Posted by on Aug 21, 2009 in literary characters, names | 4 Comments

The Naming of Names

This is going to be a long post and it’s only tangentially literary. We’re going to get a kitten! Blame Suw, the woman who is in feline servitude to Grabbity and Sir Isaac Mewton and who’s been twittering about them both.

So, kitten. Our last cat died around January: she was sixteen and walked away to die alone, as cats often do, so that her actual departure date is unknown. She was also stroppy, small, unstrokable and from Essex – her name was Fera (as in Fera(l)) obviously.

The dogs are called Rebus and Falco. If we get another dog it will be called Resnick, then we’ll be joined by Zen (Aurelio) and then, if we live that long, Dalziell. You can see the progression, I trust. If not, what are you doing reading this blog?

And so we might get a male cat or a female one, and I have to be ready with names. I started with females and was immediately keen on action heroines: Ripley, Croft and Starling. And immediately saw the problem: Ellen Ripley of Alien fame, or Tom Ripley? Lara Croft or Croft Original Sherry? And Starling, while not attributed to any other significant figure, is just a damn peculiar name to give a cat, innit?

So, science fiction instead. That’s very good on the bloke side: Heinlein, Varley, Niven (could be confused with David, but that wouldn’t be too bad actually) and Pournelle. But on the distaff … well, le Guin, (excellent name for a cat), Butler (Octavia, but who’s going to get that?) and Griffith (Nicola – possibly even more obscure). Urgh.

My fear now is that naming animals in a sequence like this is unutterably elitist and upper class but that worrying about it is unutterably neurotic and middle class. Because this is how one names animals. Isn’t it?

And so, with that thought, my problems ended. T H White has done it for me: regardless of sex, future cats will be Clumsy, Trowneer, Phoebe, Colle, Gerland, Talbot, Luath, Luffra, Apollon, Orthros, Bran, Gelert, Boy, Lion, Bungery, Toby, Cavall and Diamond – although I reserve the right to pick the most appropriate name from the list when the feline arrives. Can’t think of a better way to name cats than after dogs!


  1. Suw
    21st August 2009

    Grabbity came to be Grabbity just a few days after she was born, even before we had met her, partly because of this:

    And partly because we wanted to be able to, when we heard something fall off a shelf in another room, say “Grabbity did it”.

    Of course, once Grabbity was named, her brother had to be Sir Izacat Mewton. Possibly because Weak Nuclear Force or Van der Waals aren’t great cat names. Or possibly because having Sir Izacat Mewton and Grabbity allows us to make corny physics jokes about the Small Feline Collider, Mewton’s Laws of Motion, and fundamental forces of nature. YMMV.

    Of course, they are both on Twitter: @grabbity and @sirmewton.

    Historically, I don’t have that much consistency in past cat names. Fflwff is named after a fictional kitten I used to write about in Welsh. Castor and Pollux are stars. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern clearly literary. Thunder and Lightening. Psycho and Schitz.

    To be honest, the only compelling reason I can see to have children is the fun one can have in naming them. This is probably a good reason why I shouldn’t.

  2. Jim Murdoch
    23rd August 2009

    My mother had very little imagination. Her cats were Blackie, Sooty, Snowy, Minstrel (i.e. black and white), Tigger, Tom (he looked like Tom off of ‘Tom and Jerry’) and finally Biggie because he was, well, big. My thought is how you’d feel standing at your front door (assuming you have such a thing) calling the thing at night. If you’ve ever heard the Billy Connolly track ‘What’s In a Name? Constantine! Tyrone!’ you’ll know where I’m coming from.

    I had a chocolate talking catfish called Mars Bar once. And, yes, that is a real kind of fish.

  3. Mark Hubbard
    23rd August 2009

    You’ve not asked for a readers vote, but I’ll give one.

    The anarchist: Le Guin.

  4. Kay Sexton
    29th August 2009

    Suw, apologies to Sir Izacat for getting his name wrong, and hoping he and Grabbity have recovered from their incapacity.

    Jim, it’s a good point, but as a woman who thought about this and still went ahead and called a dog Falco, I have no shame.

    Mark – nice idea, but we have to get through our home visit first …


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