Sunday, December 8, 2013

Principia Onomastica

Some years ago (aye, many, by now), my wife and I were startled at some (breezy, childless) twenty-somethings of our acquaintance, referring to their pet dog as “Elizabeth”.
It is difficult to impart in words – English ones anyway; perhaps Tlingit has a term for it – the peculiar quality of disgust and horror we felt at hearing a dog so named.  At the time, "Elizabeth" was the name we had informally chosen for our baby-to-be, not yet conceived, but imagined to be a daughter.   Its affixation to a (canine) was like a Paternoster read backwards, like a crucifix in a jar of piss.  It is an offense against Saint Elizabeth, and against all her namesakes, and against all parents of thus christened daughters.

            And as the noble names of men and women have come to be bestowed upon unworthy and uncomprehending beasts, so too, in these corroded times, these actual women and men, made in God's image and instilled with an immortal soul, are yet docketed with monickers that sound like the sort of things marketing firms come up with as car-names or drug-names, something reminiscent of an actual word perhaps  but just enough off that it can be trademarked.   I am not referring to old chestnuts like Placenta or Meconium, offspring of ignorance and the knavery of interns, but of syllable-strings chosen deliberately, by parents who should know better.  Names like… but we must not further embarrass their bearers, innocent heirs of the sins of the sires.

            Since some of our fellow-citizens are evidently having difficulties in these matters, we offer herewith, free of surcharge, this handy guide.

What to Name the Hamster
            The best name, 'Pip', bestowed on his pet by our (later) child of five [etymology: < 'Pint-sized Pipsqueak] has been taken, and is hereby officially reserved and retired.  But there are others almost equally good.  As:


What to Name the Cat

            and, for the literarily inclined (well represented among cat-owners) Grimalkin, Tybalt.
[Note:  “Fluffy” also works for bunnies, hamsters, koalas, etc.]

What to Name the Dog

            Ideally there would be no dog to name. In the unfortunate contrary case, it would simplify matters considerably if every dog were simply automatically named "Rover".  As a side benefit, no family could ever own more than one dog.
            That said, Dickens did find a truly excellent name for Jupe’s performing dog in Hard Times:  “Merrylegs”.   So, there might be occasional exceptions.

What to Name your Automobile

And finally, crucially:

What to Name a Boy
            Choose a boy's name.

What to Name a Girl
            Choose a girl's name.

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