ONLY A FEVER-SWAMP reactionary would quarrel with the decision of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to name hurricanes after men as well as women, so as not to suggest that destructive windbags are exclusively female. Moreover, the agency did it properly. A special "hurricane committee" convened last year to select male names for storms in the Pacific, and this year male names will identify storms in the Atlantic as well, the first of which hit Louisiana yesterday.
But "Hurricane Bob"? Last year there were Hurricane Bud and Hurricane Norman, both of which sound as threatening as cream cheese. Yet Hurricane Bob is not only a less threatening name even that those; it sounds like one of those asexual dolls manufactured for Christmas, or the name of a Jerry Lewis movie about a boxing hairdresser.
In fact, Hurricane Bob has turned out to be the spiritless things it suggests, with winds no higher than 75 miles per hour, barely something to sneeze at. Surely the hurricane committee could have come up with something less tepid; and that goes double for the other names it has selected for this year's forthcoming disasters: David, Henri, Larry and Sam. Hurricane Henri? And why Bob instead of Robert - not a scary name, to be sure, but it's a lot less chummy. If the committee was committed to the alphabet, why not Boris or Bruno or Beowulf? Even better, they might have chosen historical names that still have plenty of punch left, such as Hurricane Haman or Hannibal. Or Hurricane Cain.
The trouble here is not equality, but rather informality; and the solution may lie in dropping first names entirely, and in establishing a little decorous last-name distance from these events, which, after all, command respect. Hurricanes Mandelbaum and Johnson and O'Shaughnessy and Wong, for instance. Of course, there is the other solution of dropping names altogether, and simply calling all hurricanes "Oh my God!" A bit panicky, to be sure, but a lot more to the point than Bob.