Dogs have been with us, as in literally next to us, for a very long time. One of the most truly human things a person can do is live their life with a dog. It’s a huge commitment, but it’s worth every second, every penny and every shredded piece of clothing/furniture. But don’t take the choice to do so lightly. And if you do make the leap, consider the naming of your dog very carefully, for you will have to use that name in totally unforseeable ways, in the throes of every imaginable emotion.
In honor of National Dog Fighting Awareness Day, we’ve compiled a short list of good and bad dog names from literature. This is pretty straight-forward, bad name first, then the good. This list isn’t anywhere near comprehensive, but it should at least give you some general principles to apply in other cases.
From gothic literature
Udolpho – No. Just sounds ugly, right?
Monk – Yes. Sounds wise and gentle, and it’s easy to say quickly. On the tag, write The Monk to seal the deal.
Super bonus points for naming a female dog Acton, Ellis or Currer – the male pseudonyms the Brontës published under.
From the modernists
Proust would be an intensely pretentious name for a dog unless you are actually French.
Beckett has a nice ring to it, but it should be one of the fun, active dogs – say, a Retriever.
I would name a dog Virginia Woolf in a heartbeat, corniness be damned. Also, Gatsby for a Great Dane.
Uriah Heep. No. Look deep into your dog’s eyes; you will see that it hates you.
There have to be a million dogs called Miss Havisham. This dog should be one of the toy breeds, those little fluffy, yappy bastards with no sense of how unimportant they are. They’re thiiiis close to being cats. Existentialists, bounded in a nutshell, the lot. But it’s a cute name.
Nyarlathotep. Too long and unshortenable. Nyarry? Teppy? Latho? Ridiculous. And his other name, Crawling Chaos, is also bad.
Shoggoth. Shorten it too Shoggy. It works especially well if the dog is very hairy, wrinkly, or horribly misshapen. Be aware that with some Lovecraftian names, cultists may occasionally show up at your front door to pay homage.
From the erotic literature
Marquis de Sade. I don’t have to explain this one. Ditto O. You can’t name your dog O.
I can sorta picture a black labrador or a doberman named Anais, but it sounds more like an obscure Greek hero, not a writer of literary erotica.
Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz. Obviously terrible. Does your dog write poetry? You may have no choice: have yourself put down.
Duncan Idaho. You could pick either Duncan or Idaho by themselves, and no one would have a clue you were referencing the Dune books, but put them together and your dog has a solid pedigree, with millenia of loyalty. Ok, 5 syllables is long for a dog name, but what a great character.
From the epics
Gilgamesh. Great story – do yoursef a favor, and read it – it’s short. You will not believe how contemporary it sounds. Its only flaw is that it doesn’t work as a dog name. I can almost see it on a long-haired Dachsund, but… meh.
Grendel. A thousand times yes. Much better than Beowulf.
From American theater
Stella Kowalski. It’s not that Stella is a bad name for a dog, per se, but imagine you’re calling the dog, walking around your yard bellowing “Stella!” Ridiculous.
Stanley Kowalski, on the other hand, would be cute, especially if your dog is really tiny.
Caliban. Not unless you hate your dog. If you insist on going with a villainous name, go with Iago; at least it has a doggish ring to it.
Puck. Could be male or female, mischievous, fun, sneaky, energetic, enthusiastic: it’s the perfect name for most dogs.
Whatever you name it, take care of that little beast. If you’re in the market, look at your local shelters first. Also, don’t believe the bad PR about pitbulls; they are great dogs. Pretty much any dog has the potential to be great if you treat it right: which includes not humiliating it with a ridiculous name.
Okay, time to feed Jacob Marley, my neighbor’s Basset Hound.