...is a difficult matter, according to T. S. Eliot.*
My four have their names that the family use daily.
Jess, Charlie, Willow and Minnie.
But Eliot suggests that in addition
...a cat needs a name that's particular,
A name that's peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
Queen Jessamine, Sir Charlie Bubble, Miss Pillsy Werner, and Mme. Minna de Beau-Beau.
Names that never belong to more than one cat.
No laughing, please. And don't even try to tell me you don't have similar names for your pets, especially cats, because I won't believe you.
All of which is by way of introduction to the subject of names.
My amusement - and your comments - about the chap who recognised me but called me Clarice has got me thinking about names. More specifically, my name.
Apparently my parents had some difficulty choosing a name for me, and I was Baby right up to the wire, the six week limit at which they had to register my birth.
As you can see from this rather historical-looking document, I was registered as Curtis. No "e".
Now we all know this is a boy's name. Not one of those Francis/Frances, Leslie/Lesley names, not a name like Bailey or Stevie or Ellis which are interchangeable between the sexes (unisex, we would have said in the 1960s and 70s). And it wasn't the norm to give children names which were clearly intended for the other sex in the mid-1960s, at least not in small town rural Buckinghamshire.
It was chosen for me because it was a family surname (my paternal grandmother's maiden name - she was Esther Curtis) and my father's middle name. If my parents had been waiting for a son to whom they could give the name, it was clear by the time I came along, a third daughter and something of an unexpected blessing at that, that it wasn't going to happen.
So there was a name without a child.
And this child became Curtis.
How I hated it.
How I wanted to be a Clare, Susan, Jane, Sarah.
A Caroline, Lucy, Jenny or Nicola.
Pretty, feminine names, like those of my friends, intended and appropriate for girls.
Names you could announce without anyone saying what? Without needing to repeat it, or listen to comments about how odd and unusual a name it is. Names no one ever gets wrong.
The final straw came when I passed the 11-plus exam and the letter from the Education authority informed my parents that there is a place at the grammar school for your son.
I was mortified, so my mother suggested we add an extra "e" to the end of my name, in a vain attempt to feminise it. It would be pronounced the same, although there continues to be considerable confusion about this (I am Curt-iss, not Curt-ees).
1970s handmade maxi dress - competition prize from local vintage shop
Cardigan, sunglasses and bangles - charity shopped
1960s vinyl bag and sandals - Ebay
Name - gift from my parents
So here I am - 50 years later, and people are still getting my name wrong.
Clarice is just the latest in a long line of mistaken identities; I've been Christine, Kirsty, Kirsten, Kristen and Krista/Cristi.
I'm often Curteece or Curteeze.
It took until my twenties to feel OK about having such an unusual, seemingly unpronounceable name. These days, I laugh at the mistakes and questions, and have no problem when people ask where the name came from or comment on its uniqueness.
Now, I couldn't imagine being called anything else.
But above and beyond there's still one name left over,
And that is a name that you never will guess;
The name no human research can discover -
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
Eliot informs us that cats have a third name, unknowable to humans - their deep and inscrutable singular Name.
How funny, it turns out that my deep and inscrutable singular name is actually Curtise.
So it seems my parents got it right after all!
What about you?
* You can listen to the old curmudgeon T.S. Eliot reading "The Naming of Cats" from Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats here.