Why are Hurricanes named after women?


by A. N. Suranimala

This clip from "History Uncut" provides aerial video of New Orleans, taken from a news helicopter, shortly after Hurricane Katrina. This provides a unique perspective of the devastation that Katrina wreaked on the city. (file photo)

The perceptive Mr. J. K. Wijedasa has made topical comments on this question (Naming of Hurricanes, The Island, 10 October, 2005). He quoted, for example that we recently had Typhoon Katrina, then Hurricane Rita, and earlier Storm Arlene, and we all hope that the last will be Storm Wilma. More women have been made famous – Agnes, Betty, Dawn, Edna, Harriet and so on. Women should be pleased. The calling of names, can, on the other hand, can turn out to be an invidious trap, a psychopathological matter (alleged differences between Man and Woman), a sociological problem (gender discrimination), a topic in marital biology, or a mere literary matter (the tradition of Eponyms). This problem was commented on in an erudite article by Art Buchwald in the International Herald Tribune, and to quote him: -

"The names, according to The Hurricane Center, are picked up by computer. " If computers are male, the charge that it was a MCP (male chauvinistic pig) who named them might have some basis; but there is much evidence to show that computers are really female, so we say in French La Computer (female) and not Le Computer (male). That is more the case when my arguments with my computer were distilled into a cathartic piece titled My Computer Blues written some years ago . So women-folk need not get peeved or feel picked upon, although Buchwald says that Womens’ Organisations have taken offence. Indeed he says that Prof. Fritz Fogelhammer (whoever he is) assures him that it is "impossible to describe hurricanes except in female terms". Buchwald has more authentic evidence when he says "Any man who is married can appreciate why we have named our hurricanes after women". To paraphrase him, it is true that if hurricanes are named after men, say Typhoon Tissa or Monsoon Mervyn, no one would bat an eyelid as it is a damp ‘squib’ that just fizzles out. But just say that Cyclone Chandrika is around the corner, and everybody gets keyed-up and there is chaos. Or take the typhoon cum mud-slides in Guatemala recently. If that happened here we could surely name it Typhoon Tara, in recognition of her mayhem in education, and the ensuing mud that caused, especially children, to slide down the educational slippery slopes dodging pot holes and pitfalls. Then we had milder geographical events such as the gentle and entertaining breeze which regularly changed direction in which it blew; it did not cause much damage unlike Typhoon Tara and Cyclone Chandrika, and was merely of entertainment value and it can be named Ripple Ronnie, appeasing the peeved females who might otherwise think that the natural disasters are named only after females.

By so naming tropical storms after our distinguished men and women, our tiny island can claim fame by contributing to the world’s geographical literature, and absolve themselves of being called Gender Discriminators or MCPs, Male Chauvinistic Pigs.


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