Saturday, November 13, 2010

Pet Names

I think that the huge array of names that people give their pets is amazing.  We have much more freedom in naming our animals, as people are likely to be more tolerant of odd names than they would be with our children.  And I was just thinking (yes, probably overthinking) that there are several naming conventions for animals.  I've probably used most of them throughout my life.  So here is my collection of animal naming conventions, for a not-very-serious Saturday morning post.

Food names.  I have a friend who always uses food names for her animals.  "Salsa" and "Popcorn" are names that come to mind.  I started out with the food naming convention because I myself have used it:  I named my first cat Peanut.  I was four years old at the time.

Physical Feature names.  These are names that focus in on one of the animal's physical features.  Blackie, Onyx, Star, Blaze.   I've used this one as well:  a white cat became Snowball, and later, a nearly feral black and white cat with white paws became Boots.

Famous/Legendary/Mythical names.  This is a personal favorite of my husband's.  He picked out the name Argos for our greyhound after the hound that faithfully waited for Odysseus to return.  (Though I say that the hound got a raw deal out of life.)  I think that this is probably a favorite naming convention.  I've met dogs named Loki, Thor, Odin, and I'm sure that there are plenty of other names out there.  We also have a cat, Romeo, named after one of the main characters in that oh-so-famous Shakespeare play.  We may name our second greyhound, still only in potentia, Cabal, after King Arthur's hound.  Jeff is still working on me with this.

Human names.  This is a personal favorite of mine.  I guess that it makes an animal easy to identify with if they have a name that I associate with "normal."  Charlotte and Annie, two of our cats, are examples of this.   I can't take credit for naming them:  the shelter actually did that, but the names were perfect for the personalities of the cats so I didn't change them.  I've also named a Suki (later changed to Susie) and a Wendy.

Iconic animal names.  Fido, Rex, Simba, Killer, Spike.  All names that have been used for a long time for pets.  I've had a couple of these in my life:  I named my very first horse Prince, which seems very iconic of all names horsey, at least in the realm of little girls, and later named an orange kitty Simba.

Behavior Names.  This is how Bit got her name.  Her actual name is Q-bit, short for quantum bit.  Jeff named her this because of her kitten-like ability to be, against all laws of nature, in multiple places at once.  Another that I have heard recently is Frisky.

I'm sure that there are plenty of other naming conventions that I'm not thinking of, at 6:30 in the morning on a Saturday, with my Suda-fed addled brain.  In fact, blame this entire post on the Sudafed.  :)  No, seriously, as someone who has been labeled a "word nerd" in the past, I think that things like naming conventions, history, etymology, etc. is fascinating.  I think that pet names are probably very telling of someone's personality, since, as I stated before, we don't face as much public censure if we get creative.  (I'm sure, for example, that we would have gotten grief if we decided to name a human child Romeo or Argos, or heaven forbid Loki!)

So, I hope that you enjoyed.  What naming conventions do you typically use?


  1. With the exception of two pets in my life, all of 'em have had human names. Growing up, we had a dog named Laddie (he was two when we adopted him), a cat named Morgan LeFur (later changed to Homer), a cat named Nibby Nose. Current brood includes Sophie, Harry and Frankie. These are my children and I refuse to call my children "Fluffy" or "Spot."

  2. This is a fun post!
    2 of our dogs are people names and our other dog is named after a plumber tool:)

  3. hop, hop, hop...not a fan of Human names for pets, not sure why. But I love the Iconic names. Woman who had a rescue dog named her dog "Cowboy". It really suited him. They moved a few months ago and miss seeing Cowboy in the neighborhood!

  4. Very cool post!

    The first animal I'd ever named is when I also was 4 years old. It was a hamster, and I named him "pretzel." Luckily, I grew out of the food phase, except for one rabbit that had a really nasty temperament. I named him Hassenpfeffer, which is a German meal with rabbit as the main ingredient.

    In general, I end up using a random method of naming. For example, my most recent rabbit was a chocolately brown. I didn't want to name him "cocoa" or "Hershey" or any of the 25 other chocolatey names. I started thinking of other C-names (Like cocoa) and came up with Caesar. Has nothing to do with chocolate, but I like it, and it fit.

    Another method I'd used was based on how the animal came to us. When my grandparents were sitting on their front porch, a cockatiel flew onto their porch and onto my Grandfather's chair. The poor guy thought it was an angel coming to take him away. So, when nobody answered our Found ads, he stayed and became "Angel".

    I usually steer clear of human names for animals. Casey was named by Pat. Which honestly I'm surprised came out to be as normal as it is. He has the worst talent for naming things.

    Layla is the first animal that I'd ever had who had her name chosen before I got her. I usually wait for some inspiration, either from their body/markings or personality. I chose "Layla" because the main purpose of getting her was to be like a live-in permanent therapy dog for myself, and I hoped that the line in the song Layla, "Darling, won't you ease my worried mind?" would come true. And luckily, it did!

    I also am fascinated with word origins. I can't think of my favorite because my brain is heavy with pseudophedrine too.

  5. I love giving my animals human names and the nerdier the name the better! We have just adopted a little gray kitten that came to us called Ash. I would like to change his name but am having a very hard time picking one. Many times a name will sort of "come" to me and will be ideal, but in the two weeks we have had him NOTHING has revealed itself.

  6. My dog Shiva's name is actually from a video game character. Dorky much? I know. But I really just liked the sound of it. It's a side benefit that it's so unique.

    As a historian I tend to think of mythological and historical names. Like Napoleon or Perseus.

    Actually, I'd long ago decided that the first male dog I got would be named Argos. The dog totally got a raw deal. The brief description of that poor puppy's abusive past made me cry after I read the epic poem. He put up with so much and waited so long... Poor little guy.

    But anyway, names are fascinating. I love that we can be so creative with them for our pets. :-)

  7. I've never been a fan of human names for pets. I don't know why, but I'm just not.

    Our current trend was names associated with colors, but Bunny came along with her perfect name and we couldn't change it. Morgan is registered with her name, too, and while we could have changed it (I lobbied hard for Marigold), we couldn't agree on a new name, so we left it!

    The mouthwash we got is C.E.T. Oral Hygiene Rinse. I think you have to get it from a vet, but you may be able to get it at Petsmart. I know they carry some of the C.E.T. stuff there. Another thing that I've been told will really help with those Greyhounds with the really bad teeth is feeding them raw turkey necks. I know it sounds crazy, but it is safe, and you can also freeze them. Mine go crazy for them, and you just feed them maybe once a week.

  8. My dad recently got an older Staffie. As we didn't know her name, we searched for older ladies names. Amongst a very long list, we came up with Maud and then Maggie. The latter stuck.

  9. Love this post. I have always used human names, but then used a variety of nicknames. My cat is named Alex. I gave him a middle name; I call him every name that starts with Al (Alfred, Alfredo) as well as food names like Peanut, or my little peanut. I call him other animal names too, like monkey, and behavioral names like silly....

  10. I've relied on names of fictional characters. My first childhood dog was Duchess (after the Mama Cat on the Aristocats) even though he was male.

    I tried to adopt a male puppy from the SPCA I planned to name "Campion" for the male mystery character. When he was adopted before I got there, I was still in mystery mode.

    I named my next two puppies Agatha and Christie. I don't know if the names influenced their characters but Agatha behaved exactly as you'd expect an Agatha to behave. Same for Christie.

  11. Our chocolate lab Dylan is named after singer Bob Dylan (a favorite of mine) and our shepherd mutt Miguel is names after San Miguel, the town in Mexico where we found him.

  12. I love naming pets! Let's see there has been/are Brownberry Nibulius Esquire, Mossflower Rose, Saveta Saville McTavish, Rakeeta, Catalina Esmeralda Grey, Tansy, Kiwi, Tibbit Tweed, Zela, Butter, Honey, Lavender, Pippa, Ginger, Pixie, Dixie, Pepper, Gatita Rosita Prisca.

  13. Most of the pets that have been in my family's history have had one of these conventions - Calico (a fish, for his physical quality) - Squirrel (after his huge squirrel-like tail) - Boo (black witch's cat) - Pyewacket (after the theatrical cat). But we've also got a trend of names in a new category - physical noun names.

    Dune (sand dune) - our Labrador.
    Paris (the city) - our recently-deceased kitty.
    Chambray (my helmet kitty) - came with the name, but I kept it; chambray is a kind of fabric.

    I know, in the vague "friends' pets" sort of way, various other cats named after the first item their owner saw in the room upon bringing them home and beginning the naming process. Cats seem to be good at being named after objects.