About A Name: Storm
December 2, 2011 § 8 Comments
Storm. It’s Old English for “tempest,” which pretty much means that today it means what it says, since no one calls a storm a tempest these days. A novelty choice in most of the world at best, with the more feminine Stormy (basically, it means “tempestuous”) not faring any better, Storm is surprisingly the 50th most popular boy’s name in Denmark, and is 98th in Norway. I’m used to seeing Nordic names like Jens, Hans, even Sterre and especially Magnus, but Storm is an English word, faring far better as a first name than it ever has in the English-speaking world.
And that’s probably because it’s a noun name, and it’s a noun that incites fear in some, sadness in others, or just plain discomfort. This same discomfort isn’t felt in Denmark or Norway because Storm doesn’t mean “storm.”
Storm was just barely in the Top 1000 as a first name for boy’s in the US in the ’90s, and for girls, Stormy peaked at 800 in 1992. The name was more popular in South Australia in the mid-90s as a name for boys and girls, peaking at 526 and 462 respectively in 1998. Motley Crue’s guitarist Mick Mars welcomed a son Les Paul (after the guitar genius) in 1971, and daughter Stormy in 1973 with first wife Sharon (and Erik Michael arrived in 1976 with his second). Then in 1994, Crue bassist Nikki Sixx welcomed a daughter named Storm Brieann with his alliterative first wife, Brandi Brandt, which was two years after Lisa Marie Presley welcomed son Benjamin Storm – the year the name hit the Top 1000 for both sexes (Stormy for girls). In 2003, American pro football quarterback Kurt Warner welcomed son Elijah Storm.
There was a US television meteorologist named Storm Field – yes, his real name. His father, Dr. Frank Field (his parents were German Ashkenazi Jews who emigrated to the US in 1909, Americanizing their original last name, Feld) had a clear interest in weather. Storm Elliott was born in 1948, but Frank’s own career as a TV weatherman didn’t begin until 1958. This name, paired with Field’s profession, wraps it up in novel territory, and could be a clear American representation of when meaning does matter. To the English-speaking world, this name may never be more than a novelty.
Girls named Storm follow in the footsteps of Storm from X-Men comics. Storm was the first black female character in the comic book genre, portrayed by Halle Berry on screen. For many, it’s comic association is equally as much reason not to select it.
And yet, it’s found more than just a small place in Scandinavia as far as name data is concerned, and now seems it might be taking off in Belgium – in a lot of ways at the centre of Europe’s forward-thinking name regions alongside the Netherlands (the Australia and New Zealand of the English-speaking world). Belgian pro cyclist Nick Nuyens welcomed son Storm in July 2010 (between sons Sterre, 3, and Sting, 5 months. In September 2010, pop star Isabelle A welcomed Storm Adam Forceville with music producer Hans Forceville (he was already dad to daughters Dante and Jazz).
So Storm is still a unique choice for most European parents for what it represents and where it comes from, but it might be thriving on the heels of some well-worn similar choices that have flourished on the northern part of the continent for decades. Among them Sterre (Dutch and Latin for “star,” it’s actually traditionally feminine), Strom (German for “brook/stream,” like 20th Century American senator Strom Thurmond), Steen (Danish for “stone”), or Soren (Danish for “thunder/war”) – they all seem to have opened the door for Storm.
And all of this isn’t to say that Storm can’t trend in North America. In fact, Storm was one of the trendiest names of the year (right up there with Trendy, if Twitter is the Bible of what trends and when). A Toronto couple welcomed a child this year, and named it Storm. They caused international controversy when the story spread that they have refused to reveal their child’s gender, even to their own parents, until such time as Storm decides to divulge it on his or her own. The couple, Kathy Witterick and David Stocker, have selected names that are as gender neutral as possible: the couple’s eldest children are named Jazz and Kio (both boys) and the pair are happy to challenge gender stereotypes and keep Storm’s gender a secret for their parents. Jazz loves playing with Barbies and likes his hair long, with stereotypically “girlish” bangs. (Side note – it’s so, so much more fun to say ‘fringe.’)
There are those who have an affection for unisex names (like me, and I’ve always liked juxtaposed Sunny and Stormy – but never together, and probably never on one of my own), and there are those who don’t. Over at Name Candy, they wondered whether the uproar against the Witterick-Stocker’s would have in fact been so great if their unisex name choices had been Robin, Lee, and Ashton. And they’re probably right. In no small way, the sibset adds to the hippie vibe given off by these two forward-thinking parents, and to the traditional, and sometimes even to the open-minded, it will convince people sight unseen that this couple is ‘nutty.’
(My two cents on their story: They never said they would lie to their child about his gender, or gender in general. They never said they’d take it so far as to refrain from answering the question if one day the child asked, “Am I a boy?” They never said they’d answer existentially with something like, “What is a boy?” So in the spirit of live and let live, where no one’s getting hurt or undereducated, let it go.)
How do I feel about Storm as a name on kids of the English world? Proceed with caution. You know what this name means, you know that every single person that your child will ever meet will have a preconceived notion of their name as not being a name, and will therefore question it, scoff at it, roll their eyes or laugh. I know it’s both beautiful and strong, and you might, too, but at least at first, most people won’t.