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Have fun with pet names. July 28, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in pets, Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
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Our friend Ben is a strong believer in having a lot of fun with the naming of pets. Studies have shown that giving people unusual names can warp them for life, but it can also make them unforgettable: Tallulah Bankhead, Tennessee Williams, Basil Rathbone, Bela Lugosi, Yul Brynner. Or our friend Delilah Smittle. This is so true that savvy actors and others have adopted more memorable names to fix themselves in the public’s mind. Who could forget Boris Karloff, but who would remember William Henry Pratt, the English actor who adopted that stage name? Groucho Marx is indelible; Julius Henry Marx sounds like a cross between Karl Marx and an Orange Julius. You’re not likely to forget 50 Cent, or to remember his birth name, Curtis James Jackson III.

Our friend Ben doesn’t blame you if you prefer not to name your offspring Royal Stove or Einstein Shakespeare Ghandi the Great. (Silence Dogood actually went to college with a girl named Chase Morgan, but then, she really was related to both the Chases and the Morgans, so Silence figured it was just good advertising.) I think it’s best to give your children attractive names, then let them, like the Native Americans of old, choose their adult names as they go along and learn more about themselves. Our friend Ben’s niece Katie has chosen to live her adult life as KT; our friend Paul goes by Fritzjambo and an assortment of other alter-egos.

Instead of trying to shape your offsprings’ destiny through their names, how about putting that creativity towards your pets’ names instead? Our friend Ben has always thought that pet names were fair game, at least, until last night, when one of our friends took us to task for naming our black German shepherd puppy Pioneer Hawk’s Haven Shiloh von Shiloh Special. There’s actually a logical sequence behind this name: Pioneer German Shepherds is the name of Shiloh’s birth kennel, and thus must be represented on her registration form; Hawk’s Haven is our home, and has been part of the names of all our dogs; and her grandfather is Lucas von Shiloh Special. But beyond that, we find it highly entertaining.

Mind you, our friend Ben comes by quirky pet names naturally. My parents named their first parakeet Philomelia the Elegant Fowl. My father’s Afghan hounds were named Cleopatra, Robespierre, and Ariadne. As a very young child, Father named his family’s two roosters Diddum Yahoo and Justus. Our friend Ben’s own first dog, circa sixth grade, was named Homely Homer Hapilus. Silence is not immune to this trend, either: She chose to name our small flock of hens with Regency romance names, such as Serena, Olivia, Stella, Sophia, Lucretia, and Portia. (I’ll admit that later additions, such as the half-sisters Imelda and Griselda, bore more of my own stamp.) Then there was our friend Ben’s brother, who chose at an early age to name his pet guinea pig after our Aunt Bernice, but was convinced to change its name to Burnoose to avoid giving offense.

Over many years and many pets, our friend Ben has decided there are exactly three rules to the successful naming of pets:

Rule #1: Name your pet exactly what you want. If it’s Genghis Khan Tiberius Caesar Moronicus the Fourteenth, that’s your business and nobody else’s.

* Rule #2: Call your pet a one- or two-syllable name. Your pet bird may be named Alcibiades, but for everyday use, you’d better call him Al or Alfie. Our cats and dogs have all had many “official” names, but at home they’re Linus, Layla, Jessie, Annie, Molly, Shiloh, Simon, and so on. Occasionally, we’ve had a pet with a one-syllable call name, like our cat Boone or our parakeet Belle, but it’s definitely the exception. Pets seem to recognize two-syllable call names best, so we’re all for them.

* Rule #3: Give your pet a call name other people can recognize. The youthful Ben learned this lesson early on with my dog Hapilus (actually named for Louis Leakey’s Homo habilis). After years of hearing the poor dog addressed or referred to as “Hapless,” “Helpless,” and even “Hopeless,” our friend Ben learned a life lesson that has remained with me ever since. Molly, Maggie, Simon, Duke and the like are easy to understand and easy for other people to say. We hope Shiloh falls into this category as well.

I guess there’s a fourth rule, and that’s not to name your pet something derogatory. Pets are inherently innocent beings, and they can be hurt as quickly as children. “Dumbo,” “Dickhead,” “Wacko” and the like are not appropriate pet names, since they invite ridicule from total strangers which the pet has done nothing to deserve. Never call your pet something you wouldn’t want to be called yourself. Ditto for names that invite ridicule even if they’re not inherently offensive, like naming a massive Rottweiler “Mini” or a teacup Chihuahua “Killer.” Your dog deserves better from you. 

Otherwise, have as much fun as you can stand when it comes to naming your pet! And to those who want to make fun of our Pioneer Hawk’s Haven Shiloh von Shiloh Special, our friend Ben can only say: BWAAAAHHH!!!



1. Lzyjo - July 28, 2009

I think in Japan, they wait a little bit to pick a name so they can see some personality before they do. Not sure how much “personality’ a newborn has but what the heck. I always HATED that my parents named me Elizabeth. I wanted very badly to change it, but now I kind of like my whitebread name. Elizabeth Smith. Very unassuming!

DH also chose not to use his first name, he adopted his middle name Leroy for a stage name, so that’s who he is to me, but his parents and people in his hometown call him Jeff.

My grandpa also chose not to go by his first name Andrew, instead everyone calls him Sam, from his middle name Samuel. LOL!

Oh and what about the male and female names, like my parents already had a boy’s name picked out for me, if I had been a boy, okay that didn’t sound right, if their baby had been a boy. He would have been Andrew……I’m glad they picked out a girl’s name too, unlike some celebrities!

At least if you have a decent middle name, you can adopt it if you choose.

Oh, lord, Lzyjo, does this open up a can of worms (so to speak) for me (Silence). I LOVE the name Elizabeth, which my parents gave to my younger sister, after saddling me with a couple of the most boring names on earth. (GRRRR.) I too go by my middle name, and I can’t tell you how many times people have taken it upon themselves to tell me that it’s not my “real” name. Well, hell yes it is, just as much as my first name. And to top it off, the reason my parents gave me the boring names was that their obstetrician informed them that after 50 years of practicing medicine, he’d never before predicted the sex of a child, but in my case I was definitely going to be a boy because of my hugely strong kick and heartbeat, and not to even think about girls’ names! At which point my parents had an endless argument about whether to name me for my mother’s father or for my father, and being unable to resolve the dispute, referred to me for the rest of the pregnancy as Richard III. There’s a lot more to this story, but that’s enough for now. Thank heavens today’s parents can at least get an ultrasound and figure things out!

2. Daphne Gould - July 29, 2009

Recently my son asked me why I named my kids something so boring. My daughter is Elizabeth (Beth) and my son in Benjamin. (Apologies to our friend Ben for implying his name could ever be boring, but it isn’t me saying it, it is my son Ben). I have a more uncommon name and have always loved it. My brother has an uncommon name (Damon) and named all his kids uncommon names (Garrett, Torin and Heather). So Ben wanted to know why in the heck I wouldn’t pick out something more interesting. Sadly I coudln’t tell him the answer. I liked the name Ben. His father picked it out, but it was one of the top two names on my list so I readily agreed. I picked Elizabeth because I waned Beth and thought it would give her more choice if she hated Beth. Elizabeth has so many nicknames to it. So now my daughter loves the name Beth, but really hates that it is Elizabeth. I just can’t win. I told them both they could go change their names and I wouldn’t mind at all. Neither of them will. At least pets can’t complain about what name you give them.

Gasp, Benjamin and Elizabeth boring?!! What could your kids be thinking?! For us, they instantly evoke two of the greatest people our planet has ever known, Benjamin Franklin and Queen Elizabeth I. Tell your kids that they have strong names so they can be strong people! I (Silence) also love the name Daphne and wish my own parents had chosen to name me Ariadne rather than giving that great name to the dog!

3. Lzyjo - July 29, 2009

Oh, Silence, what a story! DH gets the same thing all the time. It’s annoying to me as well. He even has two credit cards, one with either name… if anyone gives him lip.

Daphne is right, at least Elizabeth has a lot of possible nicknames.

My grandma, and her sister, have lovely Swedish names. My grandma’s is Margaretha. She’s a least 80 and still gets mad when people read and mispronounce it! I guess we all have our burdens/challenges namewise! Oh, and at least our pets can’t complain about there names. Hopper really hates it when we call him Hooper….;)

Ha!!! At least Hopper doesn’t have to put up with “Wolfiecule,” which is what OFB occasionally calls Shiloh because she looks like a black wolf and our previous dog, Molly, was such a gigantic golden retriever that we referred to her as “the little Mollycule,” or simply “the ‘Cule.”

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