Why “tornatrix”?

Every so often, usually when some major transition occurs in my life, I take on a new online persona. This time, the occasion was the completion of my Ph.D., at long last, after six years of hard work and challenges.

So, why the name “tornatrix”?

My dissertation took a great deal of my energy and time, and during the past three years, I more or less disappeared off of forums and chat rooms. As I worked with mobile Doppler radars and made several appearances on national (and international) television, my name recognition grew. I began to sense a demand for an increased presence on the web. I also observed a rise in the number of science blogs being used to disseminate research to the public. I resolved about a year ago that, after successfully defending my Ph.D., I would establish more of an online presence. But I needed an alias – something short, simple, and easy to remember. I can never force myself to come up with such names under duress; I knew I had to let the inspiration come on its own time.

I was lying in bed a couple of nights ago, toying with words that conveyed my specialty (severe weather research), when the word “tornatrix” suddenly popped into my head. I had attached the first part of the word “tornado” to the Latin feminine suffix “-trix”. In this sense, it means something like “twister-ess.”

I Googled the word “tornatrix” and found that it is actually a Latin word meaning “dancer” (i.e., “woman who turns”). I messaged one of my Latin-speaking college friends (Rob, now a Ph.D. candidate in Classics at UCLA) to ask about the propriety of using the word “tornatrix” in the sense that I wanted. He told me that, strictly speaking, the word I wanted was “turbatrix,” because the Latin word for tornado is turbo. Unfortunately, turbo has a different meaning in English, plus, a “turbatrix” sounds like a woman who studies (or perhaps causes) turbulence, which is quite a different specialization.

So, tornatrix it is! And here it begins.