In some primitive societies (and some ancient societies, and some societies in literature of the fantastic), it is believed that names have great power. One never reveals his true name to a stranger, lest they gain power over him by using it. And, of course, we give a lot of thought to our own names.
Consider how heated the debate can be over naming a child. Parents spend a lot of time thinking about the perfect name. They do not always reach a particularly good decision. Sometimes they have too much imagination, and sometimes not enough.
In the “too much” category, I put the folks who make up new and bizarre names that are very difficult to decipher from their unique spelling. I would also include folks who give the child a pretty normal name, but spell it in such a way as to doom them to a lifetime of mispronunciation and repeated explanations. I mean, theoretically, you can spell “fish” as “ghoti”, but most people don’t get it immediately (“gh” as in cough, “I” as in women, and “ti” as in caution; English – you gotta love it).
Then there are the names that are easily spelled and pronounced, but… I’m thinking of people who name their kids after motorcycles, pickup trucks, and so forth. Or the school that had three little girls who were each named “Unique”. I’m ignoring the urban legends of Lemonjello and Orangejello.
Too little imagination may not be a problem. If you use this year’s trendy name, at least the kid will feel like he fits in. In my generation, there were tons of Steves and Mikes, and Lindas and Debbies. Thirty-five years ago there were Jasons and Heathers all over the place. There can be drawbacks, though. I well remember one of my son’s ball-games when there were two boys named Cody on each team. Four Codys on the field at once makes it a little confusing with coaches and parents trying to yell out instructions.
My uncle was doing genealogy research and found one family with eleven children, the eleventh of whom was christened “Eleven”. You have to wonder if they lost their Bible or just got tired or what. That is seriously not enough imagination.
My parents decided to call me by my middle name. No problem back in the day, I suppose, but by the time I started school everything was “first name, middle initial, last name”. Going by your middle name is not handy. I determined that I would give my children simple, strong names, easy to say, easy to spell, and call them by their first names.
I guess I’m in the “names have power” school. There may one day be a Supreme Court Justice named Candy, but I don’t think it would be helpful. My sister’s middle name is Candace, and my grandfather is alleged to have been pushing for Penelope Candace so that she could be nicknamed “Penny Candy”. Great name for a stripper, but not for a Supreme Court Justice. [Disclaimer: one of the very nicest, most capable ladies I know is named Candy, and it hasn’t slowed her down a bit that I can tell. Still…]
Names are important for the dog, because you’re going to use that name, and he will respond to it. Most obedience trainers recommend a two-syllable name. Too many syllables and the dog has gone on to something else before he realizes he’s being called. The commands are one-syllable, so you don’t want any confusion there, certainly not like the old Steven Wright joke: “I named my dog Stay. It didn’t work out. Come here, Stay.”
Which brings us, finally, to cat names. Kind of like “Alices’s Restaurant” (“Remember Alice? This is a song about Alice.”) Cat names have no power. It’s not that cats cannot recognize or respond to their names. It’s just that they frequently choose not to. The dog is alert for his name, and anxious to come running when he hears it. He wants to please you. The cat pursues his own agenda. It may include interaction with you, and it may not.
This is why instead of “Yo, Fluffy!”, you hear grown men calling “Here, kitty, kitty, kitty” in a falsetto voice like a little girl. Somehow that has become ingrained in our culture as something cats respond to. Maybe they respond to it because it strikes them as hilariously funny and they love to see you making a fool out of yourself. Cats definitely have a sense of humor, and it frequently does not correspond to our own.
So, really, it doesn’t much matter what you name the cat, because he doesn’t much care what you think. He may have some secret cat-language name which you will never know.
Naming children weird stuff is cruel, and naming the dog weird stuff is counterproductive because it makes them more difficult to call.
Cats give you a wide-open field. You’re just giving them names for your own entertainment, so you can absolutely go hog-wild. Some friends of mine named a cat “Ace Baby Toad-flakes”. The dog would have been run over by a car before you had him called out of the road. The child would become an axe-murderer. The cat is paying no attention, so knock yourself out. Looking for suggestions? Take a look at this really fun website: catnamescity.com