This news item caught my attention on our local news recently. First of all, there is absolutely no reason for anyone to ever harbor a snake that is 24 feet long and "as thick as a telephone pole." This monster, a reticulated python, should be killed immediately. If not sooner. The Columbus Zoo is asking for trouble placing it on permanent display while it is still alive. This thing eats "two huge rabbits a week." May I remind everyone that"rabbits" means "bunnies."
Allow me to provide a visual aid:
Allow me to provide a visual aid:
Perhaps the Columbus Zoo hopes to soften the blow when it displays the snake's name. For this vicious bunny-eating slitherer goes by...Fluffy. Yes. Fluffy the Reticulated Python.
I'll admit it. The name is fantastic. If I were going to have a 24-foot long reticulated python, I'd consider naming it Fluffy, for it is the very antithesis of all things snaky. But when it comes to naming pets, I usually opt for people names. There's something very dignified and familial about having a dog or cat or guinea pig with a person name. I just like it. And I like the name to be literary, usually, unless the animal in question has so much overt personality that the name is just apparent.
As many readers of the Dept. know, my most recent pets are Emily and Travis, two cats. Sadly, Travis is no longer with us, but Emily still dodders around, toothless, half-blind, and arthritic. There were no silly kitty-witty names even considered for either feline. Never once were names like Mittens, Whiskers, Scratch, or Mr. Freckles even brought up. Or any boring, dumb names like Brownie, Patches, or the uninspired Kitty.
And please, please, please spare me "Boo Boo Kitty."
I could vomit. A lot. On myself.
My friend Roger thinks everyone should test pet names by going to the front door and yelling for the prospective pet, loudly, several times. If you feel stupid or it sounds just plain idiotic, then it's not a good name. He has a huge Labrador. Its name is Newman, after the lackadaisical mailman on Seinfeld. Roger says that the name has become a self-fulfilling prophecy since Newman now does very little except sigh and loll around a lot. This summer, he may get Newman a pet puppy and see if that turns things around a bit.
Jared, my eldest son, thinks that "Pushbutton" would be a great name for a bunny. I would have to see the bunny in order to decide. I like the name "Robert" for a small, brown boy bunny. I have yet to meet any small, brown boy bunny that did not look like a "Robert."
My pet peeve with zoos is that they get all carried away with naming baby animals in the language of their native country. Then we get stuck with all these terrible names that are sometimes hard to pronounce and get attached to. Also, the names really don't suit the baby animals. One exception to this is Knut, the baby polar bear from the Berlin Zoo.
Now there's a brand new baby polar bear at the Nuremberg Zoo who was rescued from her mom who zookeepers feared might try to eat her (!), and a naming contest is already underway. Naturally, a bunch of loser names have already been submitted: Franka, Lina, Snowwhite, Yuki Chan. I like "Elinor." I have already watched video of this baby polar bear and looked at photos. This is an "Elinor" if I've ever seen one. Trust me.
I have a backyard fishpond and I have several fish in it. Every summer, I end up having to replace at least one fish due to a predator, the harsh winter, or the fact that someone just can't get with the program and keeps ending up in the skimmer/filter. So, I have to come up with at least one new name each year. One year, I briefly flirted with the idea of naming a fish after a national monument, just for the hell of it. But I couldn't find a fish that looked like one. Current pond residents are: Iron Chef, Johnny Depp, Nancy Grace, Garbo, Ziploc, and Tupperware. Those last two names do bear some explaining, I realize. See, they were leftover table decorations from a school dance, the theme of which was "Under the Sea." Leftover fish...get it? I am still in mourning over the death of Barnabas, the black fantail who kept ending up in the skimmer. I think the weight of his head, due to his huge popeyes, just kept pulling him in with the current. What a way to go. But he had the coolest name.
Update: After receiving more than 30,000 emails with more than 50,000 suggestions, the baby polar bear's name is..."Flocke", which is German for "Flake." What a loser name. This kid is now destined to be a flake--an eccentric screwball, someone who is pretty much on the fringes of civilized society, like Phil Spector or Dennis Kucinich or Sandra Lee, the Semi-Homemade chick on the Food Network. Whatever. "Flocke" will always be "Elinor" to me.