Living With Animals: What’s In A Name

By Hope Bidegainberry on July 26, 2019
Happy senior woman enjoying walk in nature and embracing pet dog in forest park

Our little Lola, the world’s best dog (my column, my rules) never meets anyone who is not her instant best friend, and most of those best friends burst into a spontaneous “Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets…” upon learning her name. And that, in turn, quite frequently morphs into “you know, I have a friend whose dog is also named Lola.” Slightly disappointing, since Carolyn and I fought over names and finally landed on the one we both liked and thought original. Carolyn wanted to name her Chanel, which fits but is too precious for my taste. Plus, I threatened to call her #5. I wanted Mrs. Pearl Moskowitz, mostly because I loved the idea of standing at the dog park and yelling “Mrs. Pearl Moskowitz, get your fuzzy little butt over here right now”, which Carolyn did not find amusing. So Lola became Lola, and the name certainly suits her, but what goes into the names we give our dogs and cats?

Researchers look at what we name our pets as a window into our relationships with them, which jives with the fact that something like 80-90% of dogs and cats are given human names while only 20% or so of fish and reptiles get called John or Jane. Onomastics, the scholarly study of names as well as a great scrabble word, indicates that in addition to them being human names most pet names are made up of two syllables (Lola) and end in vowel sound (Lola). And that names, both for pets and little humans, evolve over time as we namers (both pet guardians and parents) seek something “different” but not so different as to be bizarre. Which is how Emily becomes Emma become Ella becomes Stella for every little girl in the sandbox – in other words, how names, once uncommon, become ubiquitous.

It is something in the zeitgeist, of the mood of the moment. So like it or not, Lola is now one of the ten most popular dog names, along with Charlie, Coco, Daisy, Bailey, Molly, Sadie and Toby. Other “top ten” lists add Jack, Cody, Chloe and Buster but Lola remains despite the newcomers. Say what you will, Mrs. Pearl Moskowitz would have been unique!

Around the site