The Stories I Tell ~ from The Word Cellar

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I love stories. I'm the one at social functions with a dozen new anecdotes. But I worry about hogging the conversation. Sometimes I tell myself that I'll be quiet and let others do the talking. But no matter how hard I try, my stories insist on bursting out! Here I can let my stories (the classics that I tell again and again, as well as new ones that unfold along the way) run free. I'm a professional writer and editor, and sole proprietor of The Word Cellar. I write for a variety of publications and clients on everything from green buildings and nuclear reactors to entrepreneurship and the arts. If you need words written, edited, or enlivened, I can help. Contact me.

11.08.2007

The naming of cats is a difficult matter

Warning: This post is about my cats. And a moose named Eli. And a Winnie the Pooh character. But mostly about my cats. If you are a cat hater, or are just looking for something more meaningful, I invite you to read my long-winded thoughts on building community and leave me a comment there. (But if you are a cat hater, you probably won't want to be part of my circle of friends anyway. In that case, I suggest you head on over to Dooce, a more appropriate blog for your dark and twisty ways.) For those of you who are staying, please note that Nikki's post over at Candybuttons inspired this post. We've both turned into crazy cat ladies against our will and both have fathers who insist on calling our pets the "grandcat."

When Gatwick first came to live with us, he was named George. James and I did not like the name George, nor did the cat look like a George. I don't know what the shelter workers were thinking, but I figure they see a lot of cats and probably run out of good names a few times a year. You have to cut them some slack.

So we set about naming the cat. We considered Avery and Chester, both respectable cat names, if our cat was a butler in a tuxedo. I tried to rally support for Lapsang Souchong, after the smokey-flavored tea, because "George" was a smokey grey color. But my husband wouldn't have it. (He pretended he couldn't say it, butchering it to "Lapsang Singsong" and other variations.) We finally decided on Gatwick because it seemed to suit him and it reminded me of England, one of my favorite grey things.

We named the second cat before we even decided to take her. But once James started referring to her by name instead of as "the kitten," I knew it was a done deal. My family likes to pretend that her name, Cheska, is short for Francesca, but it's not. Her full name is Cheska and she's named after an imaginary alligator.

Once upon a time, before James and I were married and before we had any pets, I had stuffed animals. James has the uncanny ability to imbue any inanimate object with a multi-faceted personality. He's made me laugh at the antics of a salt shaker and nearly cry because a pillow shaped like a fish wanted to come home with us. He applied this talent to my stuffed animals, specifically an orange moose named Eli and a pastel pink and green Piglet from Winnie the Pooh. (There were also two hedgehogs who regularly performed vaudevillian skits, but they're not part of this story.)

A side note on Eli: He was one of three sherbet-colored moose(s) that once lived at Target. He had a raspberry-mauve sister and a moss-green brother. I may have carried all three of them around the store, waiting for James to turn around and see me with an armload of moose(s) and offer to take them all home. He did, but I buckled under the pressure of responsible spending and settled on just one: the orange-creamsicle moose. (I've felt guilty about leaving his siblings behind ever since.)

Eli and Piglet became great friends, despite the weird moose-pig dynamic. Piglet had been lonely and was pleased to have a new friend, especially since he hadn't seen Pooh for awhile. (I think this was when Pooh got stuck in a doorway after too much of a little smackeral.) Piglet and Eli had lots to say and do, and all of it was funneled through the magical storytelling and puppetry of James.

That's how I found out about Lars and Cheska, a married couple with whom Piglet and Eli are friends. (I'm getting back to the cats. Hold your whiskers.) The husband Lars is a frog, and his wife Cheska is an alligator. Some people have wondered at the strange relationship and even feared for little Lars' life, but they're a lovely couple. And they loved to hang out with Piglet and Eli while I was gone at work during the day.

But then one day, Lars and Cheska moved to San Francisco. Piglet and Eli were sad, but perked up when they realized that they could go visit them. Neither one had been to California before, so it was extra exciting. They're still friends today, all these years later.

(You can see why we needed to have pets or children. We weren't ready for kids. So kits it was.)

And that's how we named our second cat after an imaginary alligator who is friends with our stuffed animals. It was all James' doing. The name fit perfectly and stuck with the little kitten. But of course, like all cats, ours go by many names. They even have their own theme songs:

Gatwick the Catwick, for all your Catwick needs! Gatwick the Catwick, he does what he pleases! Gatwick the Catwick! He's the greatest Catwick!

Hey Cheska! You're a little kitty! Hey Cheska! You're so pretty. Oh my little Cheska, yes you are my kitty, yeah! (sung to a bastardized chorus of "Mambo Italiano")

But back to those names:

Gatwick is also affectionately known as:

  • Gatarino
  • Gatarino Wam-bam-bino
  • Buddy
  • Big guy
  • Gatwickers
  • G-W
  • G-Dub
  • Bucko
Cheska is also affectionately known as:

  • Sweet Pea
  • Sweetie Peetie
  • Little one
  • Cheskanator
  • Cheskalator (This one has a song too: "Cheska now, Cheska later. Get on the Cheskalator!")
  • Cheska Sue
  • Chickie Cheska
  • Frisky Fresca
  • Chicklet
  • Francesca or Frannie (all by members of my family)


As far as I know, Gatwick and Cheska have never met Lars and Cheska.

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add to kirtsy | 5:39 PM

5 Comments:

Anonymous Allyson said...

Oh, Jenn, this one made me laugh out loud!

And I had TOTALLY forgotten about "Don't be a weenie, Janey!" until you said it in that comment. Howling laughing after that.

We call our cats lots of names too. They only choose to answer to some of them, some of the time. A real change from the dog, who thinks that every name is his.

11/08/2007 10:00 PM  
Blogger Rebecca Davis Winters said...

That's great! I also have many names for my cats. Lady Ba, who recently passed away, was originally called "Sheba" when I brought her home from the shelter. She also went by the names Ba, Baboozler, Ninny, Nin Mints, Booda-mints, Ba Mintz-vah, Ninny-penny, Ba Zain, and Bazen Leibenz!

11/09/2007 9:41 AM  
Anonymous Nikki said...

OOH, I love it that all the crazy cat ladies are outing themselves!! YAY!

It should be noted that Sake also originally came with a very stuffy human name (Isaac), which he had gone by for 6 years before I got him. But his first family had little kids who called him Ikey, and Sake was the first thing he answered to when I was trying out new names on him.

11/09/2007 10:25 AM  
Anonymous Lisa said...

Hilarious! Very enjoyable indeed :-)

Our cat, Spanky, (age 15) has a host of names (attributes, really) that we've put into a rap kind of rhythm. You rap it with building emphasis right up until the end. It goes:
butt sniffin'
tail twitchin'
faucet lickin'
toe clickin'
ribbon shittin'
pillow dippin'
bowl tippin'
urine drippin'
litter flickin'
POOPY PAWED CHICKEN BOY!

And I can't believe I just shared that with you and your readers :-0

11/09/2007 11:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I checked out your link to england out of curiosity and seemed to have booked a flight from Gatwick airport - can I have my money back? :)

My cat was called Mog after the book Mog the forgetful cat, cos she looked like her. But I used to call her Pudding, a lengthened version of Puddy Tat.

I prefer dogs now except for the few cats I know and love, namely Gatwick, Cheska and my Mum's cat George.

ttfn chaps,
the orginal British Chicken - Claire

11/13/2007 11:56 AM  

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