Fani, Bubul and Titli are girls you really don’t want to get to know By Nury Vittachi *
Every time the wet season comes, I ask myself the same question. Why are the largest, most terrifying things on the planet given the sweetest, cutest names?
Fani, Bubul and Titli are girls you really don’t want to get to know
By Nury Vittachi
No, I am not talking about Naomi Campbell’s ego. I’m talking about things which are even more frightening—but okay, maybe not quite as large. I refer to typhoons and hurricanes.
Now I flatly refuse to blame those poor people who declined to get out of the way of Hurricane Katrina. I mean, the name Katrina conjures up an image of a cute, frilly, skipping, 20-kilo girly bundle of ribbons and curls. Had they called it Hurricane Deathbringer or Planetcrusher or Killermonster people may have paid attention.
And look at the names of the typhoons that hit Myanmar and Hong Kong recently. Nargis sounds like a Buckingham Palace dog. Fengshan sounds like a Sichuan restaurant. There was even the name Nuri nominated for a typhoon in Asia last year. What more cute, adorable name is there on the planet? Not that I’m biased.
No, the only way the authorities can get people to take typhoons seriously is to give them horror-inspiring names. Such as “Mrs Niblet”, for example. Mrs Niblet was the strictest teacher at my primary school, and even now, several decades later, any word that sounds remotely like her name (giblet, tablet, nibble, goblet) sends me gibbering under the table (from where I will write the rest of this column). Mrs Niblet was an elderly, Gestapo-trained supply teacher who moved from school to school, so there are probably generations of people across many cities who feel the same as I do.
I’m told that the tradition of giving typhoons cute female names came from the days when meteorological experts were all guys and it was okay to make jokes suggesting that twisters and women had identical characteristics: both were unpredictable, irrational, and could rip up tall buildings and throw them across the city. (This certainly sums up the women in my life.)
But now men are rightly prevented from making such discriminatory gags, because in these days of equality it is no longer acceptable to demean any tropical cyclones.
So the rules have been changed. Now different countries are allowed to nominate names of either sex for storms.
And what do we choose? We still have a load of girly monikers coming up.
Bangladesh has nominated Nisha, Helen and Fani. Pakistan has nominated Bulbul and Titli. Sri Lanka has nominated Abe and Priya. Laos has nominated Leepi and Phanphone, which sounds to me like a telecoms brand.
You’d think that the Philippines, which gets some of the deadliest typhoons, would give them suitably violent names, but no. They’ve nominated Nina, Kiko, Henry, Ramon, Queenie, Jerome and Felipe (if there is a wimpier, more delicate name on this planet than Felipe, I would like to hear it).
The United States has learned nothing from mis-naming Katrina, and have decreed that their country’s first storm in the summer of 2012 will be called Hurricane Bud.
But the prize for silliest name for a killer storm should go to Hawaii. They’ve nominated the name Hurricane Lala. Yo, Hawaiians: listen up good. The weather angels, known for their sense of irony, are going to getcha for that one.
It will be horror beyond imagination. Those of us taught by Mrs Niblet know what that means.
(image: Nature Explorer/ Creative Commons)