Hurricanes and how they are pronounced
2 min read

Hurricanes and how they are pronounced

Hurricane Ginger. Picture is of a hurricane symbol saying "It's actually pronounced LEEK-yuh"

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration releases its planned hurricane names years in advance, and includes a pronunciation guide for each name. An excerpt from NOAA's 2026 Atlantic Basin Storm Name Pronunciations:

Arthur AR-thur
Bertha BUR-thuh
Cristobal krees-TOH-bahl
Dolly DAH-lee
Edouard eh-DWARD
Fay fay

Whenever I see a list like this, I naturally wonder what a neural net might make of it. I'm specifically interested in the larger neural nets I've been using lately, like the GPT-3 variants, which have encountered lots of names during their internet training yet are known to produce absolutely cursed attempts at pronunciation guides.

The largest GPT-3 variant, DaVinci, was pretty good at identifying common names and providing pronunciation guides that are not too far off from how I myself would say them. Although I definitely say this one differently:

Christopher kry-STOP-oh-fuhr

But things did get stranger when I gave GPT-3 dates farther in the future. I know it's not actually predicting that the already tenuous link between spelling and pronunciation in English is going to do some pretty extreme things in the next 50 years, but that's sure what it looks like:

Harry HARR-held
Andrew an-DREE-uhn
Lisa LISS-uh
Mark mark
George jar-ZHAY
Wanda way-DAHN-uh
Alfred im-THOHN
Deirdre ED-reel
Jason JAY-dree
Marissa mrees-TVR-uhf
Sandrina sa-NREE-tuuh
Scott steed-rer
Scott wess-tra
Arnold ah-NAWR-dell
Georgia zheh-DRO-luh
Howard huh-WAR-dee
Nelson NEH-suh-lihn
Serena say-RUH-nuh
Victor VIK-suht

I also prompted the smallest GPT-3 variant, Ada, with the list of officially planned NOAA hurricane names and pronunciations. I would definitely need most of these spelled out for me the first time I heard them.

Alan AR-toh-LAY
Christine CREE-chuh-NAH
Elena anda-DAW
Esther ex-THAH-ah
Michael MIE-le-no
Ginger LEEK-yuh
Darrell jlear-DAHR
Alex MDL-aye
Jess MEY-sern
Robert REH-sch-ei
Santiago SAN-tih-uh
Varsity EBAY
David EBOY
Joe joh-LOHS-dah
Wendy lich-WAEH
Oliver ORL-arkus
John john-FLAN-uh
John john-SPLIN-er-ahnt

I was curious, so I appended a few other names to the end of the list of hurricanes so Ada could provide me a pronunciation guide. I guess I'll be introducing myself differently from now on.

Janelle JEE-ree-uhn
Shane shaan
Artificial AYR-tah-zhoo
Intelligence MIL-teer-uhn
Benedict bon-TEE-ass
Cumberbatch cHL-barck-Christ
Bilbo BLA-buh
Baggins BAL-gin
Scrooge skhuh-RAK-tur-ee
McDuck moos-DUCK
Rumplestiltskin uh-buh-THEEKS

Before I discovered I could get GPT-3 DaVinci to vary its pronunciation guides by simply advancing the date, I experimented with some other prompts. One of the more successful experiments was the one in which I told it that the storms had grown ever more intense, so the names had to grow more epic to match. If you're an AI Weirdness supporter, you can read them as bonus content. Or become a free subscriber to read new AI Weirdness posts in your inbox!