A Meditation on the Naming of Winter Storms

Not all of the posts to this blog directly concern flockbinkers. As you have doubtless observed, a couple of the posts have been about Scotsmen—three of them—seated, somewhat inexplicably, on a fence. One has been about a fellow named Elvis Wu, who apparently was the Last Philosophy Major. These posts deal with all manner of groovy stuff, including logic and ontology, absurdity and nonbeing, reality and myth, and the nature of rational argument.  The flockbinkers are gravy.

[Editor’s Note:  Well, no: actually ‘flockbinkers’ are not ‘gravy.’  Honestly, people.  It was intended as a figure of speech.  You know, something like, “Amid all this exploration of arcane philosophical topics, how nice to have the flockbinkers around to add a touch of lighthearted surrealism to an otherwise strange and whimsical body of material.  Oh, wait.”]

Therefore, Good Reader, it should come as no surprise to you that the present entry deals with the manner in which winter storms are named.  It fits right in.  Flockbinkers, fence-sitting Scotsmen, Chinese-American philosophy grads, winter storms.  You know, that sort of thing.

It’s a pretty recent habit, this tendency to give names to the wintry equivalent of hurricanes. Those of us who have been around for a few years can count on the fingers of one hand how many years ago it’s been since the idea of naming winter storms would have sounded goofy to the average American. But the Weather Channel has eased us into the mindset, and, like proverbial frogs in a kettle of water being slowly brought to a boil, we are beginning to get used to the frankly ridiculous practice of… let me say this slowly, for emphasis… NAMING… WINTER… STORMS. Giving them NAMES. Giving names to SNOWSTORMS. I’m hoping that if i keep repeating the same thing over and over in slightly different ways, and making judicious use of all-caps, i can help you see how immensely silly it all is.

A Facebook friend of mine put it well a couple of days ago. Here, i’ll call him “Adam” to disguise his identity.

Adam:  Winter Storm “Quantum”? This is why I can’t take the Weather Channel seriously anymore. Their marketing strategy is just too obnoxious. The National Weather Service doesn’t name these storms. The Weather Channel people are literally making this garbage up and the names aren’t even good!  End Rant.

Amen!  Well said, “Adam” (if i may address you by the name i made up for you to safeguard your privacy).

Indeed, after reading “Adam’s” post, i got to thinking: this naming of winter storms is only going to get more and more ridiculous as all of the relatively sensible names get used up. I mean, in the case of hurricanes there are only a few per season, but with these winter storm ‘Matilda’-type weather events coming hard and fast on each other’s heels, they’re going to exhaust the available pool of names in no time flat.

Here’s my prediction.  Two years from now, after all the even remotely plausible names have been snatched up, we will finally get to see what the bottom of the barrel looks like:

Winter Storm Wolfman
Winter Storm Bogeyman
Winter Storm Sauron
Winter Storm Morgoth
Winter Storm “The White Witch”
Winter Storm Voldemort
Winter Storm Darth Vader
Winter Storm Zombie Attack
Winter Storm Johnny Depp
Winter Storm Ahhnold Schwarzenegger

[…a name that one faction within the meteorological community will find just a BIT precious…  “You don’t have to spell the name phonetically, we get it!”]

[This odd little tiff will lead to a delightful string of The Sound of Music-themed storms]

Winter Storm The Von Trapp Family Singers
Winter Storm The Lonely Goatherd
Winter Storm Sixteen Going on Seventeen
Winter Storm Do-Re-Mi
Winter Storm Climb Ev’ry Mountain
Winter Storm Raindrops on Roses and Whiskers on Kittens

[..after which, there will follow an odd but not entirely unpleasing series of winter storms with “rise and shine”-sounding names…]

Winter Storm A Complete Breakfast
Winter Storm Cuppa Joe
Winter Storm Instant Oatmeal
Winter Storm Dunkin’ Donut
Winter Storm Toaster Pastry

[…which latter “storm” will turn out to be a somewhat pathetic flurry that dissipates almost before it’s gotten under way, much to the egg-facedness of the Weather Channel folks, and in a feeble attempt to salvage their reputations, they name the next storm…]

Winter Storm Pop-up Toaster Pastry

[…and things get increasingly abstract from this point onward…]

Winter Storm Molecular Biology
Winter Storm Planetary Astrophysics
Winter Storm Logical Inference
Winter Storm Syntactically Incoherent
Winter Storm Zen
Winter Storm The Sound of One Hand Clapping
Winter Storm Atman Is Brahman
Winter Storm Wes Anderson Movie
Winter Storm Octopus’s Garden

[…which, interestingly, leads to a new series of storms with musical references for names…]

Winter Storm I Am the Walrus
Winter Storm I Am the Eggman
Winter Storm While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Winter Storm John, Paul, George, and Ringo
Winter Storm Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young
Winter Storm The Oxford Comma
Winter Storm The Rolling Stones, But Mostly Just Mick and Keith
Winter Storm Led Zeppelin

[…which last entry nearly doesn’t make the cut, because, interestingly, it really almost sounds like something that a winter storm should be called–an actually kind of sensible criterion that you’d think would come into play more often in this process–but which, by this time, will have become the very last factor on anybody’s mind…]

[…and it’s followed by…]

Winter Storm It’s a Beautiful Day

[…in the wake of this one a heated controversy arises over whether it is even intelligible to name a winter storm “It’s a Beautiful Day”–the irony just seems a bit too rich–the result of which is that a dissenting faction retroactively dubs the blizzard a simplified version of the same thing, “Winter Storm B-Day”–prompting the first group to roll their eyes SO impatiently and complain that it’s a band name, and it really doesn’t make sense if you shorten it, and furthermore, the second group CLEARLY doesn’t get the subtleties of naming a storm…]

[…after which things get kind of ugly, as the two faced-off meteorological communities begin naming storms terrible things simply in order to insult the opposing group…]

Winter Storm Completely Missing the Point
Winter Storm Professional Incompetence
Winter Storm Where Did You Get Your Degree in Meteorology, I Bet It Came With Your Happy Meal
Winter Storm Your Mom
Winter Storm Why Don’t You Just Shut Up
Winter Storm Somebody Got Out of the Wrong Side of the Bed This Morning
Winter Storm I Know You Are But What Am I
Winter Storm Sticks and Stones Can Break My Bones But Words Can Never Hurt Me

[…at which point the public outcry rises to such a fever pitch, that everybody concerned reverts to the rather common-sense position that, hey, you just really don’t need to be naming winter storms…]

Perhaps you find my predictions a bit fanciful?  Just wait, Dear Reader.  Give it two years.  That’s the winter of 2016/2017.  If we don’t begin seeing names like “Winter Storm Disgruntled Postal Worker,” and “Winter Storm I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up,” then contact me and i’ll refund you every penny of the money that you’ve paid to subscribe to this blog.