The Naming of Cats

After much deliberation, uncertainty, hesitancy and all too much discussion of the matter, my wife has brought a cat, more properly a little kitten, into our home. She traveled some distance to select the kitten. You see, it isn’t just your ordinary cat, if you will pardon me just this once. Regardless, it is an archetypical kitten, frolicking about, snooping here and there, ears perked up, purring now and then, but always on the alert and up to no good. A regular lion on the prowl.

And now we are faced with the problem of naming it. This is not something to be taken lightly either. I can assure you it will also take a while and a good deal of uncertainty, hesitancy and all too much discussion. You want to get it quite right and yet leave a little room for cat to have its own, very private name, a name that every cat has and only the cat knows, according to the authorities in this area.

The Naming of Cats

The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn't just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
First of all, there's the name that the family use daily,
Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo or James,
Such as Victor or Jonathan, George or Bill Bailey--
All of them sensible everyday names.

There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames:
Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter--
But all of them sensible everyday names.

But I tell you, 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?
Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
Such as Munkustrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum-
Names that never belong to more than one cat.

But above and beyond there's still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover--
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.

From T. S. Elliot’s Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats

To view a video version of the poem from the original London production of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s musical Cats go here.