Monday, October 11, 2010

The Name Game

One of our Champagne authors, Jane Toombs, wrote about her cat, Kinko. I was immediately envious of the name, a "purrfect" name for a writer’s cat. A writer should come up with good, creative names for pets. We do it for our characters. We search and replace so as not to give them unlikely names.

Only one of our pets escaped the pre-naming game, Maori, our first golden retriever, named for the New Zealand aboriginals. Like their Polynesian ancestors, they tattoo their faces and draw circles around their eyes. Maori was so marked.

Alas, my pets have been named not by literary people but literal people.

For instance, Puppy, an intelligent blue-black lab came to us at seven months of age. She was named and trained by a man who raised huskies. She crouched under a table when Kelly, an Alaskan husky, ran though the room, taking the carpet with her. My husband and I looked at each other and shook our heads. The owner, seeing our distress, said, "You could have Puppy." She looked up with big hopeful eyes, capturing our hearts before we'd arrived home

Daisy was 18-months old when we rescued her. Blondie and Dagwood’s creator introduced his Daisy more than 50 years ago. Even now, Daisy is the most common name people give their female dog.

Goldie deserved a more dignified name. She was wise at five years of age when her tearful father stumbled back into his empty van and made his way home alone. His young children were allergic to Goldie and her cat, who already had left home without her. Goldie spent her first night in her new home whimpering. For a few years she checked every white van that passed us on walkies. Yet only a week after she’d moved in with us, visitors thought we’d had her for years.

My fictional dogs have important parts to play in my books. In Mortal Coil, Sherman, the damnyankee dog, is a star. He’s a golden retriever, smart like Goldie and beautiful like Maori.

In my first published book, our hero depends on Rolex, the watchdog.

Lucifer was the most fun to name in an otherwise serious book. My young heroine is stuck in the pantry overnight with this huge white bullmastiff. The naughty nuns had named him Lucifer.

In our nonfiction lives, we acquired Kitty-kitty, who campaigned for our love with loud persistence. Twenty years later Kitty-kitty is stuck with that moniker. She should have received a regal name. She is a family member in every way. She lifeguards the pool when we swim. She sees that we get to bed on time and that we are up to feed her and ourselves. Kitty-kitty is a published author in both England and the U.S. In her "An A-mewsing Tail," she documents the story of how she came to win us over—more like breaking us down. She goes incognito in several of my novels.

She’s Lillyputt, a loving companion, in one story.

She’s Cufflinks, a male cat who belongs to the hero who also sports cufflinks. Cufflinks faces off with the heroine’s pet Mynah bird, Bilgewater.

Bilgewater is a foul-mouthed fowl. He’s the malevolent East India Mynah bird with a vocabulary absorbed from his first residence, a dockside bar.

It’s great fun to give our characters names befitting their styles. Creativity has its privileges. But author-pet owners have responsibilities.

Julie Eberhart Painter
Mortal Coil and Tangled Web
Julie is a author
Her Web site is


Ashley Barnard said...

These are great names! Thanks for sharing the naming history. I always want to name my pets after characters, or at least characters' pets, but other family members usually get their way. : )