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He Who Shall Not Be Named

Choosing a name for another living creature is a challenge. While the thought of naming a child is daunting, there are at least some parameters to guide the choice. Perhaps there is a traditional family name handed down through generations. Maybe you’ll be naming the child after a cherished family member or friend. In any event, unless you are a celebrity trying to be trendy, you’ll be choosing a human name for your child. Naming a pet is an entirely different situation. Sure, you can use human names, but you don’t have to. You can choose any word you want without fear that the other pets in the neighborhood will tease your furry child about a strange name.

On the ride to Tabby’s Place, a cat sanctuary, to meet a cat named Oolong, Oregano and I began discussing potential names for the soon to be newest member of our family.

“Oolong is kind of cute,” I said, “but, I think it would be a better name for a Siamese cat, not a tabby. He’s only been Oolong since he arrived at Tabby’s Place six weeks ago. I doubt he’s attached to the name.”

Oregano agreed with me and suggested Earl Grey.

“I like the idea that we’re sticking with the tea theme, but that’s not going to work. We’ll wind up calling him Earl which makes me think of a moonshine sipping, banjo strumming man sitting on his porch somewhere deep in the Appalachians.” I said.

“That was pretty specific. Do you know someone named Earl?” he asked laughing at my reasoning. “We’ll wait until he decides if he wants to adopt us. If he does, we’ll see what his personality is like and then we’ll be able to figure out a name.” He sounded confident that we’d come up with the right name.

Oolong interviewing Oregano

Oolong begins the rigorous interviewing process with Oregano

When we entered the suite where Oolong was living, he came right over to us and immediately began the interviewing process by rubbing our legs. Once we were comfortably seated on the floor, he made sure to investigate both of us thoroughly by climbing into our laps. He tested our reactions by playing with toys. When he started purring, we knew we had been adopted.

On the ride home, Oolong sat quietly in the back seat while we resumed our naming discussion.

“We already have a cat named Linus. It might be fun to use another Peanuts character and name him Schroeder, Linus’s piano playing friend,” I suggested.

“I doubt he can play the piano,” Oregano said.

“Me, too, but it’s a cute idea to have Linus and Schroeder,” I said. “Let’s give it a day and see how we like it.”

Whatever name we choose, it must be a name we won’t mind saying a hundred times a day. I like to try it out in sample sentences I’m destined to say, “Schroeder, don’t drink out of the toilet.” “Get down from the top of the refrigerator, Schroeder.” “Schroeder just had a hairball. Whose turn is it to clean it up?

It was a weird name for a cat and didn’t even last for the full 24 hours. Back to the drawing board we went. We scrolled through lists and lists of baby names on-line. That wasn’t working. His markings and charm had an undefinable quality, so undefinable in fact that we weren’t able to name him.

Oregano noticed that the cat looked like he was wearing glasses. “Maybe we can think of a literary name for him,” he suggested.

And so we began searching on-line for famous literary cats. You’d be surprised how many cats are in literature, but their names were horrible!

When friends asked for the name of our new furry family member, I didn’t have an answer for them and kept referring to him as, “He who shall not be named.” This was how the characters in the Harry Potter books referred to the evil Voldemort, but our little tabby was definitely not evil. I tried to think of a way to make the name less threatening.

I approached Oregano with a new name suggestion, “How about Mortie?” I explained how I arrived at this name. “It’s literary and sounds cute.”

Does he look like a Mortie?

Does he look like a Mortie?

“Mortie? Hmm… sounds like some old Jewish guy in Florida with white shoes and a white belt. I’m not sure I like it,” he said crinkling his nose at the name, “but, we can try it out for 24 hours and see if it suits him.”

During the 24 hours of Mortie, Oregano brainstormed names that meant calm, peaceful and easy-going to match our new kitty’s personality. He compiled an eight page list as a Word document and presented it to me.

“Manfred?! Alastair?! Paxton?! Are you serious? They’re a bit pretentious for a tabby, don’t you think?  Those are names for a butler, not a cat,” I said in disgust as I continued flipping through the sheaf of papers he had handed me.

“Finn, Brodie and Zen?  Sounds like he is destined to become a professional surfer,” I said putting the kibosh on those names.

He's definitely not a Manfred, Alastair, Brodie or Calum!

He’s definitely not a Manfred, Alastair, Brodie or Calum!

“Yeah, some of those names don’t really work for a cat. I was just brainstorming and listing all the names I came across hoping one would work,” he admitted.

“Calum?! Wasn’t that Superman’s real name?” I asked.

“No. That was Kal-El,” he shook his head and continued, “Calum means dove – a symbol of peace. He’s a calm, peaceful cat. I thought it might work.”

I didn’t agree. The brainstorming continued and we began referring to our nameless cat as new guy.

Helpful friends called each day to ask the nombre du jour and offer suggestions. After four days and three different names, we were worried our little guy was going to develop an identity crisis. Oregano suggested using a funny old man name. Back to the baby name websites we went only this time we were searching for names that were popular 100 years ago.

Oregano looked up from the screen, “What about Otis?”

“Otis? You thought Mortie was bad, but you like Otis? Are we naming him after the elevator company, the singer or the Greek word for one who hears well?” I asked.

“Greek word? What? No. None of the above,” he just looks like an Otis.

“Exactly what makes him is Otis-esque?” I asked.

“Otis-esque. That’s not even a word.” He rolled his eyes at me.

“It’s not, but you know what I mean.” I needed to be convinced about the name Otis.

Just then, the cats came tearing through the room chasing each other at full speed. We both yelled, “Otis, stop chasing Linus.”

We looked at each other, “Yep, that works. Otis it is!”

Enough with the pictures already. I'm an Otis. Now let me get some sleep.

Enough with the pictures already. I’m an Otis. Now let me get some sleep.


About Paprika Furstenburg

I was born with an overly developed sense of humor and poor coordination. The combination of these two character traits has taught me humility and given me the perspective to find the funny in everyday experiences.

73 responses »

  1. Pingback: Balloons everywhere! – The Fantastical Voyages of Flat Kathy

  2. How I enjoyed reading that post, it made me chuckle because it reminded me of when we first got our golden retriever and we went through exactly the same experience trying to find a name that matched his personality. In the end we did a Facebook poll and asked our friends for their suggestions. After weeding out all the the non imaginative ones, the rude ones, the pretentious ones and the boring ones we ended up with the prefect name for him; Bentley – after the classic car, smooth, good looking and classy. Perfect.

  3. followed the link from Pix and Kardz — and have to say I fell in love with your beastie at first sight. Reminds me of one of my childhood cats (whose name was either Pussy or George, depending on who was calling). My current beastie-cat went unnamed for a full two weeks, I think (one, for sure) because nothing fit her either. I narrowed the list down to names with a “k” sound — and still struggled. Ended up with Chia, which I really quite like, and which she answers to when she feels like it. Unfortunately, I did not realize the connection to “Chia Pet” until about a month later, and by that time it was too late to change her name.
    May you and Otis live long and well together!

    • Welcome to Good Humored. I’m glad you found your way over here via Pix and Kardz.

      I’m glad to know we weren’t the only ones who’ve had such trouble naming our cat. He is our first tabby, so I think that made it tricky for us.

      When I took Otis to the vet about a week after we got him, the receptionist asked if he had a name yet. That was my first clue that we weren’t the only ones who had trouble deciding.

      I absolutely love Chia as a name. So cute!

      I hope you and Chia have lots of snuggles together.

      • thank you. Chia is, unfortunately, not a particularly snuggly cat — although as she’s gotten older she has improved somewhat and will actually settle on my lap when I read a book. She much prefers to nibble on bare feet and take random swipes with claws bared. I occasionally wake up with scratches that I don’t remember having. I’d get her a companion, but she was a bully in her youth, so I don’t want to risk another cat — and a dog would be too much work for me. So she is on her own a lot, poor beastie.

  4. so, so happy for you all. Otis is a perfect choice, and he is one handsome cat! congratulations 🙂

  5. He does look like an Otis ( and he’s on his way up in life). Whew – at 3 he was beginning to worry you hadn’t gotten his note to come get him. What a doll. Welcome Otis!

  6. Glad I read the Otis blog again — it was really great!

  7. Otis? Why not stick with your family tradition and call him Chive, nutmeg or tumeric, or toomey for Short.

    • We seriously considered some spice or food names to go with the family theme. We spent quite a bit of time combing through culinary websites looking for ingredients we could use as a name. Alas, none of them seemed to fit his personality.

  8. I like Otis but Morie was SO perfect. You’re right, it totally sounds like an old Jewish man who is super crabby. Maybe that’s why I love it!

  9. My sister had Sally and Lucy, so the Peanuts theme works quite well (for girl cats, anyway).

  10. He’s a beautiful cat! “Otis” was on the short list for our puppy. He ended up being Duncan, after we brought him home with a list narrowed down to three — he just looked like a Duncan.

    Otis is a great name — he looks like an Otis. May you, Oregano, Linus and Otis have a great, long life together.

    • Thanks, Elyse. Duncan is such a cute name for a puppy. I’m happy to know that you also thought Otis was a fitting name for a pet.

      Our Otis is quite the charmer – although Linus might disagree with that statement. He looks at us with his big green eyes, flops onto his back and we’re are completely powerless to resist him.

  11. When I first met our recently departed beloved Max, his “prison” name was Midnight, a throw to his total blackness – literally, whiskers, nails, you name it that cat had in black (his brother was as black and went by Gallileo). When he shut his eyes and curled up for a nap, you didn’t know what end you were looking at. I thought such a majestic looking animal needed an equally majestic, if not, Egyptian name and the process began. We ended up with Maxwell Alexander much to the amusement of his vet who commented that was such a big name for a little boy – little he was at 3 lbs. Well it stuck and over the 12 short years of his life, he came to be called a variety of names – Max, Maxie, Mousis, My Boy, Little Handsome, Hey! Kinda makes me wonder why we name them at all. His predecessors were Molly (aka “Pretty Girl”), a simple name for a diva of a feline; and before her, Benjamin Joseph (BJ; Beejee; Beej). I’m kinda liking Olivia for the next one – now have to find the perfect girl to continue the long line of beloved four legged friends. Welcome home Otis –

    • You are so right, Margie. We always manage to find a nickname for our cats. I hardly ever call my cats by their names. I often called my beloved Sam – Sweet Sammy J. Linus gets called L-man or Sweet Potato. Otis, despite his short tenure with us thus far, has already been called Oats, Otie and O.

      Good luck on your search for Olivia. I’m sure she is out there waiting for you to find her and give her the perfect name. Please let me know when you find her 🙂

  12. Mazeltov! Otis is one lucky cat 🙂 Update on us: new house is being built in Delaware. Great being closer to Benjamin. Adjusting to another new place, but many people here are from NY and NJ. Feels like home, although still different. Can’t wait to settle down FINALLY !

    Sent from my iPhone


  13. He’s a beauty. May he bring you lots of joy.

  14. Love the saga of choosing Otis’s name!! Very clever and cute! I think Otis is a perfect name!!

  15. Vivian Landsburg

    oops! That should have been: O ‘Tis not O “Tis

  16. Vivian Landsburg

    O “Tis nice to have a name! “Line us” up, We’re glad you came!

  17. He’s a great Otis!

  18. Ah, what a cutie! And I think Otis and Linus work really well togethre!

  19. I still think Mr. Sprinkles was a good name to try.

  20. Otis sounds like a perfect fit … and I loved your quandary about naming the new guy. We’ve tried both methods: seeing what name fit the dog or cat’s personality and knowing in advance what to call them. 🙂

    Our cats were named after characters in one of my favorite movies, “Charade” – Reggie (female – Audrey Hepburn’s character) and Jean-Louis (male – Audrey’s young nephew). They both fit. Before that, we had Shadow (perfect, she always seemed hard to find) and Bond … Jane Bond (it was going to be ‘Bond … James Bond” but we found the first vet erred in determining Bond’s gender). The names did suit their personalities very well. 😉

    • We’ve had 4 cats since we’ve been married. We had to choose names for 3 of them, but this was by far, the most difficult kitty to name.

      You’ve chosen some great names for your cats, Judy. Oregano and I also love the movie Charade. We went through movie characters, cartoon characters and literary characters while trying to name Otis.

  21. I laughed out loud while reading this post. Otis! Brilliant – it goes so well with ‘Linus’.

  22. Otis is a good name. It took us 8 days to name our dog last summer and 6 weeks to name our 4th child recently. Yes 6 weeks. I’m not proud. Good name choice

  23. I remember having a similar dilemma before we named our tomcat because he looked so girly. So we gave him a unisex name, Tangerine.

    Otis is a cute name too, it’s short and to think of it, he does look like an Otis! Congrats on being adopted by such an adorable tabby. 🙂

  24. It’s always wonderful to adopt a cat. Looks like you got an older one too (yay for you!). Also looks like he’s getting along with the other resident cat. He is one lucky dude!

  25. Love it! Welcome, Otis!


  26. Whatever he is called his real persona is lucky. Lucky to have chosen such great people to adopt!


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