An interesting day. Woken up by my four year old by having her tug my head off the pillow, as she does every weekend, while her two year old sister crawled sweetly into bed on her mother’s side and proceeded to watch her sleep, as she does every weekend. But a funny thing happened halfway through the day. My eight year old finally got her wish, even though her parents made her earn it, and brought home a new cat.
Ever since her mother and I finally agreed, she’s been hounding us about the damned thing relentlessly for several weeks. At breakfast. After school. During dinner. After softball practice. Before bed. And three times after she’s been tucked in and randomly needs to get out for (insert reason here) as she’s been doing since she was old enough to open her bedroom door. And now the day finally came.
The cat is a four-year old orange cat who looks IDENTICAL to Morris of Nine Lives cat food fame. He was home with us for a matter of minutes before the new question, the one that would haunt our ears every half-hour for the next few days, would first be uttered from those lips. “What should we name him?”
“Weasley,” my wife smirked.
“Crookshanks,” I responded.
“No. I don’t like those,” my daughter refused. A few moments passed. “So what should we name him?”
Shanks, as I’ve taken to calling the little orange furball, reminded me of an important lesson: names have meaning. In the case of the household, Shanks is a name I can live with. It’s endeared me to the cat more than ‘Friskies’ or ‘Ratchet’ or ‘Cutie’ or any of the other names my daughter will come up with.
The first book I wrote followed the exploits of ‘Jeff’. It was about all I knew about the character. His name was Jeff, and he was an appliance salesman at Best Buy. Just an average Joe in an extraordinary situation. The problem wasn’t the story or the worlds. The problem was ‘Jeff’. It was a meaningless name on a meaningless protagonist where I was trying to let the world tell the story. It doesn’t work that way. And it doesn’t stop at the protagonist either.
Even Carl Sagan, the overweight man with horrible body acne that serves hotdogs on the corner of 3rd and Vine, has a name fitted specifically to the image the writer had in mind. The body, the facial hair, the sway and the mannerisms are all linked to one simple word.
A rose by any other name might smell as sweet, but who would want to lean in for a sniff if it was called a shitbloom?