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Name Our Storms

Irish pronunciations and British royals cited as concerns during naming of 2019-20 winter storms

Emails released under the Freedom of Information Act show how this year’s storms were named.

THE NUMBER OF Irish names, the spelling of ‘Róisín’ and the possibility of ‘Storm Daniel’ were among the concerns raised during the naming of this year’s winter storms.

Correspondence released to under the Freedom of Information Act reveals how Met Éireann, the UK Met Office and – for the first time – the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) decided upon storm names for the 2019-20 season.

It is the fifth year that Irish and UK offices have shared responsibility for designating the storms under the ‘Name Our Storms’ scheme, which aims to raise awareness of severe weather before it hits.

The names are used when a wind storm is strong enough for either office to issue an orange or red warning.

An alternating male-female pattern is followed, with names beginning with letters Q, U, X, Y and Z excluded to comply with international conventions.

This year, Atiyah, Brendan, Ciara, Dennis, Ellen, Francis, Gerda, Hugh, Iris, Jan, Kitty, Liam, Maura, Noah, Olivia, Piet, Róisín, Samir, Tara, Vince and Willow were selected and formally unveiled on 6 September.

Pronunciation of Irish names

A list of names sent from the UK Met Office to Irish and Dutch meteorologists on 16 August shows that 18 other names were initially proposed, which included some names from KNMI.

They suggested the names Anne, Ben, Caitlin, Cora, Dave, Elaine, Evelyn, Finlay, Harley, Isabella, Jonathan, Loki, Leo, Nico, Ruby, Tess, Tara and Wilma.

The proposed list also included the name Róisín, but an email from the Met Éireann on 23 August clarified that the UK Met Office had mis-spelled the name.

“Just one point, Róisín has an acute accent (fada) over the ‘o and the second ‘i’,” it read. “It is pronounced Raw-sheen and means little Rose.”

Another email on the same date from the KNMI also explained the Dutch meteorologist’s reason for dropping a previous suggestion of Eimear over concerns about how British people would react to it:

Eimear is an Irish girls’ name (pron. Eemer) and we think the British population may struggle with pronunciation too, so we have decided to use Elaine.

Celebrity names

In the same thread, the UK Met Office also expressed concerns about other suggested names because of their associations with celebrities.

Following suggestions from the KNMI that Maxima could be used as a tribute to the Dutch queen and Harry as an homage to one of its former press officers, the Met Office warned that this may result in some “interesting headlines”.

“We aren’t able to use names belonging to members of the British royal family, so we can’t have Harry unfortunately… ” a meteorologist wrote on 23 August.

“Do you think the Dutch media might behave the same with Maxima?”

Replying, Met Éireann pushed for another Irish inclusion, suggesting Hugh instead:

Did we agree on Gerda…? If that’s the case, can I suggest for H we go for Hugh to get another Irish name on the list? Hugh is pronounced Huw, and there is a Welsh equivalent Huw.

The Met Office also dismissed the possibility of including Daniel on the list because a storm with that name would be associated with a woman who alleged that she had an affair with US President Donald Trump.

“I’ve changed D to Derek as that was the next most popular name that we could use,” an email read.

“We had a few ‘Daniels’ but we couldn’t use this… ‘Stormy Daniels’ etc)”.

A final list of names was eventually agreed in early September, and released to the public a few days later.

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