Corrections or additions?
This article was prepared for the February 28, 2001 edition of
U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Between the Lines
Long before there were stupid pet tricks, we suspect,
there must have been stupid pet names. Surely you have seen or heard
about the stupid pet tricks made famous by late night television’s
David Letterman. And you may well be familiar with — or even
created — some stupid pet names.
Of course stupid isn’t necessarily stupid. Some of them are actually
quite creative — even brilliant — to the person who named
the animal. But in any case they are a far cry from the pet names
of our childhood. Back in the late 1940s and 1950s, grandma’s dog
was Tippy and our dog — a collie — was Princess. Television
had taken Lassie.
Now pet names are as wide-ranging and evocative as people’s names.
Examples: Rembrandt, Gropius, Mecca, Algebra’s QTPi, Aries, Beastie
Boy, Dudley Do Right, Molly Brown, Bohemian Rhapsody, Loreal.
Thus, when it came time to edit our cover story on the reopened pet
cemetery in Hamilton (U.S. 1, February 7), we hardly noticed the names
on the memorials in Craig Terry’s photographs. There was Snooky,
beloved pal," printed on the cover of the issue. And inside was
the photograph of a snow-draped headstone for "Chinky,"
as "our beloved Siamese cat."
We printed the pictures and ran the story. Then came the fun. Some
veterinarians weighed in. We got a call from the owner of a
business who noted that her firm does more for pets when they are
alive than the Hamilton company does when they are dead. A week after
that we received an E-mail communication, reprinted here:
titled "For Man’s Best Friends, a Resting Place." One of the
pictures is titled "Missing Chinky." Chinky is a Siamese cat.
Do you realize the racial connotations behind the name, Chinky, and
the type of cat, Siamese? It seems pretty clear. What shall I name
my Chihuahua or my black Labrador?
out. Siam must be a country in Asia, or at least once must have been
a country there. Asia is the continent that includes China. And
must be a derogatory slang synonym for people from China.
The writer’s hypothetical examples were even more challenging for
us. Chihuahua? And black Labrador. Labrador — was it some troubled
region, like Canada’s Newfoundland or Michigan’s Upper Peninsula,
that has become the butt of insensitive commentary and stupid jokes?
No, we realized, it was the black that must have excited this writer.
What would be the harm, we wondered, if a someone had a black Labrador
with a sonorous bark and called him Satchmo? Or if the dog were
athletic and were named Michael? We imagined a black Lab standing
peacefully to one side while a pack of other dogs scrapped over petty
issues. Someone might name that dog Martin. How bad a name and a
would that be?
But ultimately we decided to let sleeping dogs lie, or at least
the dead from rolling over in their graves. So in response to our
letter writer, we will say simply that our bark is far worse than
our bite. See you in a week.
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