Friday, January 25, 2013

Winter storm names may be catchy on TV, but may leave lasting stigma

As winter storm Iago grazed New Jersey’s lower reaches, I couldn't help but think about Shakespeare’s immortal pondering, “What is in a name?”

This winter season the Weather Channel has begun naming winter storms they deem “noteworthy” in order to “raise the awareness of the public, which will lead to more pro-active efforts to plan ahead, resulting in less impact and inconvenience overall.”

And while “that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” names tainted by a disagreeable experience tend to stink to high heaven.

My wife and I had such trouble naming our first child. Whenever she would propose a name, I inevitably dismissed her suggestion because all too often I related that name to a former student. Fred? Oh, he never turned in homework on time. Craig? Talk, talk, talk. Alexander? Always fidgeting.

My wife had especially liked the name Jared. Very gentlemanly and proper, just like our son would be, she had said. She told me she had always loved that name and thought about naming one of her children Jared since she was young. I could only shake my head and cringe. Surely an exception could be made, she pleaded. Yes, there could be exceptions – but not Jared. You see, I am able to build a decent rapport with most students. In fact, there have been very few students in my teaching career who had been a thorn in my side for an entire school year. There was one, however. And his name was...Jared.

The name still gives me shivers. Jared was in my class during my first or second year of teaching. He had the uncanny ability to frustrate, enrage, and utterly demoralize a novice teacher and all with a smile.
It took a trip to a diner and a kid in the next booth who was being yelled at by his father for us to overhear the name we would eventually agree on.

Just think of all the names that have been tainted throughout history. Adolf was once one of the most popular names in Germany. Is anyone ever again going to refer to his child as O.J.? The name Monica died out in the 1990s. And what about Judas?

Names tend to carry a great deal of baggage all on their own, so it doesn't help that we will now associate yet another name with miserable weather; horrible commutes; wet, cold and often ruined clothes; overly excited or disappointed children; canceled activities; and, as always, runs on eggs, milk, and bread.
We already have hurricanes that have tarnished good names. It will be interesting to see how many kids named Sandy there will be in the next decade or so.

Young parents will have a hard enough time settling on the perfect name without sensationalized weather forecasting getting in the way.

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