What’s in a Name?

So over the last few days there have been a number of discussions of the names of children, pets and characters in books or games. Partially this stemmed from several discussions on Twitter and was continued thanks to some aside comments from my wife while running errands this weekend. And what was the catalyst that formed this into a full blog rather than a tweet? Michele Bardsley talking about how evil hamsters were.

Don’t ask, but something about the names of the various little monsters made me remember this. If at any point in time should the way my brain works ever make sense to you run (don’t walk) out and seek professional help.

For those of you who were not following these blog entries over on Geek Like Me I had written over there the story of how our black cat (purchased on Friday the 13th, natch) was named Licorice. At the time we had bought him, I was working from around noon until 7 in the morning. So my normal mode was to collapse on the couch for 4 hours before getting up, showering and doing it all over again. This meant on the rare days off, I would typically sleep during the day.

It starts with me napping on the couch and the cat wrapped up on my chest napping with me. The real action starts when the in-laws and their hyperactive puppy come to visit the new kitty. So he wakes up with a hyperactive white fluffball sniffing at him. Like a demonic tribble with a glandular problem. The kitten starts hissing and digs in while raising his back. Remember where he was sleeping? Did you know that cat’s claws curve in for better grip? I did.

So I stood and walked upstairs. The cat came with me because he was still attached to my shoulder. It was like it was straight out of a cartoon. But for this reason I wanted to name him Peloquin – after the character from Cabal by Clive Barker that turned Boone into a monster with a bite to the shoulder. You can also catch it in Nightbreed for a more visual representation of it. I was vetoed and the cat was named Licorice. And yes, the tan striped cat was named Tiger, why?

As a side note to the above story, I have never in my life named a pet. During my childhood we had the puppy we got when I was starting school. By the time we got her, she was the last of the litter and was answering to either Buffy or Fluffy. The cats were named by my stepkids. Our current dog we got when my wife came home and said we should go to the humane society “just to take a look.” Someone in his first 9 months of life named him Aladdin.

That being said, when it came to naming our son I wanted an active part in it. Not to mention he is the last of the “name-holders” in my family. I was pretty sure I wanted to push for a family name. Keep in mind that my father is a “junior” and is not a fan. So my thought was I wanted him to have one of my grandfather’s names. Frank Louis. Mrs. Zombie was not liking what she was hearing. So then I offered what was on his birth certificate (as he was born in Italy) – Francesco Luigi.

You want to know how to irritate an Italian wanting to use a family name? Tell him that Luigi makes the kid sound like a video game character. Because some Japanese dude totally made that name up, right?

Should we have had a girl we had already decided on a name. She would have been named after my grandmother. But I was still thinking we needed to decide on a boys name. Mrs. Zombie was sure we were having a girl. So we went to the name book. It was there we found Nicholas. She was against it because my stepdaughter was Nichole and she did not want two “Nicky’s.” I was for it as it meant King of the Elves and I knew I would never call a boy Nicky.

Now is the part I am pretty sure I have not told my son. Not what he would have been named as a girl. He totally knows his name would have been Julia Elizabeth should he have been a girl. (I know. Mean, right?) But more to the point I had actually been drawn to the name Nicholas for two reasons.

First there was the movie The Sure Thing. John Cusack and Daphne Zuniga were discussing baby names for the fictional child she was carrying that they used to get a ride while hitchhiking. She wanted to name the boy Elliot. His response was one of the better lines of the movie.

“Elliot? You’re gonna name the kid Elliot? No, you can’t name the kid Elliot. Elliot is a fat kid with glasses who eats paste. You’re not gonna name the kid Elliot. You gotta give him a real name. Give him a name. Like Nick. Yeah, Nick. Nick’s a real name. Nick’s your buddy. Nick’s the kind of guy you can trust, the kind of guy you can drink a beer with, the kind of guy who doesn’t mind if you puke in his car, Nick! Oh sorry, vomit.”

The second, which it far less loquacious and a lot more embarrassing came from a Steven Segal movie. To be precise, it was taken from him very first movie, Above the Law. His character (since really, does he have more than one) was named Nico Toscani. I thought Nico was a pretty cool nickname for an Italian kid named Nicholas. This was of course 20 years prior to me ever reading Nightlife by Rob Thurman. Her human demon-kicking brother is named Nico. Which is how I began thinking of the story behind how we named our son.

Two final points of interest are that we were checking in to the hospital for the birth and as we were rolling down to our room I said, “Should we agree on a boys name now?” Her response was, “Why? We’re having a girl.” Joke was obviously on her. And also we never really got around to calling him Nico. He always seemed to be a Nicholas. In fact we never really started calling him Nick until high school. Now I think he wouldn’t consider it as he would always see that as being named after Stephen Segal.


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