“Fighting Nemo!” warns the headline in the New York Daily News. “City braces for the mega-Nor’easter with the cute name and the blizzard conditions.” It seems to one jaded observer, who wrote a “weather” story or two for the Daily News a decade or three ago, that they are making storms the way they used to not make storms. “They” being the media and marketers who know that an apple is just an apple until it’s a Jazz.
It turns out that The Weather Channel is the deus ex machina behind the christening of these winter storms -– although monikers such as Caesar, Brutus, Plato, Yogi, and Zeus are decidedly B.C. -– and not the National Weather Service, which has been naming hurricanes and tropical storms for decades with an understanding that “the use of short, distinctive given names in written as well as spoken communications is quicker and less subject to error than the older more cumbersome latitude-longitude identification methods,” as a Commerce Dept. webpage puts it.
“The fact is, a storm with a name is easier to follow, which will mean fewer surprises and more preparation,” concurs the Weather Channel’s Bryan Norcross. It’s also easier to build a media event – and viewership around. But not everybody is buying in. In fact, the National Weather Service “has advised its forecasters not to follow the channel’s lead," the New York Times’ Brian Stelter informs us in a “Media Decoder” blog post.
“Many reporters and weather experts continue to roll their eyes at the channel’s storm-naming, just as they did when it was announced last November,” he continues. “It’s widely viewed as a marketing ploy, even though some skeptics admit that the names help raise awareness about storms.”
And it also makes for a handy Twitter hashtag, of course. Roll our eyes as we might, cynics are not downplaying the potential havoc and danger posed by Nemo, however.
“This is a very dangerous storm,” according to Jerome Hauer, a man bearing a title that is almost a tweet in and of itself (Commissioner of the [New York] State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services). Better yet, he’s suggested that you stay home today, if you can, or at least plan to leave your workplace early because “travel will be almost impossible” this evening, David Seifman and Andy Soltis report in the New York Post. (For the record, their story uses Nemo in the lede but not the hed. But how much you wanna bet that changes by tomorrow?).
Schools have been closed, flights and trains out of New York and Boston suspended, and lines are forming at some gas stations, Marc Santora informs us in the New York Times’ main story about the “major winter storm … that forecasters said could be the heaviest snowfall for some cities in the Northeast in a century.” But, tellingly perhaps, and in the grand tradition of the Old Gray Lady of a bygone era, Santora’s piece refrains from calling the “weather event” by its tabloidy name, Nemo.
Adam Martin explicates some of the proper names given to the season’s winter storms in a piece in New York’s “Daily Intelligencer” this morning with a playful series of “really thoughs.” For example, the Weather Channel would have us believe that Draco was “the first legislator of Athens in Ancient Greece." Writes Martin: “Really though: Obviously, this is a reference to Draco Malfoy, the notoriously conniving bad guy and bully in the Harry Potter series….But yeah, first legislator in Ancient Greece, too.”
But fret not at a lost opportunity as you get the snow shovels and non-clumping cat litter ready between Skypes with clients and colleagues from your home digs today. There are other naming-opportunities-in-the-making for branding types looking to make an impact on the world beyond the shopping cart.
For example, scientists believe they have found humankind’s common ancestor with other mammals -- “a roughly rat-sized animal that weighed no more than half a pound, had a long furry tail and lived on insects,” John Noble Wilford reports in a front page story in today’s New York Times.
What’s it called, you ask? Protungulatum donnae. Turns out that “until now [it] has been so obscure that it lacks a colloquial nickname,” Noble Wilford tells us. If ever there was a job for the scions of Leo Burnett, dubber of Tony the Tiger, Morris the Cat and Charlie the Tuna, this is it.