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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Naming Dogs

By Sam Huntington

I have always found the process of naming pets interesting. I obviously don’t know what the thinking was eons ago when Americans began naming their dogs after European royalty, but I suspect it may have been intentionally insulting. Americans have long rejected any notion they are inferior to other mortals —and while it is true our ancestors once knelt on bended knee, I suspect doing so was merely preferable to spending a few years in some dank dungeon dining on Bat guano.
I imagine that naming dogs after European royalty began after 1754, a time when both Great Britain and France used American colonists and Native Americans as pawns in their quest for power and real estate.

My research tells me that early on, dogs were simply called “dogge,” mainly because that’s what they were. Before dogs had names, they seldom slept inside the house with their humans; no self-respecting American canine would put up with that today. And then people began to name their animals according to the services they performed. Hunting dogs may have been called “Hunter.” If they protected the family or livestock from wolves, they may have been called “Wolf.” If they were very large dogs, people may have called them “big boy” or “Bear.”

Then, in the late eighteenth century, people began naming their dogs King, Queenie, Duke, Duchess, Lady, Prince, Princess, Baron, Tsar, or Caesar. And, as an aside, if you need a good laugh, check out the comedy of Eddie Izzard in his stand-up routine, “Mr. Dog to Cesar.”

Our disdain for members of the aristocracy remained popular until only recently when people decided to call their dogs by other names. Spotted dogs were often called Spot, female dogs “Lassie,” and if we suspected them of being extraterrestrials, we named them “Frank.” Remember when Dalmatians were associated with firefighting and were often called “Sparky?”

Our dogs today have less than robust names: Fifi describes the high-maintenance poodle whose owners have them enrolled in a dog spa; Marley could be the name of a cockapoo who responds to reggae music or whose owner’s brain was, over time, fried from drug use.

Most dogs today are no longer working animals. They are creatures of comfort, our friends, and the guardians of our innermost secrets. And they have become the target of a multi-billion dollar industry —including mental health therapists, wellness clubs, and everything from diamond-studded sweaters to pet cemeteries with angelic music playing softly in the background. If this trend continues, a Shih Tzu could one day secure the Democratic nomination for president.

Perhaps it is just as well that we no longer name our dogs after royalty. No one wants to hear their neighbors calling out, “Here, Barack,” or “Sit, Hillary.”

30 comments:

  1. Interesting take. I never thought about the "royalty" part of naming dogs. But, upon thought, true enough!

    BZ

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  2. Yeah, I definitely can't see naming one of my pooches Barack! UGH!

    I bet Bo is getting nervous here lately... ;)

    My Dane, Fortune, is actually named misfortune by her breeder as her mother sat on and broke her leg when she was a little pup, got that fixed and then was adopted by an abuser who the breeder literally repossessed her from once she found out.

    My Pitt Bull is named Kona after the trip I took to Hawaii. My favorite island was Kauai, but I thought that would be difficult for her to learn. So, Kona!

    My dogs do have a job... Fortune, although elderly and sometimes forgetful now is a Canine Good Citizen, and watches the house. If she barks or finds something to guard against, Kona is right there to back her up, even though she is typically very gentle. I know that the dogs would never hurt anyone, but they do have a very intimidating bark.

    Now as for the naming thing... My cats both have names that the children assigned them, but they answer to, 'hey, cat!'

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  3. You can easily name your dog Barack if...

    ...it leaves massive deficits on the floor

    ...it chews priceless heirloom papers to shreds. Especaily the one that begins with "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union,..."

    ... it is not very good as a watchdog, in fact it barks happily when the worst criminals enter your home.

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  4. I should think Michelle (spelled with two L's please) would be a good name for any bitch.

    Hillary (again with two L's please) would have been my first choice in that category prior to 2008.

    [NOTE: Spelling those names with double-L's is a sign of ignorance and careless upbringing -- like spelling Deborah as Debra or Janice as Janis or Dolores as Delores or presenting Sean phonetically as either Shawn or Shaun]

    ~ FreeThinke

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  5. Duke, Count, and Earl have been used as names for boys in the United States -- definitely a gentle form of mockery -- almost of nose-thumbing -- at anything deemed "high class."

    Contempt for refinement and mockery of the tastes and pursuits of privileged individuals have been hallmarks of rank and file Americans since the early days of the republic, and even before. Things changed abruptly in the Sick-sties when the children of Privilege began aggressively to exalt and to emulate the customs, tastes and mores of the base born.

    Heaven has always been thought to be UP, Hell DOWN.

    I'll give you three guesses to determine the direction in which we are currently moving.

    ~ FreeThinke

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  6. I really thought you would mention the fact that Obama named his dog after himself; "Bo".

    I have chided (good naturedly, of course) my wife often about how she always names her dogs names that end with the double "e" sound.

    Our 6 dogs names are:

    Kacey (a mix of Yellow Lab and Rhodesian Ridgeback), Rusty (a Puggle), Holly (a miniature Dachsund), Cody (a Bischon with a lame rear leg), Katie (a Toy Poodle), and Coco.

    Kasey, Rusty, and Coco all rescues.

    She named Coco after I started picking on her about the double "e" sounds at the end of their names. She has had, in the past, dogs named Suzie, Taffy, Casey...you see?

    Coco is a black tea cup Poodle. Because she's French, and black, her full name is Coco Chanel.

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  7. I have always had potential presidential meals running around my house and our current lab/mix is named Riley in following an Irish sounding tradition.

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  8. Iteresting. I never gavr a thought to the royalty angle; but now that you say it, it makes sense. I have generally named ny dogs, based their personalities, to people I have know or person from history or from literature. I've had a George and a Napoleon. I currently have a dog that I named Don Quijote.

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  9. Before I was born my Mom and Dad had a Cocker Spaniel whose name was -- are you ready for this? -- Mr. Pussy -- Mom's idea. She had a taste and a great talent for whimsy.

    From the way they talked I think they probably loved Mr. Pussy even more than they loved me. I still have a ceramic statue of "Mr. Pussy" one of aunt's gave Mom and Dad after the poor dear fellow had to be put to sleep shortly before I was born.

    A cherished memory of a dog I never knew who, nevertheless, had a big influence on my life.

    Never underestimate the importance of a pet.

    ~ FreeThinke

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  10. I would never insult a dog by calling him "Barack", ha.

    We always had a name for our dogs before we got them.



    Debbie
    Right Truth
    http://www.righttruth.typepad.com

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  11. "If this trend continues, a Shih Tzu could one day secure the Democratic nomination for president."

    To bad that "one day" wasn't in January 2009! We would all be MUCH BETTER OFF!!

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  12. I've named only one dog, a beagle mix. I was about four years old at the time.

    And his name was [drum roll] "Spot."

    My friend Warren named his wife's chihuahua "Spike." LOL. But Spike is a bit fearsome as he has extra teeth. He loves to grin, too.

    The dog that my family had the longest was a brown-spotted Dalmatian. She was a rescue at three years of age. Her name was "Tina," and the name fit her. She was quite small for a Dalmatian.

    Mark makes a good point:

    Obama named his dog after himself; "Bo".

    Doesn't that just figure?

    Poor dog.

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  13. Poor, poor dog...

    My dogs had theme naming: Chawser (no clue about spelling), Chance, Cavalier, Cricket, Cabouse, etc. With the exception of Anabelle, a rescue, all C names. Needless to say, keeping track was annoying!

    That is an interesting fact... though I would say nowadays people honor instead of insult others by naming a dog after them. Maybe due to the fact dogs are comfort crearures, not workers... no better then cats. (BTW, cats usually have high sounding names if not the silly 'fluffy' or like from what I've seen.)

    @FT (bitch post) lol! I would agree, but I think the owner would be sickened having to call the pet that when praising it (scolding though...).

    -Wildstar

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  14. Poor, poor dog...

    My dogs had theme naming: Chawser (no clue about spelling), Chance, Cavalier, Cricket, Cabouse, etc. With the exception of Anabelle, a rescue, all C names. Needless to say, keeping track was annoying!

    That is an interesting fact... though I would say nowadays people honor instead of insult others by naming a dog after them. Maybe due to the fact dogs are comfort crearures, not workers... no better then cats. (BTW, cats usually have high sounding names if not the silly 'fluffy' or like from what I've seen.)

    @FT (bitch post) lol! I would agree, but I think the owner would be sickened having to call the pet that when praising it (scolding though...).

    -Wildstar

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  15. Wildstar,
    The spelling of that first name on your list is Chaucer (after the author of Canterbury Tales, a book you'd love, BTW).

    Years ago, I named one of my cats Julius Augustus Caesar. High-sounding enough? **wink**

    As you know, the cats I presently have have rather silly names -- well, except for Cameo.

    The cat that we lost in 2008 did have a regal name, however: Sheba. A kind of joke as we rescued her from sleeping with the winos in the alleys in a nearby city.

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  16. All the dogs I had growing up had people names except for one - Gi-Gi, and she was named by my Mother.

    Now I have cats with cat names - Tigger & Whiskers.

    Go figure...

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  17. I'm going to get all "nerdy" on you. I named my beautiful cat "Ziyal."

    Her name derives from a woman from Star Trek who is half Bajoran and half Cardassian.

    What can I say, I am Trekkie all the way.

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  18. Giving dogs unusual names runs in my family---mother began it. I recall a Boston Terrier named Henry Percy Hotspur Northumberland after a Shakespeare character. Called him Hotspur for short. Never named on after myself, thought that a bit too much. Bo, the White House dog, is not so lucky. Guess our arrogant president just couldn't help himself.

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  19. Interesting article.

    "If this trend continues, a Shih Tzu could one day secure the Democratic nomination for president."

    On the plus side it'll have more brains. :)

    Sorry i couldn't help that.

    I wonder, would it be more offensive to the grievance mongers to name a dog barack or mohammed.

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  20. The royalty thing must have passed by my family. Our 1st dog was Pepper, an Australian herder mix with salt&peeper fur. Next was Spot whom I named although he had no spots. Mitch was named for Mitch Miller because his show was on TV when a fire truck with siren went by and the dog howled. Percy was just a very odd dog. Laddie would have been Lassie had he been a girl.

    Before I was 2 yrs old, I named our first two cats Bucket and Shovel. My recently departed cat let me know her name was Alice by not responding to any other name I tried.

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  21. " a Shih Tzu could one day secure the Democratic nomination for president"

    Well, we have a President that is called Shi Thead sometimes. Strangely enough, my old Dachshund answers to that name, too.

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  22. Why limit this to just dogs? As far as dogs go, my personal all-time favorite dog name is Crapper, since that's what they do constantly.

    But if I had an ape, I would name it Michelle, and Obama the Baboon has a nice ring to it. Kinda melodious, like.

    How about Biden the Rhino, and a parrot named Pelosi? The possibilities boggle.

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  23. I once had a Basset Hound named Morty.

    I love Bassets but I don't have one now.

    I've already picked out a couple of names should I ever get any more Bassets.

    In Virginia there is a manufacturer of wood shed and doghouses called "Leonard". They put a placard over the door of each doghouse identifying the brand name of the doghouse. It is an oval sign that reads simply, "Leonard". I've long wanted to get one of these doghouses and name the occupant, (what else?) Leonard.

    Now that I live in Kansas, getting one of those doghouses would be fiduciary inefficient, so I have returned to my original intention of naming my next Basset Hound after his country of origin. (for instance, my mother had a Scotty named "Fiona")

    Bassets are French dogs. My pick is "Auguste". Not only is this a French name (after Poe's fictional French detective Auguste Dupin) But I can call him "Augie" for short.

    Augie Doggie! Also the name of a Hannah-Barbara cartoon Basset Hound.

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  24. How about

    1. a pair of black Labs called Porgy and Bess?

    2. a pair of Golden Retrievers called Tristan and Isolde?

    3. a pair of Italian Greyhounds called Romeo and Juliet?

    4. a plump white mutt with prominent teeth called Chelsea?

    5. a greedy, aggressively over-friendly, un-house-broken junk-yard mutt with big balls called BILK (short for Bill Klinton, of course ;-)

    Continue the game, if you like ...


    ~ FreeThinke

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  25. I've said many times that I wanted a pair of donkeys so I could say to people who visit my little farmette, "... and these are the jackasses, Bill and Hillary." Of course asses are male donkeys, a female is called a Jenny and a female mule is a Jennette.

    I think that if I purchased a jackass now, which I could use to keep the coyotes away, I would be hard pressed to choose which jackass I would name it after.

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  26. It came to me just that quick! I'll name him Barry Soetoro. I'll call him BS for short.

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  27. This is "Be Kind To Animals Week"

    So don't let your Dog anywhere near Barack Obama!

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  28. In Spain people have always given their dogs human first or surnames. Having said that they also have a tendancy to give them names of people they did not like and there are a suprisingly a large number of dogs called "Franco".

    I have three Basset Hounds called Harrow, Vittoro and Pompey. I named them after the schools that I attended.

    Damien Charles

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