The UK Met Office, in its wisdom, has decided to start giving names to our storms. I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe they are trying to compete with the Americans. Or they just thought it would be fun.
They say that people are more likely to take notice of storm warnings if those storms have a name. If they say “look out, there’s a nasty storm coming”, we ignore them and carry on mountain climbing and sea canoeing. But if they say “look out, there’s storm Fred coming”, we turn miraculously cautious.
Not sure I wholly believe that one, for reasons which will become apparent in a little while.
Apparently there are rules to these names. They start at the letter A and then proceed through the alphabet missing out the toughies like Q and X. Oh, and the names alternate boy-girl-boy-girl. That bit tickles me. It was something that teachers used to do when they wanted to calm down an unruly class. All the boys claimed to hate it, but most secretly enjoyed it. It meant they could sit next to a girl but it wasn’t their choice.
Or maybe it’s because the civil servants at the Met Office have been to so many formal dinner parties that they think everyone sits down to supper boy-girl-boy-girl. Until we get to that point in the evening when the hostess invites the ladies to retire and the gentlemen pass round the port and the cigars and start talking about the war with France.
Anyhow, we’re now naming storms. Given how much misery the storms cause, you might think they would choose demonic or macho names. Storm Beelzebub. Killer. Scaramouch, Scaramouch, will you do the fandango?
Oh no. These are the names they came up with:
Abigail, Barney, Clodagh (Clo-da), Desmond, Eva, Storm Frank, Gertrude, Henry, Imogen, Jake, Katie, Lawrence, Mary, Nigel, Orla, Phil, Rhonda, Steve, Tegan, Vernon, Wendy
At the time of writing (5 January 2016) we have got as far as Storm Frank. Next comes Gertrude, then Henry and so on.
Some of the names seem – how can I put this? – more pipe and slippers than thunder and lightning. Can we really get excited about Storm Wendy?
Admittedly Storm Steve does have the merit of alliteration. But is also sounds like a particularly naff British superhero. Someone who would patrol the mean streets of Milton Keynes in a baggy lycra onesie looking for graffiti artists to give a good telling off.
Clodagh and Orla are surely there to appeal to adults of a certain age who go all misty-eyed for Clannad and Riverdance, and give their kids a trendy Gaelic name that they will spend the rest of their lives explaining. And having to spell out.
It means golden child of the divine wind. It’s an ancient Inuit word for making lurve in the first snow of spring. It’s a Peruvian pubic wig. Or something like that.
But your eye is drawn to Nigel, isn’t it? Does anyone call their kid Nigel these days? There’s Nigel Mansell and Nigel Farrage and … well, I rest my case. It has become a comedy name. We’re only making plans for Nigel. Monty Python’s upper class twit of the year.
Apparently, Nigel reached its zenith of popularity around 1963, when 5,500 babies in England and Wales were called Nigel. That made it the 23rd most popular boy’s name at the time. Heck, that is round about the time that I was born. You never know what might have been …
Oddly, the peak for Nigel in America was 1994, when 447 Nigels were born, making it the 478th most popular name.
Since then, Nigel has fallen on hard times. In 2014, there were just 10 babies in England and Wales named Nigel. And soon there will be one storm.
But why? What’s wrong with Nigel?
It has become an old-fashioned name. Desperately uncool. Pedestrian. I’ve got a theory about that. I reckon that most names have their time in the sun. Their surge of popularity. Maybe it’s because there is someone famous with that name. Or it’s the character in a book. Parents look at the name and associate it with someone they would like their offspring to grow into.
This then creates a cohort of kids with the same name, including the 5,500 Nigels born in 1963.
But then those kids are on trial. They have to grow up and do something pretty special so that the next generation of parents have good feelings towards the name. The name has to “put up or shut up”. Go large or go home.
And Nigel, I’m afraid, hasn’t quite made it. We have one moustachioed racing driver, a slightly bonkers politician and a violinist who is nowhere near as Cockerney as he would like us to believe.
The big question is … will Nigel ever stage a comeback?
It’s not impossible. All it would take would be for one of the Royal Family to name their kid Nigel. Or for there to be a Pope Nigel. A famous pop singer. A handsome actor.
Or maybe … just maybe … what Nigel needs is a good storm. Picture the scene … sometime in the next few months, Storm Nigel floods the country leading to massive power cuts that last for days on end. The British public can’t get their fix of “Strictly Britain’s got Baking Voice” or “I’m not a celebrity, make me into one.”
That’s when Mr average Joe turns to Mrs average Josephine and says:
“Are you tired?”
“No. Are you?”
“No. Shall we go to bed then?”
And nine months later we have a flood (sorry!) of newborns. If the Beckhams could call one of their kids after where it was conceived, maybe the great British public will name their kids after the storm which was providing the soundtrack to their babymaking.
Which might mean that the Grand Prix champion for 2045 will have a moustache.