Friday, June 8, 2012

What's In a Name

I've always maintained that cats turn out to be like whatever name you give them. If you name your cat "Bratso," you're probably going to have one. I invent complex names to give my cats a challenge and allow them develop multifaceted personalities. Bunnelina (previously "Fluffy," according to her shelter file) grew as round as a rabbit and developed a plush, silky coat; I swear her ears grew bigger, too. Snictoria ruled the roost and was rarely amused. Snalbert is as eccentric as his name. I briefly had a cat I named Cordelia, after a character in a Rebecca West trilogy who made her siblings miserable — which is just what my Cordelia did. She had to be re-homed after everyone moved to the top of the kitchen cabinets to escape her wrath.

Wendelina Pantherina? I hoped the "Pantherina" part would make her braver around people since she was (and is) too skittish. But "Pantherina" is the name of a poisonous mushroom, yet I never imagined Wendy would turn out to be fungus-y herself, with ringworm, reinforcing my point about the power of names. And like Peter Pan's Wendy, she's reluctant to grow up; we still refer to her as "the baby" for her kittenish qualities even though she's a big cat now.

Possumus P. Passamaquoddy? I'm not responsible for his surname, which came from his foster home. They named him and his litter mates after Maine's Native American tribes because they had Maine Coon looks. "Possumus" is Latin for "we can," and Possy has a can-do attitude, especially when it comes to obtaining food or affection. And Possum turns out to be an appropriate nickname. As he was arguing with Wendy today (they're on Brown vs. Warren again; Possum is firmly in Warren's camp, having been given a Native American name when he is, as he says, Norwegian. Ancestry is what you make of it, he says.)

Anyway, when Possum is annoyed, his nose changes from "aristocratic" to "snout" as he becomes almost unrecognizably threatening, with flattened ears and a long, possum-y head. He aims his pointy snout at his victim like a weapon. While his teeth aren't as scary as a real possum's, I assume he does his best with what he has; I can't bear to watch. Observe his transformation:

Civilized discourse soon disintegrates into name-calling.

Possum leads with his nose.

Wendy retreats to the kitchen as Possum's snout follows.
I'm nearby, saying, "Whoa! What's with your nose, guy?"

Bad things happen to Wendy even though she 
isn't old enough to vote for Brown.

Possum retreats, still cranky but with his regular nose, 
to brood on the sofa, his current favorite spot.

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