SALLY blew by my flat last night, but it was no big deal. Now, Fran would have taken me apart. I grew up in the days when hurricanes, typhoons and the like were all named after women, the patently sexist practice of an age that revelled in characterising women as fickle, temperamental and lethal. Of course, we now know that a typhoon is merely God's way of telling you that you're collecting too many plants on your rooftop. But by the time non-sexist naming practices were in force, it was too late for me: the mystic link between women and capricious, uncontrollable forces had been forged in my subconscious. To this day, male storms still make me a bit uncomfortable, the way male nurses do; I always suspect it's really a female typhoon in drag. Nevertheless, naming typhoons is a wonderful idea, perhaps the one animistic practice left in modern civilisation. Personifying a storm gives a name to our fears, corny as that sounds. At least we know who's coming to get us. I will never forget that it was a feisty babe named Ellen, and not some anonymous whirlwind, that sucked out aircons, tore up trees and deposited the City of Lobito, an Angolan freighter, directly in my jogging path one morning in 1983. It stands to reason that naming a typhoon should be a sacred act, a kind of animistic baptism but weather services around here don't seem to think so. The Joint Typhoon Warning Centre of Guam has made out a list of 92 names - alternating male and female, naturally - to apply to severe tropical storms. The only ones that might be construed as sacred are a few Biblical names: Abel, Hannah, and Rachel, as well as Peter and Paul for those who like their vengeance New Testament-style. With Guam doing the christening, you might end up getting attacked by a typhoon with a trendy name, like Amber. Apart from that, the main influence seems to be showbiz, with singers of years past particularly hot right now. We have Typhoons Frankie, Ella, Elvis, Cass and Bing. Actors are represented by Orson and Piper (remember her in The Hustler?), dancers by Ginger and composers of schlock music by Yanni, believe it or not. All that's missing is the Typhoon Formerly Known As Prince. This year you might get the illegal structure on your rooftop ripped off by a nice old-fashioned girl like Fern or Faith or a couple of nerds like Herb and Mort. Watch out for all-Americans like Dale and Todd and Chip - they seem sincere, but they're out for themselves like everyone else. And Dawn, Tina and Tanya might seem feminine, but they'll break your heart and possibly your patio window. And there are some strange names out there, so be very afraid. Fritz, Nestor or Zeb might get you (Zeb?). I suspect the three siblings Yates, Yule and York were named by a Hong Kong meteorologist. No need to guess who inspired Typhoon Bart. As a giver of names, The National Hurricane Centre in the US tends more towards the sophisticated. There's something very erudite about having Edouard or Gustav send your lawn dwarves through someone's garage wall at Mach 2. Cesar, Marco, Isidore, Paloma, Rene and Omar are among this year's natural disasters. Next year Ana, Claudette, Erika, Fabian, Henri, Isabel, Juan and Odette will rip off your mailbox. True, so will Sam and Larry but there are a couple of those at every party. As I'm writing this, Hurricane Hortense is doing her thing in the US. And while she can't hold a candle to Fran, with her 150-kilometres per hour winds, you have to admit that she's got a great name for a killer. What man could ever forget being laid low by a Hortense?