By Any Other Name
Sherlock did not stand out as any particular breed among catdom, but he manifested one unusual characteristic. He could find anything that was lost.
Cats are entertaining and extraordinary creatures. I know, we’ve had many of them. Ours was mostly an involuntary feline foster home, and an inordinate portion of our weekly food bill went for dietary necessities other than our own. However, this came under the budget heading of continuing entertainment.
Banshee: aka “Puss”, aka “Tigger”, aka “Tigger from Hell, surveying from his lordly overlook.
Because of their unique position in the world — human and animal — a cat’s name must naturally be just as unique and should be given much thought. They either grow into them by personality quirks, or they evolve, as with our late orange tabby, Banshee (aka “Puss”, aka “Tigger”, aka “Tigger from Hell” (see his memoirs entitled “By a Whisker”).
I was reminded of this when another blogger shared her experience in dubbing her own beloved feline extraordinaire, which she named “Chicago White Sox” because he had white paws. The name got shortened to “Chicago”, but, as she so aptly put it, “Have you ever tried calling ‘Here Chicago, here Chicago’? So they shortened his name to “Chico”, which, as she said, “rolled off the tongue better”.http://travelbug-susan.blogspot.com/
Some of the most unique names our cats have inherited from their two-legged chattels belonged to those who exhibited almost human qualities. Take “Sherlock”, for instance. Sherlock did not stand out as any particular breed among catdom, but he manifested one unusual characteristic. He could find anything that was lost. If an object lurked anywhere in the shadows, his Holmes-like radar would soon bring it out into the light. And it was never something that cats would normally be interested in, like a ball or a ball of twine or cat toy. It would always be something of use to us, that we had misplaced or lost. Actually, it was rather spooky in a fun, Hitchcockian sort of way.
Then there was Gideon Smith-McTavish. Yes. This was a cat, and, no, he was not named for a Scottish ancestor. Gideon came into his “Christian” name when we noticed how he drank water. He would cup his paw, dip it into the bowl, and raise his paw to his mouth. (Believe it or not, this is true). For those of you who are not familiar with the Bible story of Gideon (book of Judges), this is how God down-sized Gideon’s army. Gideon’s army was already so greatly outnumbered by their Midianite foe that facing them was nothing short of suicidal. However, God wanted the numerical gulf to be so great that the resulting victory could only be engineered by the Divine Himself. God instructed Gideon to have his men drink from a stream and to note, as they knelt by it, who bent down and lapped at the water, and who cupped the water and drank it from their hands. Those who lapped the water were sent home, and the ones who cupped the water remained. Thus, the name Gideon for our cat.
As he matured, this beautifully gray-colored tom began to sprout heavy “mutton-chop” sideburns, just like you see in old pictures of rugged Scotsmen. Gideon looked so like a cat caricature of a Scotsman we were surely forced into adding the name “McTavish”. It just sounds the epitome of a mutton-chopped Scot. Then, as we would proudly share his name with others, we wanted to be sure they knew he belonged to us, so we added “Smith” as the bridge between the first and the last names. But in the normal course of everyday events, those who knew him well just called him “Giddy”. We only called him by his full name when we were bragging, or if he was being more than a little rambunctious.
Then you have the misnomers. Our male Siamese “Sabre” was every ounce the lithe, masculine tom, with rippling muscles like a jungle cat. And he had long, wicked, stiletto claws. The name “Sabre” fit him like a surgical glove until . . . well . . . until we discovered he was a complete and craven coward. During Sabre’s tenure at our home, we did not have a laundry room, but we did have a small barn out back with electrical outlets. So, a corner of it became our laundry room.
Sabre — “I just look laser-tough. In reality, I’m just a pussycat.” Make that “scaredy-cat”
One day when I opened the lid of the washer, I looked eyeball to eyeball with a little mouse making himself comfortable inside. The only mouse I’m comfortable with is Mickey, so this one was far from welcome. I raced for the house to find Sabre, and, as luck would have it, found him loitering nearby enjoying his cat leisure. “It’s time you earned your room and board,” I said, as I grabbed him up in my arms and raced back to the barn where I stuffed him headfirst into the washer. Like Mt. Vesuvius Sabre erupted, but not, as I expected, in a blitzkreig of cat/mouse carnage. Sabre came up out of that washer like there was a springboard hidden inside. I never knew what happened to the mouse. I was outta there, too, screaming, “You big dummy! You big coward!” all the way. Didn’t say much for my own intrepidity, but, hey. I have a hard time just growing decent fingernails.
So, you see, you have to be careful with names. But a cat, by any name whatsoever, is still a cat. They make the world a more fun place. Check out the following: