I first heard that “Isaac may cause some devastation” over a week ago and it was startling. My son, like most toddlers, is capable of creating a little mayhem, but I was certain he was not planning anything to concern the national media.
Storm predictions indicate his name won’t become synonymous with massive death and destruction—this year. So “Isaac” will almost stay in the rotation of Atlantic tropical storm and hurricane names, and get another crack at weather infamy sometime in 2018, when my son will be 8.
Katrina vanden Heuvel, publisher and editor of The Nation, wrote soon after her namesake hurricane of 2005 that “it has been eerie hearing and reading my name all over the news.”
At the end of the year, Time asked her about any “personal consequences” to being an outspoken liberal commentator, and the only thing she mentioned was the “very personal and mean way” Rush Limbaugh called the deadly event “Hurricane Katrina vanden Heuvel.” The cruel nickname persists to this day in the rightwing blogosphere.
And although “Barry” Obama could suffer the same fate next year, conservative leaders are also vulnerable. Chris Christie and Karl Rove escaped making big hurricane news this year, but their names will be back in the hopper with my son in 2018. William Kristol lives with the daunting double whammy of a possible Hurricane William this year and then Bill in 2015.
The United Nations’ all-powerful and historically sexist naming body (female hurricane names were used exclusively until 1979), the World Meteorological Organization, tends to like short names, but nevertheless Paul Ryan. John Boehner, and Mitt Romney are safe from being connected with devastation, at least until a hurricane starting with P, J or M is so catastrophic that the name is retired and replaced.
As for the name Katrina, nameberry.com, a popular site for expectant parents, says simply “the hurricane blew this one out of the realm of possibility.” The name’s popularity dropped precipitously starting in 2006 but surprisingly it wasn’t until last year that it fell out of the top 1,000 of female US names, according to the Social Security Administration
To quote many politicians, it doesn’t have to be this way. Hurricanes and tropical storms do need names since they move rapidly and are often active simultaneously, but there’s no reason to connect them to hundreds of millions of real people.
The World Meteorological gods could opt for things like Greek letters, alpha, beta, etc., but the better choice would be to take fictional villains. Hollywood, comics and other pop culture sources provide an endless supply. Spider-Man alone is a gold mine of names, my favorites being Boomerang, Hammerhead, Jackal and Carnage. Simon is a real name that should be used since Simons already share with the villains of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Underdog (Legree and Bar Sinister). Underdog also gives us Riff Raff.
Bane, Batman’s nemesis, is another good one, although that one should wait for whenever Romney leaves active politics, perhaps as late as 2021. That would get Bill Kristol off the hook.
Josh Rogers is a NYPress.com columnist. Follow him @joshrogersnyc.
Trackback from your site.