Most people aren’t going to have a language coach helping them sound out the name correctly. Choose names that are two-three syllables long, and that don’t have any sounds that English (or your native tongue) doesn’t have. Also, look as the way the name is spelled. How would someone, making assumptions about the pronunciation based on the spelling systems of your language, say the name, and is that acceptable?

Don’t use the name of a famous character. I mean it. Don’t. As a nerd, you probably already know that children can be terribly cruel. Don’t make your kid hate you because you named him/her Frodo or Arwen. If you’re choosing a character’s name, go obscure, like Gildor, Lúthien, Beren, or Ioreth.

In the end, I think that the most tasteful way to give your child a fantasy-name is to choose one that sounds like it could be a normal name that fits into your language and culture, but is your private reference that only the ones who “get it” will notice. With that in mind, I put together a small list of such names from Tolkien’s mythology that would fit in amongst English names. If you would like to find some more, feel free to browse my website. Enjoy!

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