Category: pet names
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 Traditional canine monikers like Fido and Rover, Spot, and Champ have virtually disappeared, having been replaced by popular people names.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.
Beatrix Potter was an early conservationist, and her stories of Peter Rabbit and friends reflect her great love of the British countryside and nature. Her animal characters (with the exception of the American animals appearing in The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes) were drawn from life, revealing Beatrix Potter‘s eye for realism as well as whimsy.
Apparent in her stories is a Victorian delicacy of understatement and wit in describing unavoidable unpleasantries, such as death: “Your father had an accident there; he was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor.” In addition, the Victorian expectation of children to master vocabulary can be found in Beatrix Potter‘s use of the occasional “soporific” and “improvident” sprinkled among the more childish bobbitties and scrumplies in her books.
While many of Beatrix Potter‘s anthropomorphic characters bear whimsical names, such as the beloved hedgehog laundress known as Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, there nevertheless can also be found a number of baby-worthy names among her characters. These names will mainly appeal to those with classic naming tastes, representing names (and nicknames) that also appealed to the people of the British Isles living in the Victorian and Edwardian eras:
You don’t have to be a cat fancier to appreciate a name with a sleek feline feel. These cool cat names range from cute kitten names to powerful panthers and tigers, and can be looked at from several points of view: names with cat-related meanings (starring the extended Leo family), cats in books, movies, television—real and animated–and cats named by well-known humans.
First of all, the most obvious:
Then there are:
NAMES WITH FELINE MEANINGS
My mother’s name is Mary, and so my father has never called me such. Dr. Freud would approve. And while my extended family makes the distinction by calling me “Mary Beth,” somehow my dad came up with Bessie and thought it was adorable. When my parents discovered that Bessie was easy for my toddler brother to pronounce, it stuck. At least on the nuclear level.
As you might imagine, in my adolescence, I did not like being Bessie. It was not, nor is it yet again, popular. While the U.S. Census pegged Bessie as the 13th most popular girls’ name in 1880, it plummeted out of the top 100 by 1930 and nosedived from the top 1000 by 1970.
Worse yet for my teenage years, Bessie is neither sleek, nor sexy. It is not stylish. Not a single model in Seventeen magazine ever had that name. And, though somewhere in a corner of Park Slope there may be an urban hipster mother plotting to bring back the name is a burst of ugly-chic, to this day Bessie remains shunned.
The nickname didn’t bother me as a very young child. Heck, I was surrounded by relatives with equally unattractive, ragged-old-laundry-hanging-in-the-back-alley names—like Reenie (for Irene) and Mossie (for Martha). But by my teenage years, I really, really wanted my dad and my brother—and by now my younger sisters who had gotten in on the act—to quit it. The worst was when my brother’s friends would tease me about the name: “Bessie the cow.” “Old Bess, my gun.” (And this from a kid with a big schnoz whose surname was Finnochio. Sheesh.)
Sure, there was Bessie Smith. And Bess Myerson—the first Jewish Miss America. But that was IT. Unless you were belting out the blues with a voice full of sorrow and steel, or you were transcendentally beautiful, this was not a good name. With my reedy soprano, eyeglasses and frizzy hair, I was none of these things (although I have since graduated to contact lenses!).
Our guest blogger Marion Roach first wrote about her sister Margaret’s horse-inspired name on her blog She Said, She Said, part of the sisters’ joint site, The Sister Project. Margaret Roach, the former editor of “Martha Stewart Living”, also runs the site A Way To Garden.
My family frequently names those we love for sports idols. For instance, among the dozen cats and dogs who have come and gone in my life there was Saratoga Roach, a terrier of a beagle, named for the late-summer racetrack in upstate New York, and Cleveland, a hapless chocolate lab, named for the Browns.
Then there is my sister, Margaret, named for the 1954 winner of the Belmont Stakes.
At one point in his life our father was a turf reporter, spending his winters at Hialeah, his summers in Saratoga and the time between at the racetracks in the East. Amid the crowd he covered, one of the great pastimes was naming thoroughbreds. It’s an art—no name can be more than 18 characters, including punctuation and spaces—as well as a science: Names frequently reflect breeding, sometimes with great flourish. For instance, the year before my sister was born, the great horse of 1953 was a colt whose father was Polynesian and mother was named Geisha. Their champion offspring was crowned Native Dancer. It’s a great tradition.
And one that continued into my family. My father had a horse named for him—it was called Sportseditor. I have a sailboat named Ruffian, for the magnificent dark filly who didn’t know the meaning of the word quit, until she broke down at the mile marker in a match race against Foolish Pleasure in 1975.
In due course it was revealed that there was an offspring on the way in our household.