Last week, I saw the funniest internet viral I have seen in years. It happened after a video was posted on YouTube of a posh dog-owner screaming at his dog, Benton, as he caused a deer stampede in Richmond Park. The internet went crazy with loads of hilarious pastiches, including Benton being responsible for the stampede in Jurassic Park, scaring the two backpackers in An American Werewolf in London and having Hitler go mental over who was on the dog-walking rota in his bunker in Berlin. If this means nothing to you, then go check them out – it's worth it.
The plot thickened when it turned out that the dog was not called Benton at all. It was Fenton. Personally, I preferred Benton. The name Fenton reminds me of the rather square FBI agent Fenton Hardy who was the father of the "Hardy Boys". Benton, on the other hand, has a sort of swagger about it. Benton knows his own mind and is a cut above the other pooches in Richmond Park. Pet names can thus be tricky, if only because there is a good chance that whatever you choose will be something you will end up screaming out loud in public.
This is very relevant to me as there is a new arrival in our house: Colonel Mustard, a scrappy-looking little tortoiseshell kitten presented to me on my birthday. It was hands down the best birthday present I've ever had. Unfortunately, things have not gone quite as smoothly as I might have hoped. First, there was the issue of the name. I had decided upon Colonel Mustard immediately, but this was apparently not acceptable to the family. Primary objections were that if it went missing then people would think that we had been having a particularly realistic game of Cluedo.
But, since it was my cat, I informed everybody as authoritatively as I could that the kitten was called Colonel Mustard and that was that. Sadly, my leadership qualities are about as effective as Peter Andre's brain and there was a family mutiny, with a rather subversive campaign that involved them simply ignoring my wishes and calling the poor cat whatever their particular choice might have been. This has really confused the Colonel who is showing early signs of confusion. I called a family meeting. The main complaint now seemed to be that, as the Colonel had unexpectedly turned out to be a lady cat, it was an inappropriate name for her. I jumped on this. "So, in your minds no woman can become a colonel? Maybe we should ban them from being doctors and lawyers as well?"
Now they were on the back foot and they knew it – apart from my boy Jackson who seemed to be totally fine with this idea. "It just doesn't sound right," whined the girls. But their alternatives were terrible girly monikers like "Missy C" and "Fluffles". I accused them of cat sexism and unoriginality. They stomped off in a huff. There is more trouble ahead.
I think pet names are difficult because they are an excuse to have fun with names that would be too cruel to dump on your children. My favourite cat name ever is Chairman Miaow, which I believe was the name of David Baddiel's cat. Our other cat, possibly the most successful robin slaughterer Gloucestershire has ever seen, is called Dr Pepper. His name was never questioned and it's always seemed to sit well with him. The Dr Pepper drink slogan is: "What's the worst that can happen?" In the case of this cat, it's having seven dead robins lined up in a neat little bloody row on your pillow when you are about to go to sleep.
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