Jun 242020

boxer dog faceRoo. That’s what he was called. Roo as in Winnie-the-Pooh’s friend from the Hundred Acre Wood. It was a cute name but one that did not seem a good fit for such a strong, muscular young pup.

Choosing the right dog name is always a little daunting. One or two syllables, easily fitting with commands. Easy to yell when you’re recalling him. And there are other factors as well. A long time ago a breeder advised me to “never call a dog something you don’t want it to be.” That both makes sense and reminds me of a cartoon panel in which two dogs are introducing themselves. One says, “I’m Ginger.” The other, “My name is No, No, Bad Dog.”

In addition, Alex was born deaf and  I found myself doing more than my usual amount of overthinking. On one hand I could call him Herbie one day and Winston the next. After all, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” right? (Favorite Husband does that. But he does that with all of us.) On the other hand, this little dog needed a title to suit his stunning appearance and oversized attitude. Besides, I didn’t think it was fair to ask the veterinarian’s office to label his medical file with a name sign.

My name is “No, No, Bad Dog.” Click To Tweet

Like so many of my writer friends I have occasional moments of brilliance — at least with names and titles. Typically I really shine when I don’t need such a thing. (Yep, that’s right, random titles just show up. Especially when I’m not working on anything significant.) When I couldn’t come up with the right answer for this one, I turned to social media. I posted the boxer’s picture on my author page, asked for name suggestions, and got all kinds of good ideas. Then something weird happened.

In addition to my social media survey, I had posed the question to three animal-loving yet dogless kids in my life: a niece, a nephew, and my stepson in Germany. Each of the three kids gave me a list of 5 or 6 proposed names. And guess what? Each of the lists had the name Alex on it. So Alex it was. And his name sign is a peace sign. Because … just because. What old hippie doesn’t like to flash a peace sign every chance they get?

Whether we’re naming children, pets, streets, or boats, a name represents something. They become a stand-in for the person, place, or thing that carries it. A symbol. There are other considerations as well:

  • how popular is the name e.g. will there be 6 Debbies in every elementary school class?
  • do the initials spell out something strange?
  • does it remind you of someone or something you’re not crazy about?
  • is the name or symbolism somehow offensive or hurtful to others?

With the recent concerted effort to improve race relations in the US, ‘offensive or hurtful’ has certainly been brought to the forefront, especially with many in favor of renaming military installations currently named for Confederate military officers.

Naming makes a thing more real. Maybe friendlier. Click To Tweet

I recently had an opportunity to speak with a large group about The Inner Critic Advantage. They enjoyed the concept of renaming “the thing in their heads” so it felt less powerful and daunting. Friendlier. It’s a bit like when the littles are acquiring language — there’s a great relief that comes with being able to name something and to communicate about it. (And I can’t think of anything or anyone that’s friendlier than my Alex.) Over the years, Alex and I have developed our own system of sign language: some obedience signs, a few from ASL, and some routine gestures.  Naming makes a thing more real — maybe friendlier. I think that has something to do with our system of communication. Name it. Claim it. Tame it.

Do you like your name? Is it easy for others to pronounce? Does it have special meaning within your family? Do you have a story about names or naming to share? I’d love to see those in the comments. Thanks!



  6 Responses to “How Alex Got His Name”

  1. Alex is a good name for your handsome furry family member, Andrea. My name is a Sanskrit one and means the loved one. My first time parents took a lot of pain to find a name for me and while I love it, there are pronunciation issues not only with foreigners but with the younger generation who are not conversant with Sanskrit.

    It’s okay because that becomes a conversation starter.

    I think generations go through fads with some opting for names that come from mythology or scriptures and then suddenly there is a wave of short easy names.

  2. I never liked the name Barbara when I was a kid. Then Barbra (different spelling but the same name) Streisand showed up. I not only embraced my name, I named my youngest daughter after me – who says only the guys get a Jr.?

  3. I like my name but I do grow weary of some of the amazing ways people find to mispronounce it. Simply following the rules of pronunciation should lead anyone to pronouncing the first vowel as a long I instead of a short I. Or even worse when they pronounce the I as a short a and the A as a long I. Is pronunciation even taught in schools anymore? So much for the soapbox.

    I had a deaf cat named Gomez but he didn’t know it.

    • I had to pause and put the two mispronunciations together: Mi-KAAA? You may be on to something, although I recently read something that said “don’t look down on people who mispronounce words — it means they learned the word by reading.”

      Gomez is a great name.

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