A question over in the forums about naming vehicles inspired this week’s Question of the Week: What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever named?
A car or a cabin?
A dog or a cat….or maybe a pet rat, snake, or lizard? Or maybe you named the squirrels who regularly raid your bird feeder, or the little orange lizards you used to catch and race when you were a kid.
A doll or a stuffed animal? A fictional character, or a body part?
Dog names have become indistinguishable from baby names, with virtually all the most popular and stylish dog names coming from the human lexicon.
Cities like New York and Seattle as well as smaller towns such as Wellesley, Massachusetts and several dog-oriented websites publish yearly tallies of most popular dog names. Top choices these days include Bella and Max, Molly and Jack, Sadie and Cooper.
One detailed rundown of the most popular dog names in New York City includes a really cool map of the top dog names in different neighborhoods. Residents of the tony Upper East Side, for instance, prefer Lucy, while denizens of the bohemian East Village like Lulu and dog-owners in a tough section of Queens favor Rocky.
Noted dog expert Stanley Coren has even written for Psychology Today about the art and science of naming dogs. A dog’s name is vitally important, Coren says, since it’s one of the few words he understands.
What about the human psychology of choosing dog names? You don’t have to be Freud to surmise that the current taste for human names is evidence that our dogs have become our babies, deserving of the same consideration and treatment as little boys and girls.
When I chose the name Claire for one of the protagonists of my new novel, The Obituary Writer, I thought I’d found the perfect name for a woman living in 1961. To me, Claire sounded sophisticated without seeming snobby; feminine but not girlish; and although not unusual a name, it was also not common.
So imagine my surprise when I started to read another novel partially set in the early 1960s, Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, and found a protagonist named Claire. The feeling was similar to the day I showed up at a Mommy group with my baby son Sam and every other boy there was also named Sam.
After I got over discovering this other literary Claire, I wondered if Jess Walter and I were somehow tapping into a hot new name trend. But no. Claire has been solidly in the Top 100 girl names for a decade, and among the U.S. Top 1000 since they started keeping records in 1880.
Lots of parents seem to have been influenced by the romantic hero of Nicholas Sparks’ novel-turned-blockbuster-movie The Notebook to name their sons Noah. In the 1980s—two decades before The Notebook—Noah’s popularity held steady in the 200s and only made a big leap upward in the late 1990s when the book was first published, jumping again in 2004 after the movie came out. By 2011, Noah had moved all way up to the fifth most popular boys’ name.
And now we want to know about your dogs’ names — and cat, hamster, fish, iguana, and parakeet names. We want to hear about the names you’ve chosen for your pets over the years, from childhood animals to pets you own now.
Do you give your pets people names? Names, maybe, that you love but are not brave enough to use on actual children? Or maybe baby names that, for whatever reason, you’re afraid you’ll never get to use?
Hey!, we thought. Here we are, a name site, with lots of regular visitors who are fascinated by names and think and know a lot about the subject, and yet they’re known by names they’ve invented for themselves. So where did those names come from?