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Older names have been blown away

THERE is, of course, nothing soothing about hurricanes.

You wouldn't wish them on anyone. But there's something strangely familiar about the name of this latest one.

Bertha. Now that's a good name for a storm. Bertha sounds big and blustery, yes, but not full-blown evil.

You may not want to seek out the company of a Bertha, but at least you'd know what you'd be getting. You'd grit your teeth, sit quietly in a corner, and sigh with relief when she leaves, metaphorically counting the number of biscuits left in the tin.

It's a good, honest, old-fashioned name, is Bertha. Just like her predecessor, Arthur. He's the stuff of knightly derring-do and manly quests or, if you're a movie buff, amiable drunks.

But the next few - tsk, tsk. They're not what storms should be called, not at all. Next up, would you believe, is Cristobal. Then there's Dolly, then Edouard. There is, to the shame of the UN National Hurricane Centre, a Nana coming up this year. Maybe she can tuck Hurricanes Sally, Teddy and Vicky up in bed when they've had their turn.

Sadly, you never meet anyone called Bertha these days. Gone the way of Doris, Gertrude, Cecil and Horace, to be supplanted by the likes of Summer and Petal.

I once knew a woman called Famie. As a boy I met her while our family were first-footing our upstairs neighbours, as you did back then. I was intrigued when our neighbour introduced her aunt; next morning, I asked my mum about this woman with the magical moniker. It turned out that Famie was short for Euphemia, another name you never see these days. Strangely, the six-year-old me had never batted an eyelid about the aforesaid neighbour being called Rettie, short for Henrietta.

Perhaps I can be forgiven for being blasé. After all, I had uncles by the name of Melville, Lawson and Vallance, and an aunt called Sherry.

Note, though, that they were all a generation above me. We Leith baby boomers had more prosaic forenames. In my Primary 1 class we had three varieties of William - a Wullie, a Bill and a Billy - the same number of Georges, and more Jimmies than you could shake a stick at. (At one time in my scholastic career, though, I had a headmaster whose full name was Charles Winton Dunnett.)

I really hope some of these old-fashioned forenames make a comeback in the near future. I don't want to be reading about a Hurricane Fifi Trixibelle.

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