Our brand naming process is very free-flowing. We welcome ideas from everywhere—news, pop culture, memories, school, stuff we see out the window—as we search for the perfect moniker for our client’s brand.
Not all namers are so lucky. Where we thrive on eclectic inspirations, namers in other fields have to follow strict rules to name their creatures, products and phenomena. (Some, like the little baby North West, might argue that more arenas could use stricter naming guidelines.) Here are four examples of different naming rules and conventions, from the fairly loosey-goosey to the “no creativity allowed.”
Choosing a new papal name isn’t strictly required, but most popes choose to follow the tradition. And almost all papal names honor a saint or a previous pope. This naming tradition has resulted in many repeats: John has been used 25 times, and Benedict and Gregory have each been used 16 times.
The only hard-and-fast papal naming rule: thou shalt not use the name Peter. Peter has a unique standing as the first pope, and no predecessor has wanted to appear as though he’s comparing himself too closely to the O.G.
There are some pretty crazy horse names (see: Riding Miss Daisy, Brangelina, You’re My Boy Blue), so you might think anything goes. But the Jockey Club actually has some pretty stringent guidelines for horsie naming, including:
- No initials
- No names consisting entirely of numbers, except numbers above 30, which may be used if they are spelled out (Ed.’s note: what?)
- No names of people unless you get written permission
- No suggestive, vulgar or obscene meanings
The World Meteorological Organization has a precise system for hurricane name deployment. But picking the names themselves—that’s not much more complicated than thumbing through a baby names book. According to the official who was in charge of selecting names when the system was first established, he wasn’t allowed to use male names, cities, states, months, times of day or types of weather, so he used traditional name handbooks to find acceptable female names.
Though some of his original names still remain on the hurricane names list, others have been replaced. Names are retired after a storm with that name causes a large amount of damage or human loss. A new name, starting with the same letter of the alphabet, is added to the list. For example, Katia will replace Katrina and Rina will sub in for Rita.
Other hurricane naming tidbits:
- There are separate name lists for different ocean regions. The Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and North Atlantic work off the same name list.
- The Atlantic region has a rotation of six hurricane name lists with 21 names each. Each list is used every seven years.
- The first hurricane of the season gets the “A” name, the second hurricane of the season gets the “B” name and so on. A year where the “W” name is reached is officially referred to as “the worst.”
- Male names entered the mix in 1979.
- Names have been retired for non-destruction reasons. For example, Adolph was removed from the Atlantic name database in 2001 (for reasons you can probably guess).
This great TIME magazine article has more details on the hurricane naming process. If you want to see if you could share your name with a hurricane, check out the WMO’s full lists.
We’ll probably never have another whooping cough—at least not officially. Diseases are now labeled through an extensive bureaucratic process involving several agencies and consortiums, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. This slog through committees tends to produce acronym-heavy names, such as SARS. This Slate article gives a detailed look into the name selection process behind MERS-CoV, or the Middle East respiratory syndrom coronavirus.
However, the official naming process can take so long that unofficial names pop up in the meantime—and often become more widely used than the official name. Remember swine flu? The unofficial name is still more popular than the official term for the disease, H1N1, even after lots of complaining from the pork industry.
Have any interesting naming conventions you’d like to share (or just want to commiserate over poor North West’s name)? Share ’em in the comments.
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