Friday, April 9, 2010

Sue Weaver: A Rose by Any Other Name — What's in a Name?

"That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."
— William Shakespeare

Newborn baby Fosco and his mama, Shebaa

It’s springtime on the farm, and livestock babies are being born, leaving their caretakers wondering, “What are we going to name this little beast?”

Some folks — usually producers rather than softhearted animal slaves like me — simply number wee newcomers as they arrive. Baasha, for instance, was Brighton Ridge Farms #59 for the first half of her life; she only became Baasha when she moved to our farm. Although I meant it as a play on words, I later discovered that Basha is a Polish name meaning “stranger” and a Yiddish one meaning “daughter of God.” People liked it. I did, too.

So when Baasha’s grown daughter and granddaughter joined us, we dubbed them Rebaa and Shebaa. A series of Baa- names followed, among them Baasha’s daughters Baannie (and her children, Baarack, Baarde, Baarney, Baalinda, and Baannie Jean) and Baatiste, along with Baalki, Baarley, Baagonia, Baabara, Baaxter, Baandit, Baanner, and what appears to be everyone’s favorite so far, Baamadeus. I’m always in the market for clever Baa- names; if you think of some, I want to know! We also toyed with Wool- and Ewe- names, such as Woolson and Wooliam, Ewephemia and Ewegenie, but that well ran dry very quickly. And we haven’t always followed that pattern because we like theme names, too.


Take names from books. Rumbler and Wren are characters in a favorite novel, Kathleen O’Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear’s People of the Masks. Mopple and this year’s new lambs, Fosco, Ritchfield, and Melmoth are clever sheep in Leonie Swann’s wonderful international bestseller, Three Bags Full; A Sheep Detective Story. Our sheep love literary names!

Ozark Jewels General Kerla

Star Trek names predominate among our goats, especially Klingon names (Martok, Kerla, Drex, Kahless, and K’ehleyr) and the names of the Dax symbiots (Jadzia, Ezri, Curzon, and Emony so far). We’ve had the Southern Sisters (Sonic and Moon Pie) and the Minnesota Twins (Kirby and Kolache) in our goat herd, too. Television names appear from time to time, even though we haven’t owned a set for many years; for instance, Latka and Simka, two caprine charmers born a month ago, named for characters on Taxi, one of John’s favorite vintage TV shows.

Latka and Simka

John named our pig Carlotta, a not-so-inspired name that fits her to a tee. But pet-pig people frequently give their pigs punny names, such as Hermione Hamhock, Rumpled Pigskin, Tammy Swinette, Dutchess of Pork, Crackling Rosie, and Frankenswine. What fun!

My girl Ishtar is the latest in a long line of donkeys with biblical names or the names of Middle Eastern gods and goddesses. A fellow breeder gave her long-eared chums Old West monikers such as Florentino and Dutch Annie (both of whom are buried in Tombstone, Arizona’s boot hill) or Pick-Em-Up and Silverbelle, names garnered from maps of the Western states.


Naming horses is an art, especially when registries such as the American Quarter Horse Association or the Jockey Club (it registers Thoroughbreds) are part of the equation and simple names are usually taken. Naming a foal can be very tricky indeed (hint: Horse With No Name is already taken).

So when inspiration fails, no matter what you’re naming, be it foal, lamb, kid, or human child, here’s what to do: visit my favorite naming Web site, Names by Chinaroad, where you’ll find hundreds upon hundreds of lists and links to sites featuring names from every country in the world (including historic versions); names from nature and of the sun, moon, and stars; of gods and goddesses; knights, the Wild West, medieval and ancient names; names of lead singers and fashion greats; names from fiction; names for gypsies, fairies, witches, and warriors, wizards, and sorcerers, villainesses and superheroes; dragons, wolves, or lions; biblical and angelic names — and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Be sure to click on Names Yet to Be Categorized for more amazing options ranging from soap opera baby names to Chamoru names from 18th-century Guam to Alfabette Zoope, a site comprised of alphabetized lists of uncommon names complete with proper pronunciation!

Still stuck (or if you’d just like to have some fun)? Log on to Names by Chinaroad’s name generators page and have at it. Some of the hundred or so generators generate names at random; others generate names based on your real-life name. A sampling of results for Sue Weaver: Swvyan "the Magnificent" Goold, Princess of the Halflings, my Hobbit name; Feather Saturnshimmer, my magic fairy name; and Sherman Tank Hoopti Rida, my gangsta name (I’m pretty sure I’ll pass on that one).

“A good name is better than precious ointment,” or so it says in Ecclesiastes 7:1. We think that’s true. So what great names do you give your pets and livestock friends? Post a comment; we’d like to know!

Sue Weaver sold her first freelance article in 1969. Since then her work has appeared in major horse periodicals, including The Western Horseman, Horse Illustrated, Chronicle of the Horse, Flying Changes, Horseman’s Market, Arabian Horse Times, The Appaloosa News, The Quarter Horse Journal, Horse’N Around, and The Brayer. She has written, among other books, Storey’s Guide to Raising Miniature Livestock, The Donkey Companion, and Get Your Goat! to be published in 2010. Sue is based in the southern Ozark Mountains in Arkansas.

1 comment:

Bernadine said...

I love this post! Thank you for the link. I name the Angora bunnies after Herbs, the Nubians after chocolate candy bars, the horses all have Swahili names, the Dairy cattle after baking ingredients, the Zebu after black fairies, the Merino's are Biblical, the Icelandic sheep are Greek Gods and Goddesses and the poultry have to be really talented to get a