For decades, hurricanes were named for the saint's day on which they occurred (like "San Felipe" in 1928). The U.S. started giving hurricanes female names in 1953. It wasn't until 1979 that hurricanes in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico began receiving both male and female names.
"U.S. hurricanes used to be given only female names, a practice that meteorologists of a different era considered appropriate due to such characteristics of hurricanes as unpredictability," researchers wrote in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science in 2014.
The researchers found that hurricanes with female names cause more deaths than male-named storms, suggesting that people don't prepare as much for the feminine storms.
The paper recommended that policymakers consider a new naming system that wouldn't cause "human response to be influence by the mental representations associated with those categories."
Americans also apparently respond to the names of storms in the way they name their children. A 2012 analysis found that after Katrina, there was an unusual increase in the number of children with K-names: Kimberly, Karen or Kevin. People avoided the name of the hurricane itself, but were more likely to pick similar-sounding names.
Naming conventions are also a source of controversy. A black congresswoman from Texas complained in 2003 that hurricanes were only given white names. "All racial groups should be represented," she said, according to Wired.
Additionally, the names chosen by the regional tropical cyclone authorities do tend to reflect the names in those regions. The Atlantic Basin hurricanes in the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and North Atlantic are named Alberto, Barry and Chantal. In contrast, Jakarta has Anggrek and Bakung. The Southwest Indian Ocean has Abela from Tanzania, Bransby from South Africa and Cilida from Madagascar.