Mumble years ago, my husband and I were sitting in a comedy club in Charlotte NC when the poor visiting comedian decided to make a riff on common cats’ names versus common dogs’ names, or such. He started by saying that dogs were given manly names – I don’t remember the examples he gave – while cats got names... and here he made the mistake of pausing and asking who in the audience had cats. Our entire table raised their hands.
The comedian might still have saved himself, had he noticed that we looked a little... unusual... He didn’t. So he asks my husband his cat’s name. He said, “Petronius the Arbiter, cat from Hades.” Comedian said “uh” but, nothing daunted, proceeded on his – oh so very – unwise course. He points at me – clearly not taking the hint that we were married from our holding hands. Or perhaps he thought one of us had to be sane – and says, “And your cat’s name?” “I have two,” I said. “Random Numbers and Pixel Wallwalker.” You’d think by this point he would take a hint, but nothing doing. He points to a friend of ours at same table and says, “And yours?” “Crystal.” Another friend, “Yours?” “Myiuki,” he says. “It means Deep Snow and...” At which point the man lost it. “WHAT are you guys? Did you land from Planet Weirdo?”
All I can say is he could have done worse. He might have found a table full of writers. Recently while talking about cats to a friend, it occurred to me that writers have a strange and creative approach to naming their cats. (Some of them carry this as far as naming their kids, their cars, their home appliances and their dental floss. The least said about THOSE writers, the best.)
For instance, the Hoyt demesne is afflicted with a mix of variously named felines, ranging from our own characters to other people’s characters. Under my own characters we have Miranda Princess D’Ardenes (And no, Sean, if you read this, I did not want to name her after the little b*tch in my third published book. Unfortunately it was the only name she responded to), and D’Artagnan Monsieur de Pink Nose. Dan’s character’s name Ninth Euclid Ancel graces the black silky fur (except in the places he’s pulled it off, aka his legs and tummy) of the cat otherwise known as The Neurotalon. Inexplicably, for reasons known only to Bast – who clearly has a sense of humor – our newest cat, the fluffy bundle of purrs and squeaks we found at a golf course, would only answer to Havelock Vetinari, aka Terry Pratchett’s Patrician. In Havey’s defense, he probably heard it as “Havoc” and has been living up to it. The outdoor not-our-cat TM (Ask my husband. Cat is named, chipped and vaccinated, but he’s NOT our cat. Dan says so. And I think I swore to obey him. Or the other way around. Well, obedience was in there, somewhere) earned the name Greebo by beating up a mad feral tom who was courting mom cat when Greebo was around ten weeks old. His brother who -- I think -- is the mastermind of the duo, answers to Maurice. He usually “talks” in response, which goes to show. (Not sure what, but it does go to show.)
And if at this point you’re thinking my family is exceptionally weird, let me grace you with the names of pets of a few of my writerly acquaintances: Walter Jon Williams has a cat named Charles Dickens, because he (the cat, not Walter!) is one. Cynthia Ward calls her (we’re sure blameless. We’ve yet to meet a cat who wasn’t) cats Schwa and Umlaut. Tom Ashwell named his cat Smudge, which sounds downright cozy and sane. Darwin Garrison (we’re sure for good and sufficient reason. We’re afraid to ask which) calls his gray Himalayan mix Vash the Stampede. Michael Britton has cast the name Francisco Thomas on the head of his unsuspecting captive feline (though in Michael’s defense, he calls the cat Sisko.) Jessica Schlenker not only called her cat Vampire Hunter D, but seems to have called him that because he used to suck people’s necks. [No, we’re not going to enquire any further. We’re scared. (As for why I’m using the first person plural it’s because I’d be afraid of being singular in the presence of these names.)] Brad Sinor comes in on the side of nominally sane, since he named his grey cats Ash and Pewter which at least has a nodding acquaintance with shared reality. Aaron Bilodeau has named his cat Grendel (doubtless the next addition to the family will be Beowulf.) Julie Hyzy calls her cat Kitka which might seem charmingly feline, until you hear it’s short for Kitayna Ireyna Tatanya Kerenska Alisoff, apparently a name assumed by Catwoman. (Um, tangentially related to cats, but I think in violation of the rule that no cat should be given a name longer than the cat itself.)
Meg Turville-Heitz admits to Scooby, Pig, Spot, Razz (short for Raspberry) and the most boringly named Callie, who replaced Dudie the Himalayan. To make up for Callie, though, she offers to give us the names of the chickens and the sheep. (And apparently they don’t go by the collective name “food” – who knew? Though she does say the sheep tend to get food names. Considering I once named pet mice Whiskas and Nine Lives, I can’t comment.) Walt Boyes named his cats Stinkerbelle-of-the-ball and Mister Grimace. Strangely, neither of the cats has clawed him to death in his sleep. Go figure. All of this is eclipsed by my writer friend, Amanda Green, who named her cat Thena, after the main character of Darkship Thieves. (Ladies and gentlemen, would you do that? And then cuddle said cat? I’ll note cat does her best to live up to it.)
Dead cats aren’t particularly safe. We’re sure in whatever after-mice they inhabit, Steven Swiniarski’s Schrodinger & Mu are still wondering why. And we’re fairly sure death hasn’t stopped Fuzzard meditating revenge upon Danney Reese (wonder what spectral hairballs are like?) Lin Wicklund’s late lamented black cat was called Sam Spade, the Maltese Feline – we assume she was hard to find? (She? Lin! And we thought we knew you.) Walter Jon Williams had a cat called Tenzing Norgay because he liked to climb. (Are there cats who don’t? Where have all of you been hiding them? Can someone hook us up with a kitten who won’t dance along the top of our bookcases raining books down on our heads?) He also tells us a conveniently unnamed friend (wink, wink nudge, nudge?) named her cat Frogs In Space. “She” used to go to “her” door and yell out “Frogs in Space.” (We think Walter should admit he’s a writer and therefore strange and stop trying to pass that amazingly creative feat of naming onto an imaginary friend. :) ) Debbora Wiles has had an array of dauntingly named cats: Tea Pot, Ginger, Dominique, Pepsi, Knight Rider, Booger, Sparks, Sebastian, Kasper (whom we assume is now the friendly cat ghost.) She’s offered to give us the names of eighty or so named koi out in the koi pond, but we feel there is knowledge man (or woman, or small child) is not supposed to pursue.
Writers frustrated by the lack of cats aren’t any less weird. Taylor Lunsford’s dog glories in the unusual name of Flyer (you know he sits on top of his doghouse, chasing the Red Baron.) Mark W. Tiedemann named his dog Coffey. Meg Turville-Heitz, in addition to cats and sheep and chickens, has a dog named Murphy (whom we presume is a law onto himself.) Carol Hightshoe had a dog named Bexar Waarigul Little One Whimper Hightshoe. For some reason she seems to believe the fact she called him Beer Bexar for short makes it all better. Ryk Spoor believes the fact that he’s allergic to cats will excuse him for naming a dog the macho name of Ferocious. (Though I admit the fact that it’s a miniature poodle might earn him some irony points.) And Dave Boop claims innocence due to lack of cats and dogs, but cops to OWNING a ten year old and some fish. I’m scared to ask their names.
OTOH, no cat, dead, alive, or so eccentric as to be a dog (or a sheep, or a chicken or, for that matter, a koi) can glory in a name as strange as the young cat adopted by my friend Kate Paulk, which -- in the Terry Pratchett scale of names most and least suitable to be called out in the middle of the night while banging a spoon on the food dish (number ten being a short, non-embarrassing name like “Zut”) -- is at least a -20. This cat, ladies, gentlemen and writers, glories in the name Little Bugger. (For more on how he was named, see her live journal link. http://katepaulk.livejournal.com/9693.html where she shamelessly admits to other reckless naming of cats. ) Imagine roaming your neighborhood at night, banging on the cat dish and shouting, “Little Bugger, come to Mommy, I have nummy tuna.”
Now excuse me, I must go out and call Greebo Witchcat Ogg Hoyt and find out why he hasn’t shown up for dinner.