Saturday 22 September 2018


At the same time as Hurricane Florence was bearing down on the North American eastern seaboard, the deadly Typhoon Mangkhut was roiling in the Pacific with both areas still dealing with the consequences. The latter refers to the Thai form of the purple citrus-like exotic fruit the mangosteen—as we learn from Oxford Words blog, native to the Malaysia and anticyclones do not share the naming conventions that the World Meteorological Organisation has established for storms in the Atlantic, alternating alphabetically between boys’ and girls’ names, like Irma, Katrina, Maria and Harvey.
This tradition started in the US in September 1950 when three hurricanes made landfall simultaneously and there was confusion within the public and weather centres, using exclusively female names at first (male names were added in 1979) derived from the Air Force’s phonetic alphabet. And while member nations are not required in the context of local reporting and coverage to keep to the assigned designation (the WMO is the final arbiter one whether particular names should be retired after a particularly disastrous event, ninety so far so I guess by necessity we’ll have to start including more non-traditional ones soon), in the West where personal names are employed, we are generally at a consensus and use the one standard. In Asia, however, different jurisdictions modify the storms’ designation to fit local language and customs. Quite sensibly, in the Philippines, they taunted it with the name Omlong (the toothless, the feckless one) in hopes it would crumple from the insult—rather than giving a common name that might potentially stigmatise later on.