The Naming of Kittens


The Naming of Cats

Written by T.S. Eliot

The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn’t just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I’m as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
First of all, there’s the name that the family use daily,
Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo or James,
Such as Victor or Jonathan, George or Bill Bailey—
All of them sensible everyday names.
There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames:
Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter—
But all of them sensible everyday names.
But I tell you, a cat needs a name that’s particular,
A name that’s peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
Such as Munkustrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum-
Names that never belong to more than one cat.
But above and beyond there’s still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover—
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.


A little over a week ago, our family expanded by four furry paws. She’s an adorable, tiny, gray muted tortoiseshell (tortie), complete with tortie-tude. But she hasn’t told us her name. We have a tradition of literary cat names. Not because I’m a writer. Not because we all enjoy books. Simply because our first cat was given to us by a family friend, already having been named Langston Hughes III (named after her favorite poet). He was a gorgeous black male, with a stately personality, filling the large polished shoes of his poetic predecessor. [We also had an Eliot, named after T.S., but he didn’t stay with our family.]


Langston passed away in October 2017. Six months later we adopted a gray and white tiger. At the time, we were reading poetry in homeschool, so he very fittingly took the name Silverstein (Silver for short).


Now we have this little ball of spunk. We’ve asked her her name. One child thought she said it was Lucy (of Narnia fame). Another child thought she must be Harriet (the spy). The third child doesn’t speak cat yet and thought her loud cries meant her name is Thunder. When others objected, he decided he’d go with Skatch (my parents have a cat named Skitch).

Maybe it is Lucy, or Harriet, or Thunder AKA Skatch (but probably not). Hopefully, the kids will sort this out and name her quickly. In the meantime, what literary names do you think would suit a loud, yet lovable, tortie?

UPDATE: We almost went with Madeleine (L’Engle), but instead decided on Madeline (the french school girl of picture book fame).




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