in Pop Culture, Reception

The Weather Channel gets classical

The Weather Channel has decided to name winter storms, and the choices are sometimes hilarious.

Here are the classical choices, with the official explanations:

Athena: The Greek goddess of wisdom, courage, inspirations, justice, mathematics and all things wonderful.

I think one of my former students ‘wrote’ this after doing a quick web search. Gods are always summed up as ‘the god of X,’ which quickly becomes ‘X, and, Y, and Z,’ and on and on, often including synonyms and bizarre interpolations.

Brutus: Roman Senator and best known assassin of Julius Caesar.

Okay. But why not mention both Lucius and Marcus Junius Brutus? For that matter, why Brutus, and not a real monster, like Briareus?

Caesar: Title used by Roman and Byzantine emperors.

Is there anyone in the world who thinks of the title Caesar before the most important bearer of the name?

Draco: The first legislator of Athens in Ancient Greece.

Come on! Make it fun! Talk about the fact that he gave his name to the adjective ‘draconian’ because his penalties were so harsh. As harsh as a wicked winter storm? Hmm?

Euclid: A mathematician in Ancient Greece, the father of geometry.

Well, he lived in Alexandria, not on the Greek mainland. But make a connection … maybe to the geometric patterns in snowflakes.

Helen: In Greek mythology, Helen of Troy was the daughter of Zeus.

Ah, yes: Helen, the one and only daughter of Zeus. If only there was an interesting story or two one could tell about her.

Jove: The English name for Jupiter, the Roman god of light and sky.

Right. Because it’s not the Latin root or anything (Iuppiter, Iovis, Iovi, Iovem, Iove). Also, the god of light and sky? This sounds like vaguely barbarian religion in bad fantasy fiction. Or a song by Sting.

Luna: The divine embodiment of the moon in Roman mythology.

Also known as the moon.

Magnus: The Father of Europe, Charlemagne the Great, in Latin: Carolus Magnus.

Why Charlemagne and not Pompey? And why not mention that it means big or great, which might apply to a storm?

Nemo: A Greek boy’s name meaning “from the valley,” means “nobody” in Latin.

I suppose there could be a modern Greek name derived from τὸ νέμος, but I think it’s an erroneous claim for the source. Clearly they were thinking of the film Finding Nemo, and latched onto whatever vaguely classical connections they could find. They got lucky with the Latin.

Plato: Greek philosopher and mathematician, who was named by his wrestling coach.

While the Academy did apparently bear a sign barring the “un-geometried”, I think it’s a stretch to call Plato a mathematician.

Saturn: Roman god of time, also the namesake of the planet Saturn in our solar system.

Saturn is linked with Kronos, but Kronos (the god) is not chronos (time).

Triton: In Greek mythology, the messenger of the deep sea, son of Poseidon.

Is Triton a messenger? I thought he was a sort of nebulous sea god (or gods, the Tritones), blowing a conch to calm the sea.

Virgil: One of ancient Rome’s greatest poets.

Ahem: one of the world’s greatest poets. And it’s spelled Vergil. This isn’t the 19th century.

Zeus: In Greek mythology, the supreme ruler of Mount Olympus and the gods who lived there.

So who ruled over the rest of the world?