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?


23 thoughts on “The Naming of Toys”

  1. I have a stuffed turtle that’s called “Turtlina”. Then there are some old one that my younger brother has now inherited. They were usually named after animals from Swedish children’s programmes. They also had names like “Hop Top” for a rabbit, “Monkie” for a monkey, “Zebris” for a zebra and “Lady Bug” for a Ladybug. I only remember naming the turtle, though.

  2. I’ve been wondering for months about the possibility of me being an aspie, and I’m finally talking to my school’s psychologist about it tomorrow (actually I’m gonna have her read some pages I wrote about me based on your “Triad of impairments” page, and some other sources). I’m really nervous about it since I’m afraid of her telling me I’m just imagining it or I’m making it up to find an excuse for my social awkwardness, but this entrance made me reassure my belief that I’m an aspie, remembering my toys’ names as a kid were things like “Pingu” (a penguin), “Perri” (“doggy”, in Spanish, obviously a dog), “the smoking monkey” (a smoking monkey), and “the big rabbit” (surprise surprise! a big rabbit).

  3. This made me laugh. I have over a hundred soft toys on my bed, each of which has their proper individual place (this makes changing the bed a huge chore), with such names as Swan, Raven, Snowy (a snowy owl), Pink Bunny, Baby Bunny (a smaller pink bunny), The Hugging Monkeys (a pair of monkeys, hugging each other), the Long-Tailed Cats (three small cats with disproportionately-long tails), Panda, Other Panda, ‘Wala (A koala), two other koalas both named Huggy (after a koala I once owned in a dream, who in the dream had that name, and traveled around with me by clinging to my leg), Brown Bear, Ruth Bear (a personalised bear with “Ruth” written on its front), Doggy-Bear (a large…thing… of indeterminate possibly-canine-possibly-ursine species), Anteater, Firefox, Sparkly (a polar bear with sparkly fur), Wolf, Christmas Bear (a bear in a Father Christmas outfit), Easter Chick (a chicken that was part of an Easter gift with an egg), Banana (a small gorilla holding a banana), Good Luck Cat (a black cat with a label around its neck reading “Good luck!”). Also a few licenced and thus pre-named characters such as Mr Happy, Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore, Bagpuss, Simon’s Cat, Elmer and Mumble. I am particularly proud, name-wise, of Griff and Vern, the Alliance Gryphon and Horde wyvern from the World of Warcraft merchandise store :)

    Oh, and I’m 38. The collection grew from six original ones when I was young…

    My actual cats, adopted from the local cat shelter, have always retained the same names they were given at the shelter (I mean, you can’t go changing their name when they’ve already got one…). This has resulted in my currently owning two cats both called Coco.

  4. “Every cat should have three names”
    Only three? He he.
    All of the cats who ever owned me (guess most cat “owners” will know what I mean!), have been ‘adopted’ already named. But all of them had nick-names that I only ever used when having, erm, “private chats” with them (best counsellors I ever had!).

    I never really thought about this being an AS thing, but in my case the names have always been completely invented nonsense words.
    For example, my last kitty, “officially” named Keith (after Keith Chegwin, I kid you not), was best known to me as “Smneketybomp” (Ha ha, just realised that I have never used this name in writing – I think English doesn’t really have the letters to be able to do the word justice!).

    It’s not as if I was a child making my first steps into language, either, I was in my thirties when I ‘adopted’ him! And it’s not something I put loads of thought into – the sequence of syllables just spontaneously seemed to suit him, and the names were always consistent.

    Some part of me must have known this to be a little weird, because I never used the “secret” names if there was the slightest chance of being overheard by another human – but that was kind of “automatic”, I don’t recall ever thinking to myself “these are special magic words that must be secret.”

    Never did that with toys though – they just got plain old descriptive names. My favourite was “Snake” (which I realised much later was really a draft-excluder rather than a toy!),

  5. 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.

  6. 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!


  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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?! :)

  11. 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. :)

  12. 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.

  13. 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 :)

    • 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)

  14. 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.

  15. 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. :)

    • 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.

  16. 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.

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

  17. 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.

    • Millicent the dishwasher! Brilliant! Love the associations too :o)

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