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Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Naming of Cats

While moving some boxes around I found a copy of T.S. Eliot's "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats", so I can think of nothing better than to offer this:

The Naming of Cats
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.

By the way, we call one of our cats Quaxo. His official name is Oreo, but on occasion I also call him "Pain in the Ass". See, three different names,


Anonymous said...

I don't know if your post also applies to dogs. But we have far more than three names for each of our two dogs.

I've always loved this poem. It is actually rather tied into mythology. Faeries and magical beings often had a secret name that was told to only those they most trusted. A great example is "Rumplestilskin."

Stephen Albert said...

Loreley...I didn't know that this had its roots in mythology. Thanks for the enlightenment!