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Getting on a First-Name Basis with Winter Storms

East Coast residents (outside of New England) might have been a bit underwhelmed by the blizzard-that-wasn't known as "Winter Storm Juno." While this "junior" storm has fallen short of the hyped-up expectations, it's still interesting to consider how it achieved named status in the first place. 

That's because, until a few years ago, the centuries-old practice of naming storms was reserved for the summer weather season, and winter storms had to settle for identification by year. Ever hear of the Great Blizzard of 1888, which blanketed the Eastern United States with up to 70 inches of snowfall and snowdrifts that completely swallowed buildings up to three stories tall? Memorable as it was, we still aren't on a first-name basis with it. 

It was The Weather Channel that decided, in 2012-2013, to christen storms even when they involve sleet and snow. When releasing the list of names for this year's winter storms, Bryan Norcross, senior hurricane specialist at The Weather Channel and compiler of the list, reiterated the reason why.

"It's simply easier to communicate about a complex storm if it has a name, which our naming program has demonstrated....Good communications benefits everyone."

(His explanation is easy to apply to all word learning. Words make it easier and more efficient to communicate about lots of things...colors, concepts, short, everything!)

But how did Norcross and The Weather Channel come up with the names themselves? They didn't. According to NBC Montana, Latin students at Bozeman High School in Bozeman, MT supplied the initial nominations: 

Erika Shupe, staff adviser for the Latin program, said this is the third time her students have helped the Weather Channel come up with the official winter storm name list. It all started as an idea by the club to incorporate more Latin into the everyday world. One student suggested winter storm names.

"The Weather Channel started naming their winter storms, and one of the first ones were Latin and Greek-based," said BHS Latin Club President Haley Roe.

From there, the students decided to come up with possible Latin winter storm names. They emailed that list to the Weather Channel and have partnered ever since.

It must be exciting for these students to have their work find such far reaching application in the world. But we're excited, too, because any activity that brings some familiarity with Greek and Latin into the world will help everyone decode English vocabulary, which often uses Greek and Latin words as the building blocks of words. 

For instance, Juno is the Latin name for the Greek goddess Hera, who was associated with the new moon and thus the concept of things that are younger or smaller, bringing us to the English word junior.

What can you learn from the other storm names of the season? Scroll through this list and leave a comment below. 

Astro (as-tro) – In Greek, it means star.

Bozeman – In honor of the Miss Shupe’s Bozeman High School Latin class, which provided the 2013-2014 list of winter storm names.

Cato (cay-to) – The name of a Roman statesman and his great-grandson, who were both known for integrity.

Damon (day-mon) – From Greek mythology; known for his loyalty.

Eris (air-is) – From Greek mythology; the goddess of discord.

Frona (froh-na) – Greek, short for Sofronia; related to the word for wise.

Gorgon (gore-gon) – From Greek mythology, one of three monsters; serpentine humanoids.

Hektor (hek-tor) – From Greek mythology, the Trojan champion who was killed by Achilles.

Iola (eye-oh-la) – From Greek mythology, a variant spelling of Iolë, a beautiful woman who Hercules wanted to marry, but could not.

Juno (joo-no) – From Roman mythology, a goddess who looked after the women of Rome.

Kari (care-ey) – A Finnish name derived from the Greek name Makarios from old-Greek meaning blessed or happy.

Linus (ly-nus) – From Greek Mythology, a son of Apollo known as a great musician.

Marcus (mar-cuss) – An Ancient Roman name referring to Mars, the god of war.

Neptune (nep-toon) – From Roman mythology, the god of the sea.

Octavia (ok-tay-vee-a) – The sister of the first Roman Emperor, Augustus, who was also known as Octavian.

Pandora (pan-door-a) – From Greek mythology, the first human woman created by the gods.

Quantum (kwan-tom) – From the Latin word quantus, meaning how much.

Remus (ree-mus) – From Roman mythology, one of the founding brothers of Rome, along with Romulus.

Sparta (spar-ta) – Prominent Greek city that was the principal enemy of Athens during the Peloponnesian War.

Thor (thor) – From Scandinavian mythology, god of thunder and rain.

Ultima (uhl-tee-ma) – From Latin, feminine version of ultimus meaning last, furthest, final.

Venus – From Roman mythology, the goddess of love.

Xander (zan-der) – Dutch form of Latin name, Alexandrus.

Yuli (you-lee) – Basque for the Latin name, Julius.

Zelus (zell-us) – From Greek mythology, personifies dedication, envy, jealousy, and zeal.

[The W storm will be determined by a Weather Channel poll. Of the contenders, Warren, Wilda, Willie, Woden, and Wolf, Wolf has a clear lead with 44 percent of the votes, 21 percentage points ahead of the nearest contender, Willie.]

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Comments from our users:

Friday January 30th 2015, 8:24 AM
Comment by: Claudia G.
very cool to learn about these names...

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