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?
A lot of you know that, besides being the co-mistress of Nameberry, I’m a novelist. In fact, my new book, The Possibility of You, comes out today.
While writing about names and writing historical fiction are often very different enterprises, there are times when my worlds collide. Like when it’s time to name my characters.
For some fiction writers, character naming might be a minor consideration, somewhere above comma placement but far below such elements as title and voice and what the characters eat for dinner.
Not so for me, of course, with the character’s name being his or her most important defining characteristic. In my view, the character’s name contains a kind of DNA code for who they are and where they come from, what they value and how they hope to change.
Novelist Caroline Leavitt, author of the New York Times bestselling Pictures of You, has had not one dream job but two. Before she became a full-time writer, she was a professional namer, naming not books or characters but everything from phones to bras. Her story:
I was writing high fashion copy at Macy’s when my boss asked me to come up with names for a new cosmetic shop. “Five hundred of them,“ she told me.
She wanted names that sounded Italian. (Plissamo. Glissatto.) Names that were Italian. (Fellini.) Names that sounded like Edenic places. (Bliss.) Names that were Edenic places (Roma, Paris, or yup, Eden.)
I sat down with a thesaurus and a dictionary and began making lists of names. Sometimes I rifled through magazines for inspiration, or sat there dreaming as one word seemed to flow into another. It took me about three days to come up with a list, but even then I wasn’t finished. Next the names had to go through legal to make sure no one else had already used the name, and if it was a good one, they usually had. This winnowed my list down quite a bit. Then they had to run it through a language test, because you didn’t want a name being chosen that meant “likes to sleep with goats” in Swahili.
But alas, as it often happens, none of my names were chosen because the shop was never built.
Still, I named kids’ dressing rooms (Presto Chango!) I named a bra (Barely There). I found to my surprise that I was good at it, and boy, was it fun.
When Mike Myers named his son Spike recently, there were several comments on our Nameberry facebook page along the lines of: “Did his wife have a puppy?” and “Bit doggy for me.” Not very kind, perhaps, but it does raise the subject of the blurring of the line between human and canine names, when babies are being named Buster and Buddy, and pups are commonly called Chloe and Mia.
So little Spike won’t be alone in his name zone. Other celebs have provided him with a number of comparably-named prospective (if older) playmates. There’s Michelle Hicks and Jonny Lee Miller’s Buster, Rosanne Barr’s Buck, Jamie Oliver’s Buddy Bear and Alicia Silverstone’s Bear, Justine Bateman’s Duke, Damon Dash’s Lucky, Gerard Way’s Bandit and Robert Rodriguez’s Rocket, as well as the poodle-ready Coco (Courteney Cox & David Arquette), Gigi (Cynthia Rowley), Fifi (Bob Geldof) and Zuzu (Tania Peterson).
But are these still the kinds of names that are actually given to dogs today, when pups are considered more family members than pets? The answer is a resounding no! Traditional canine monikers like Fido and Rover, Spot, and Champ have virtually disappeared, having been replaced by popular people names. In fact, looking at the most recent list of top names for dogs might make you do a doubte-take as it’s so similar to the top babies’ names lists.