15 November 2009

The name game.



I've been periodically wracking my brain to think up the right name for this kitten since I brought her home last Sunday. The woman who gave her to me called her Pepper--the opposite of creative. I called her Bean when we were in Rittenhouse Square. I thought I'd call her Spectra because she's white and black--the opposite ends of all visible color and none. Then I considered Yin, and Yang, and Yin-Yang. I moved on to Pinto because she's painted like a pinto bean or horse, and she flies around like a Mexican jumping bean (when she's awake). Someone else told me she looks like a Sprout, which was my favorite yet. Then I started spouting things in word vomit to see if anything fit: Daffodil, Maisy, Cupcake, Jaundice, Slapstick. Hopeless. I think so much that I can't even settle on a name for a cat.

Tonight, as I was writing and absorbing more of the Internet, she wouldn't leave my space. She climbed on the keyboard while I typed, attacked my camera when I turned it on, licked at my water bottle when I tried to drink, and then promptly fell asleep on my journal when she noticed I was writing in it. I looked in her eyes, and the name Isis popped into my head. I didn't even really know who Isis is, so I looked it up. Isis is the Egyptian goddess of earth, motherhood, and magic. Perfect fit for me, right? Turns out, Catwoman's cat was Isis, too. And Google showed me pictures proving that tons of other people have already named their cats Isis.

Once again, I'm left realizing that nothing I think is ever original. So I thought some more, and I've finally reached a conclusion:

What is a name, anyway? This cat is entirely awesome. I was worried at first that I made the wrong decision, what with her jumping all over the place and waking me up at 6am and being a cause now for me to have to come home every day to check on her wellbeing, but it seems to me that she has a pretty incredible little kitty personality. She loves my attention and everyone else's. She'd much rather sleep directly on or near me than anywhere else in the apartment. She's self-disciplining. When I pour a ton of food in her bowl, it lasts up to 2 or 3 days, and I don't have to worry about malnourishing her for proper growth. She purrs like a jet engine, licks my nose, and presses her paws to my cheeks to get my attention.

Regardless of whether she lives in my apartment and I feed her, she's still an independent creature. I don't want her to be just another domesticated pet. Why nott have a non-traditional cat for a non-traditional life. Who am I to name her, to pin her down to a label and steal away her ambiguity? This cat will not have a name, and she could be addressed by any name that fits her on any particular day. Mostly, I don't think I'll call her anything. If you come over and a name strikes you, I say go for it.

Did you ever notice that the people you care about most are the people you address by name the least? You may call them nicknames, or pet names, but rarely their given name. When you meet a new person and they have the same name as another person you know, memories, emotions, and judgments often flow forth assuming the two must share the same qualities.

A lot of people don't like their names, and a lot of people legally change them. To many, a name is everything. To others, it's nothing--just another way for humans to capture something they sense and provide it a meaning that everyone else is supposed to understand. No one human's understanding of another's meaning is ever the same, so why bring animals into it, too?


That leads me to another thought: How can anyone think it's a good idea to name a baby before giving birth to it? Doesn't that seem a bit overzealous? Presumptive? Ominous? Let the baby breathe and exist by itself before bestowing such linguistic weight upon it.

Another reason to have a midwife: I'll name and "certify" my baby when I damn well feel like it. And I won't name animals that live in my home.

5 comments:

TallGirl said...

You sound like Prince, who let his baby name himself. I get what you're saying, but a name let's a pet (or baby) feel it has an identity. My cats learned their names pretty quickly and will respond when you say their names. I think once again you're putting too much pressure on yourself to be uber-creative and unique. Just name the cat - go with your first instinct. And then you can call her whatever you choose anyway. (Our particular favorite nicknames for ours are fun names like Mr. Kittypants, SillySally, and DumDum.)

Courtney said...

Don't freak out! It doesn't need to be a unique, never-before-though-of creative masterpiece! If you liked Bean and it fit, go with it! In my mind names provide a sense of belonging, permanence, and let you know that someone cares enough about you to help give you an identity. Haven't you read of those studies/ books of kids not given names? They feel unloved and without a place!

But maybe I just like thinking of names...Hell, I named my grasshead plant and my robot fan

Rachel said...

are you kidding me? names are great! and nicknames are even better -- the RE-naming of people you love shows how familiar and close your relationship is, not ownership -- although i suppose it is, in a sense, ownership, but i don't see anything wrong with people having a little friendly possession over one another's names (you can call me scratch with or without my permission, and i'll love you for it).

i'd just name the cat alice.

TallGirl said...

Effie Camille Alice Falafel Bean Mello really is a beautiful name.

Gretchen said...

Your cat is adorable! I love cats, and I think she probably has her own name picked out for herself (cats usually do) and maybe one day she'll let you know what it is. In the mean time, I would suggest Anomen - the Nameless One (granted that's in two different languages, but it sounds prettier that way!)