What’s in a name ?

A cat’s name is important. And no, I’m not going to quote “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” by T.S. Eliot. I have always been able to adequately address my cats -any cat- and I have never needed books for that. But I do agree with Eliot that cats do identify themselves with a name, whether simians have chosen it for them or not. A good cat-servant carefully chooses a name that might embody the essence of the feline being saddled with it. And that might prove difficult when you have a kitten mewing in your hands and you have no clue at all of into what his character will develop.

Hence, observe the kitten with meticulous care. Take your time to discover what basic characteristics are displayed: is he feisty or lazy ? Outgoing or shy ? Is there a certain frankness in his movements that might speak of a bold nature or is he petrified by his new people/surroundings ? Also, prepare yourself long beforehand by looking up a bevy of names to choose from. You will want to name the tyke as soon as possible and some names are evergreens that will always match. “Tiger” can be either correct or sarcastic, “Growler” has a nice ring to it, as do “Ceasar” or “Cleopatra”, and ever since the movie-industry discovered Tolkien “Precious” has acquired a special meaning. Or you might try for physical characteristics… “Blacky” for a black cat is typical, “Snowy” for a white one equally so, but have you ever considered “Blanche” which is French for “White” ? Languages are fun: I once had a “Rhuarhi”, which is supposed to be Gaelic and should mean something like “red one” (he was an orange & white tabby). And “You-ling”, who is apt to visit the House of Chaos from time to time, is just Mandarin Chinese for “Ghost”.

Humor can also have a surprising effect. It’s like calling your cat “Goliath” and then discovering he grows either bigger or smaller than normal for instance, or finding out how apt the name of a famous clown like the Russian Master “Popov” is when given to a cat who specializes in pranks. “Zorro” happens to be Spanish for “fox”, a canine creature really, which seems like a wonderful antagonism or irony to the core when calling a cat thus, but our Zorro -having been raised by an extremely motherly German Shepherd- turned out to not only being supremely partial to canines, but sometimes even behaving like a dog. What’s in a name huh ?

Another possibility is to choose from a hobby. “Bismarck” or “Napoleon” if you like history, “Patton” for the army buff or “Nimitz” for the naval enthusiast. But you’ll need to have a weaver explain why “Shuttle” is named that way… You might also look into your book collection for inspiration. “Nimitz” you have encountered before in this story but it is the name of a “treecat” in David Weber’s Honor Harrington stories. Bean Sidhe, by the way, is named for another treecat character in that series called “Banshee”. I guess there must be many a “Harry” roaming in the UK right now, and not because one of their princes is named so. I doubt somebody would dare to call his cat “Voldemort” though. Famous movie characters also make for interesting names, as our Zorro has originally been named after a certain caped crusader. And “Loup-Garou” comes out of fairy tales and legends. Also out of a role-playing game. I have many sources.

Where did “Hrimnir” come from then ? Norse mythology. Another bottomless source for great names: mythology, and legends ! The same way I got Ragnar and Rabauw (“Ruffian”) 10 years ago. Magic and superstition can also play a role in the name-choosing: the first cat I had was named after the bumper of a car (in French) “Bar-Choc” because I wanted him to avoid meeting one, in the flesh as it were. Alas, he was done in by geese.
I hate geese.

What this all boils down to is, I like people who can come up with an imaginative and creative name for their beloved pets. No need to inflict life-long torture on your biological off-spring (although I had Gaetan, Wolfgang, Branwen and Cassiopeia in mind if I ever had some) but your furred babies won’t even bother complaining since they won’t understand the meaning anyway. I simply find it a waste of a splendid opportunity not to give your feline overlords interesting names. Somehow “Puss”, “Kitty”, “Max” or “Moggie” simply won’t delight me. I’m more in for “Nebukadnezar” (a Persian king of 3000 years ago) or “Rikishi” (Japanese for “Warrior”). Don’t worry about the long names either, that will be shortened anyway like we usually use Ban-Ban, Bannikins, Loulou, Zor or Rimmikins.

As the kitten grows into cat-hood and develops his own unique character it might become necessary to bestow other names upon the worthy feline. The feline denizens of the House of Chaos are wont to acquire extra names like people would collect titles. “Rataplan”, for instance, a grey tabby from hell we had several years ago until he had an unfortunate encounter with Mr. Electricity, had his name from a famous Belgian comic book character (an ûber-stupid dog by the way) but we later named him “Frankenstein” in addition because of an injury that required a steel bolt being put through his lower jaw.. Next we added “Mobile Disaster Area”, which shouldn’t need an explanation, but from there on he got an entire string that went “Horsehunter, Master Barfer, Walking Cesspit And Bloody Awkward Nuisance On Paws.”

The current feline residents of the House of Chaos are a tad less adventurous and be also known as “Mafkat” (Loup-Garou), “Blafkat” (Zorro), “Minimormel” (Bean Sidhe) and “Micromormel” (Rhimnir). Maf means crazy but also sleep, blaf means bark like a dog, mormel means ugly creature but is also used to describe a small animal. These are endearments but they also reveal something about the cats in question. We’re sure both Bean Sidhe and Rhimnir will be able to earn a more dignified nickname in the future though. For sure, they’ll live up to it.

Picture below:
Of course, from now on, Zorro might be known as…

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Would they let him aboard the Friday Ark ? Methinks this prickly prowler should ease up a bit on his deportment first…

Posted in Cats. 7 Comments »

7 Responses to “What’s in a name ?”

  1. dolphin Says:

    I am always careful to pick the perfect name. Hobbes (and orange tabby) is named after the stuffed tiger from the wonderful comic strip “Calvin and Hobbes.” Gryphon was named already when we picked him up from the shelter. Certainly we COULD have renamed him, but Gryphon is not a bad name, and I’d prefer he keep the first name he was given (we did change it from Griffin to Gryphon however). You can read the story behind Sigyn’s name here.

  2. Kashim & Othello Says:

    Very interesting post about naming cats and we agree wif what you said.
    Kashim & Othello were named at their breeders. When the came to me I tought about other names for them but then found out that their names fit perfectly and so they just kept them.

    Thanks for joining WCB!

  3. [Weekend Cat Blogging] #111 - Welcome to the party! | Paulchens FoodBlog?! Says:

    […] What’s in a a name? aks Babeth over at House of Chaos and talks about naming cats. Interesting thought we fink! Go and fiond out yourself… […]

  4. Rosa Says:

    A beautiful cat! I love his feline attitude…

  5. sammawow Says:

    This was very interesting about the naming of our pets! I have a ginger tabby, China Cat Sunflower, that my daughter named from the Grateful Dead song and Willow, a dilute calico, who was named after a character in Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV show. Both of their names actually fit them. And I always enjoy reading your posts.

  6. Dragonheart Says:

    Names are very important! 🙂 My breeder chooses a theme for each of her litters, and all the cats are named according to that theme. For my litter, the theme was “Fairy Tales” so I’m Dragonheart and my brother was Merlin. My sire’s litter’s theme was “Star Wars” so he was Obi Wan Kenobi, and his brothers were Yoda, Skywalker and Han Solo. 🙂

    Zorro’s name definitely suits him. 🙂 Cute poster. 🙂

  7. Pia Says:

    I totally agree on the importance of the very right name for the very right cat – I always name my kittens in alphabetical order though and with an extra distinguished last name too. Sometimes that can be sort of tricky, but so far so good, and I think most of them are quite happy with their names…:) I hope…

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