The Case for Naming Typhoons

Oct 05,2016

It was proposed to me yesterday evening that the naming of storms, specifically in feminine monikers ordered alphabetically, is a rather absurd custom.

The current Typhoon #18 is supposed to be hitting us already. Warnings were issued by public loudspeakers this morning and weather reports predicted heavy downpour throughout the day, but as of yet we have only cloudy skies and really balmy, summery ambient saturation.

For me, remembering typhoons by number isn't as easy as remembering them by name. There were a few others numbered in the teens in very recent memory, but I can't remember which was which. On the other hand, it's very easy to recall that, as a child, I opened an umbrella and jumped off of picnic tables to see how far the winds of Hurricane Gloria would carry me; or that Hurricane Katrina devastated part of Louisiana and left lots of heavily populated areas underwater. Is it a cultural thing? Can the majority of Japanese people recall storms by number just as easily, as though numerals were infused with as much personality as proper nouns?

Perhaps, because months don't have names in the Japanese language, either. But they used to. The current month, October, was once called Kannazuki, the Month of No Gods. Creepy, isn't it? So apropos for the month in which, before worldwide temperatures began their upwards climb, so much of insect and plant life succumbed to deterioration and death in anticipation of the chilly gusts of autumn. (Yes, as I write this, in the tenth month of 2016, it's still short-sleeves weather.)

For further irony, some of the English names of months originally were numbers, but since they're in Latin and we have no other point of reference, they sound like proper nouns to us. (October, incidentally, meant month eight, not ten. How's that for confusing?)

Anyway, there's another typhoon coming. If it behaves itself and stays just north of us, it'll only abuse the ocean and we won't feel a thing in Tottori. If, however, it visits us with loving embraces of gusty downpour, and if at some point many years hence we'd like to reminisce about the ordeal, we might remember it better if it had a name.

Comment Previous Entries