COLM O'REGAN: These are the problems with our current batch of winter storm names

We need a pool of storm names that inspires awe or horror and creates the appropriate level of readiness. How motivated are you going to be when Storm Nigel arrives? asks Colm O’Regan

LET’S not get caught out the next time. And at the rate things are going, it doesn’t look like the next time will be that far away. Depending on your point of view, either climate change or “nothing to see here, keep burning the coal lads” is sending us storms at a fierce rate. Our list of 21 storm names is being used up at the rate of Hob Nobs. It’s possible we may need a new list before the winter is out.

These storm names have to change. Just to recap, this year’s batch is: Abigail, Barney, Clodagh, Desmond, Eva, Frank, Gertrude, Henry, Imogen, Jake, Katie, Lawrence, Mary, Nigel, Orla, Phil, Rhonda, Steve, Tegan, Vera, and Wilbert.

There are a couple of problems with this. Although the names were nominated and voted on jointly on both sides of the Irish Sea, it’s clear that the Irish names are in a very small minority. You could argue it’s not a big deal, given the relative populations on either side of the Irish Sea. Also the reduction in homogeneity of names here means that we are not all Johnjoes and Noras-without-an-h any more.

But given that we often bear a disproportionate brunt of the storms — in fact Desmond was a total brunt — I just feel we could do with a few more Irishy names. Currently the list seems overly skewed to the Midsomer Murders end of the scale. In fact Orla and Clodagh are the only overtly Irish ones there. The two sound like two Irish nurses invited to the wedding of an English girl that they trained with in the Middlesex hospital in Cricklewood.

“… it was a small wedding now. You see it was Imogen’s second time round so there would have been a good few not invited and then of course Wilbert would have been quite a bit older than her so... No church of course. Just the registry office and we went to a hotel then in the middle of Luton for the bit of food. Ah they were all very nice but it was a bit tame. We were home by 11!”

And then even if they were more Irish, are they sufficiently scary? The two most destructive and misery-causing storms have been the most genial-sounding: Desmond, a retired bobby who has settled in Glandore, occasionally sells pottery in a farmers’ market, and Frank, a man who has loaned you a chainsaw and a lawn mower on more than one occasion and actually, is probably a good man to call on during a storm.

We need a pool of storm names that inspires awe or horror and creates the appropriate level of readiness. How motivated are you going to be when Storm Nigel arrives?

Perhaps we could use the great heroes — mythical and historical from both countries — Aethelred, Beowulf, Conor Mac Nessa, Danu, Ehhm … Fionn but before long we’d have used up the obvious ones and then you’d be at the ones with the bonus extra letters that Gaelic words have for no reason — fellas like Dubthach Dóeltenga.

A more sustainable solution would be one which would allow everyone to get involved and also have some resonance. Storms are destructive and annoying, so why not let people in every community over a certain size nominate the wildest of characters in their area. People who are known to be ‘ledgebags’ by someone under the age of 22 but as being a total pain in the hole by others. We would end up with storm names like Johnny Beans and Donie The Bull.

It would be meaningless for some, but with El Nino acting the maggot and the Gulf Stream gone North to see Santa, it won’t be long before everyone gets a turn to pick a name.


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