Name That Cat
by Rick Hartwell
I’m thinking about nicknames, the universality of them, the reasons for them, the ridiculousness of some of them. Almost all of us have had a nickname, or several, bestowed upon us because of a euphemism with our given name, or a physical attribute, or a mannerism, or even as a designation of complete oppositeness to a fact or reality. Some of us not only name our pets, but we then go on to create a nickname for them as well. Such was the case with a cat my wife and I acquired when we were first living together.
My son John was visiting us at our apartment in Tennessee when I was stationed at Fort Campbell. My girlfriend, who was destined to be my wife within the year, was very taken by one of the kittens in a litter from our upstairs neighbor’s cat. She, as well as my son, was so taken by one runty kitten in particular that I gave in to her request in spite of my initial misgivings.
That done, and my girlfriend and son dutifully thankful and appreciative, it came to the thorny issue of naming this new family member. Ever the pompous classicist, I opted for Pericles, knowing full well that Perry would likely be the agreed-upon nickname. Sally, the girlfriend-later-turned-wife, wanted something softer, gentler, kinder. John, about five at the time, wanted something unique and snappy and topical. What was the result of all this? Why, the cat was named Pericles Batcat Hartwell, a combination from the great minds of father and son. Now, you would of course ask, what did we call the cat? Sally said she needed a cute name and immediately called the kitten Pumpkin. The kitten meowed, apparently agreeing that cute was best, and that was that! So much for male-dominated naming conventions!