March 9, 2009

Foreign Pet Names


Not only am I a language lover but I'm an animal lover as well.

So thinking about languages and pets triggered a memory in me. About three years ago I was on the subway when a charming young lady sat down beside me, a cat bed in her arms. We got to talking about pets and she brought up her cat, a Persian named "Saman," which she said came from a Farsi name meaning Jasmin (it also means Precious in Arabic).

Not surprisingly I felt highly provincial when I told her the name my parents bestowed upon their Persian cat, the ubiquitous "Fluffy."

Now, my parents' pet names weren't always so obvious. Growing up our Norwegian Elkhound carried the Scandinavian/Teutonic moniker, "Ingrid."

And of course, thousands of chihuahuas carry names such as "Pedro", "Tita", "Taco", "Madre", "Rica", "Pepita", etc.

But it pays to be careful if your love of languages is inspiring your pet names. For example, you may want to re-consider naming your Japanese Chin puppy "Tama" as the breed's history suggests these little dogs originated in China. Ditto for naming your French Bulldog "Mon Cherie" as this breed has its origins among English laceworkers.

(By the way most dog breeds as we know them originated in Victorian Europe and America. Most breeds are ancient by only 100 years.)

Perhaps in the end it doesn't matter if your pet's name comes from your native language or a foreign language, as long as your dog continues to come when she's called and your cat simply stares at you blankly!

And, in case you're wondering, that's Fluffy in the picture.

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