If you are given the privilege of naming something, you should take that seriously — whether you’re naming a human, a canine or a rodent.
I’ve named a number of mammals, including two children. My kids were given family names — although we bequeathed them somewhat rare first names, as they have the ubiquitous surname of “Jones.” Which I suppose was a choice as well, though I was in an unusually compliant, non-boat rocking stage of life when I was first married and procreating. Except when it came to circumcision. But that’s a whole ‘nother story.
I was thinking about naming recently when I helped a friend rescue a puppy. We spent the two-hour car ride back from Watauga County debating names for the little guy. My friend settled on “Bodhi” — in honor of Patrick Swayze’s radical character in the movie Point Break.
Soon after, I learned that there’s at least one Asheville child named “Bodhi,” and a friend’s daughter has used the name as a middle name for her babe. I don’t know if those namers think Point Break is one of the greatest movies ever, or if they are using “Bodhi” because it’s short for the Sanskrit word Bodhisattva — which means enlightened being.
That’s kind of a heavy name to give a child, though both Jesus and Muhammad are popular boy names in much of the world.
If you need to bestow a moniker on someone, there are lists and lists of name options for humans, puppies, kittens and yes, even rodents online (Earwig the rat, for example).
There are also a number of baby naming websites offering advice about choosing a name.
I found the puppy naming sites offer the most helpful advice. Fido-naming rules can easily be adapted for naming your offspring or other creatures.
Keep names simple. One or two syllable names are easiest to yell. Although with children, three syllable names can be drawn out in anger or exasperation quite effectively. Or you can use first and middle names to show how fricking serious you are. (i.e., Je-ri-mi-ah, get in this house right now! Bodhi Jim, you are in trouble!).
Don’t confuse dogs or kids by making their names sound like commands. “Stay, Ray,” or “Eat your dinner, Dinah,” may befuddle young ‘uns.
Remember that you’ll often be calling names aloud in public. You may refer to your hound or your kid as that little you-know-what in the privacy of your home, but yelling that in public could earn you the unwanted attention of the DSS or Animal Compassion people.
Ask before you name your mammal after a family member. My son’s named after my brother-in-law, but we asked first to make sure he wasn’t considering naming one of his own kids after himself. On the other hand, my grandparents thought it was funny to name their basset hounds after my grandmother’s grandparents. Which turned out to affect what I was named. I was supposed to be called “Amanda,” but there already was Amanda the dog in the family. So my parents decided to wait until the hound died. Then they named my baby sister “Amanda.”
If you can’t decide on a name, try a few different ones out. Neither babies nor puppies have very long memories. You can give a name a test run for a few days, and if it doesn’t feel right, try another. The one that fits the mammal, and feels most natural to you, is probably the keeper. That said, if you change an animal’s name after weeks or longer, expect there will always be friends or family members who revert to the previous name. And if you do this with your child, she’ll use it against you later.
Finally, remember that names, typically, are for life. Your offspring can change his name, and he probably will when he realizes the name Astral Chakra Rain isn’t going to help him move up within the Republican Party ranks. Your dog doesn’t have much say in the matter.
Have fun naming your people and critters, and remember: this isn’t just one of your holiday games.