Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Bodil/ Sven

Last week, hurricane-force winds and storm surges knocked around the countries of Northwestern Europe, including Denmark and Southern Sweden. A few seaside towns in Denmark were evacuated and the major bridges closed, including the Øresund Bridge from Denmark to Sweden. Trains stopped running and the Danish headlines shouted that Bodil was on its way and Bodil was here. Floods followed and the winds even toppled the tall Christmas tree in Copenhagen's City Hall Square.

Until recently Danish storms were either unnamed or named for the dates they occurred on. This past October, huge winds swept through Denmark at almost 200 km an hour, the highest wind speed ever recorded in the country. That storm was initially known as the St. Jude Storm, but the Danish Meteorological Institute retroactively decided to call it Allan, perhaps with the idea that since such storms were likely to become more frequent due to climate change, they should have their own personal names. So after Allan came Bodil.

At least Denmark called the Category Two Hurricane Bodil. The Swedes decided to call the storm Sven. This wasn't simple contrariness; in fact Swedes claimed that Sven was Sven before Bodil was Bodil.

Did the storm undergo a gender change crossing the body of water that separates Denmark and Sweden? In some places the media decided to play it safe, and the words Bodil/Sven appeared on TV screens beneath scenes of storm-tossed waves and smashed boats and submerged houses.

A Danish site observed that according to Danmarks Statistik, nine people in Denmark are actually called Bodil Storm. Additionally, 13,250 women have Bodil as their first name and 1,866 Danes have Storm as their last. Employees at the Danish Meteorological Institute said they wanted a first name that was fairly well known, so that no one would feel particularly "singled out." 

The British seem not to have worried overmuch about hurting anyone's feelings.The European Windstorm Centre, a UK-based forecaster, gave the storm the name Cameron.

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