Rhapsody’s Rules for The Naming of Cats And Children (Not a Difficult Matter At All)

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In the early days of Rhapsody in Cool I said advice was “a sordid business” that I was not going to get mixed up in.

I spoke prematurely.

Why deprive the Rhapsody salon-goers of these 16 valuable tips? My brief presentation will reduce stress, strain and poor choices, and allow me to try that wonderful blogger’s trick, the Numbered List, which works like a supportive bra to hoist up wobbly prose.

In honor of today’s salon topic, I’m serving Love Birds (vodka, sweet-and-sour mix, rum and grenadine). So get yourself a highball, friends, and let’s click to the first slide!

* * * *

1. Nothing that produces hairballs has any business going by the name Shakespeare, Bronte, Faulkner or any other famed author. It goes without saying that this also applies to babies, given what they are apt to produce. If you feel a literary name will increase your child’s odds of being a writer, consider that he can rise to fame with the name Tim just as easily, and without the burden of expectation.

Some of you will insist on writery names, but before you yoke your child with Ovid or Yeats please remember that there are also important poets called John and Anne.

Lastly, if you think that giving your cat an erudite name will raise the cat’s opinion of you, remember that cats use just one name for all humans and it is Jerk Face.

2. A note of caution. Making fun of the names other people’s children and pets is one of the last socially sanctioned forms of snobbery, so stop and think before you speak. Then, after a moment’s thoughtful pause, continue as before.

3. “Funny” names should be avoided. Children will resent you for mistaking a birth certificate for an open-mike comedy event. Thus, Banjo is not an acceptable choice.

A cat’s sense of integrity, however, is impervious. You could name him Bozo the Clown and it would only sharpen his sense that you are a trial to be borne lightly. A can-opener on legs. But canines, apparently, care very much what humans think of them, so a dog named Cheezit may take it hard.

4. A bit more on dogs. I have less interest in this topic, never having lived with a dog, but I find it odd that some dogs are given human names like Angela or Pete. Dogs are not people. I’m told they are usually much better.

5. Rhapsody will consider the use of names of jazz and blues musicians for cats or children, if you feel you have some reasonable claim to Miles, Charlie or Thelonius. These are American classics.

Waylon Jennings, while a perfectly absurd name for a cat, would suit any baby I have ever met, as would Fats Waller.

6. Specific Exception: You, or the mother/father of your child, are French. Félicitations! The names Arnot, Bernadette and Noemi are yours to use as you wish. All those with a non-EU passport: hands off.

7. If you are keen on trailer park names—Bubba, Inez, Skeeter—I regret to inform you that you are too late. This trend was taken up by the rich several seasons ago, and the names have already cycled through the middle and working classes right back to actual trailer parks, where they virtually guarantee the continued poverty of the recipient. For a shame-inducing explanation of how this works, see Freakanomics.

8. Naming your child for an idea (Justice) a type of weather (Breeze) or a wealthy California zip code (Atherton) betrays an eagerness on your part which may cause your child to overcorrect (Crime. Humid. Watts.)

Cats are not bothered by such choices, but by the same token, even naming your cat True Love will not alter his basic contempt for you. Call him Mr. Bojangles and he may actually consider you a worthy opponent.

9. Specific Exception: You are a chef. Lucky you! Dolce, Alfredo and Apple are acceptable choices. Cat or kid: we don’t care.

10. If you’re going to be weird, you must commit. Moon Unit crashes right through the barricades from strange to strangely beautiful, while Memphis Eve merely loiters at the intersection of Pretentious and Stupid.

11. I once met a dog named Happy-Fantastic. And he was.

12. Specific Exception: You are the Holy Spirit. Neat! Your choice of the name Messiah, Savior or First-born from the dead, will not land you in court as it did this woman. Your family may want to skip the Easter/Passover/Solstice/Beltane potluck at the Unitarian church.

13. Great care should be taken in the choosing of a name. Mr. Roboto and I gave long consideration to the naming of Brioche and Tannery, choosing names that bespeak the humble sweetness of another time and place, but also an inalienable entitlement. (Our early prototypes, Muffin and Toolbelt, were a bit too raw for folks with our kennel papers).

14. Rule #1 notwithstanding, T. S. Eliot would be a fine name for a cat. As would Rhapsody.

15. If all children named Carson and Oliver were lined up end-to-end, they would reach Jupiter. We are not going so far as to suggest that this should be attempted.  Yet.

16. A cat called Oliver is just fine. Jerk Face.

And that ends our painless presentation. Feel free to add your own tips below. Rhapsody will be back soon with the Sundance Festilog, more Failure Memoirs, and career retooling ideas for Paula Dean.



P.S. There’s a “Follow” button on the top right and a “Share” button below. Don’t make me debase myself by saying it any more plainly.


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