The Naming of Toys

               The Naming of Cats
               The naming of cats is a difficult matter.
               It isn’t just one of those holiday games.
               You may think at first I’m as mad as a hatter,
               When I tell you a cat must have three different names.

                                                                                  –T. S. Eliot

When I was a kid, my mother bred siamese cats. The queens were given classical Greek names, like Electra, Athene and Antigone. When Athene was done over by the local tom cat, and seven little black kittens appeared soon after, it was decided I could keep one. You might think I’d wanted to call her Blacky, but no. Too abstract. This particular kitten had a habit of sleeping in a tray full of germinating delphinium seeds on top of the night storage heater in the kitchen, and I knew exactly what I wanted to call her. I can still remember my upset when my chosen name, Seed Tray, was rejected by my mother (who probably wanted Persephone or Hestia), and we eventually settled on Delphinium.

My naming of toys was similarly pragmatic, but as no one ever needed to call for them in the garden late at night, I was given a free rein. Forever remembering the rejection of Seed Tray, I have always felt my children should also have a free rein in this matter (leading to a small rodent with the grand title of Edward Guinea Guinea-Pig), and their toys have names like Big Baby, Big Bee (we also have Bee and Little Bee) Dog, Blue Dog, Rabbit and Pink Rabbit. You might think some imagination had come into play when my daughter introduces you to Lolly, until you realise she couldn’t say dolly when she was two.

The small boy does have some slight variations on this theme. He also has Flappy (a pteranodon), Hoppy (a grasshopper) and the unfortunately named Horny (a triceratops). But I cannot think of a single toy in our house with a totally abstract name.

By contrast, my father had a rabbit called Honeybunch, and my sister’s toys had names like Crazy (a bear she thought looked a bit mad) or Barney (a knitted bear with no connection to the name Barney). Her dolls had sensible girls’ names like Susan and Rebecca. I was so jealous of her thinking up the name Barney, that I called my version (who had blue knitted dungarees instead of green), Berney. That’s as abstract as I got.

So herewith a gallery of toys from my childhood: back row – Horsey, Crazy (my sister’s mad-looking bear), Berny, White Dog and Rabbit. Front row – Bluey, Pinky, Penguin and Mousey. What did you call your toys?

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19 Responses to The Naming of Toys

  1. johnj says:

    I have a toy elf that a former friends daughter left on the windscreen of our car one night, held in place by the wiper blade, together with a note (from the elf) asking us to give him a good home. I thought his name was obvious, he’s been Wiper Blade ever since.
    Love the poem by the way. It’s so true.

  2. Marley says:

    I have a ton of stuffed animals still–I’m 26….:) Let’s see…I have a stuffed cat named Mittens–grey and white–a rainbow sock monkey I named Groovy, a stuffed elephant named Winks–named that by the tag– a stuffed bunny that I was going to call Fiver but that somehow ended up becoming Mr. Bunny–and a lot more, lol. A green sheep whose name is simply that, a turtle I called Elphie after Wicked, and a stuffed Little Foot from Land Before Time, whose name didn’t change. I also have a stuffed Scottie dog who currently has no name. :( I think that’s everyone, lol. I tend t o name my furry friends after characters in books, movies, or tv shows, generally.

    I had several cats all named after either the characters from CATS, Les Miserables, or Phantom of the Opera. I was thinkng of the begining of CATS when I read the title of this post. :)

    I also love the idea of naming household objects. My cell phone is named Murphy, and my IPad is Muldooon. I should name everything else in my apartment…:)

    I also he some random nicknacks taht aren’t named. And when I get a hedgehog–at some point–I’m naming him Atticuls “Zimmie” Connolly. :)

    Also, that bear does look crazy…and slightly creepy…:)

    Great blog and awesome post!

    Marley

  3. Beth says:

    I used to have a friend whose cat was named Hestia!

    My teddy bear was called Teddy. My sister’s bear was called Busy Bear, because that’s what it said on his jumper. We were not very creative apparently…..

    My husband bought me an elephant. I call it Heffie, short for Heffalump. That’s about as creative as I get.

    LOVE seed tray.

  4. Dave Kelley says:

    My Aspie has 2 teddy ears. One is chocolate and the other is coffe. Then he has Moose and Doggie and Kitty. I never thought about it until this post.

  5. lileyo says:

    I had a small stuffed grey dog I initially called Greyey. My brother gave me such guff for it that I changed it to Tom. :( Many of my other animal toys were named after cartoon characters of the same species, like a dog named Bruno after the one in Cinderella.

  6. Sarah says:

    Omg now I know why my son wants to call all our pets Fluffy!! Still can’t work out how his snake ended up as George though?! :)

  7. Paul Hassing says:

    Your blog is uncanny, Leigh! I’m 47 and I’m sitting in my home office looking up at four stuffed toys called Dog, Donkey, Pig and Bun. At the bottom of my bedroom chest of drawers resides Teddy. Can you guess their respective species?! Thanks again for the memories. It’s an odd journey to be sure. But one well worth taking. Best regards, P. :)

  8. Emma, when asked, “What’s your doll’s name?” she will usually answer, “Doll” or “Girl” both of which are correct. She’s quite literal. I have never heard her call a stuffed animal anything other than it’s species. I think the concept of naming must be odd, I mean it IS odd. I often wonder that she must think we are very strange using such peculiar names for something that is clearly a “dog” or “horse” etc.

  9. I loved this post. I had (still have) a stuffed panda – called panda, had an orange teddy called ‘orangy’ and 2 pet birds, one green, one blue – called greeny and bluey:) My kids now have a number of toys. My Son has several dogs called; ‘doggy’, ‘woofy’ and ‘big doggy’ and my daughter’s favourite toy is ‘pink dolly’. I did manage to give dolls girls names, but my children have never done that with their dolls. They are just all ‘that doll’. Thanks so much for writing this :)

    • Leigh Forbes says:

      You’re welcome – actually, I found it quite moving to dig out my old toys (I’m ashamed to say they were stuffed in a box in the loft). I’m going to leave them out for my own kids to play with now :o)

  10. D.J. Kirkby says:

    I didn’t name my toys except for a soft doll which a gnome type curved hat that I used to chew on – I called her ‘Chewy’. Your sister was quite right though, that is one crazy looking bear.

  11. I have toooooo many stuffed animals (or not enough, in my humble opinion ;)) and except for the ones my mother named, they all have pretty concrete names… When I was little and growing up, my parents allowed me to have pet mice… they were Sandy (brown), Snowy (white), Blackie (black) and Smokie (gray). And currently my black cat is named Midnight. (Though I didn’t choose it, the shelter did. I just didn’t change it). I so totally relate to this post, though. :)

    • Leigh Forbes says:

      Excellent names for your mice – you are obviously much more imaginative than I am. We used to have chickens, which I named Chicken, Chicken and Chicken. Actually, after a while, I added second names: Chicken Bold, Chicken Timid, and Chicken Whatever.

  12. JoJo says:

    I have a beaver called Beaver, a pig called Piggy, a brown teddy called Brown Ted and I also have a pteranodon called Flappy. Much more imaginative with cars though, all named after characters in Star Wars.

    • Leigh Forbes says:

      That’s so funny – the small boy thought it was so cool you had a Flappy too :-D

  13. Rainbowchazer says:

    I do have a much loved polar bear toy called Poley. Thus named by my dad… My car is Goldie. Guess what color she is? I was also prone to naming household items as a child, so Millicent the dishwasher, Vincent the cleaner (ever seen the film The Black Hole?) and Maximilian the vacuum cleaner after the baddie in the same film. Because so help me, the vacuum had a red light on it when it was switched on which looked like the power up bar on this bad robot.

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