Pet Names & Culture

Are you one of the pet loving people? What is the name of your pet? I personally do not find the pet naming an easy task, but I surely know of some names that really crack me up – a cat named “Jean-Clawed Van Damme” or “Harry Pawtter” gets me every time – who doesn’t like a clever pun? In the oriental society since the prosperity of the pet industry, the pet naming also received quite a lot of attention. Today, let us explore a little bit of the pet naming strategy in the oriental culture. Who knows, perhaps you can get inspired for your next pet!

black and white siberian husky puppy on brown grass field

“If there are no dogs in heaven, when I die I want to go where they went.”

– Will Rogers

If we trace the origin of pets, one of the first real pets would be horses in the ancient Chinese society. The horse names already displayed the people’s wisdom, and the same naming strategies are still in use today. The most obvious naming strategy is using the observable patterns, which produced many famous horses in history, such as “white bunny” and “red bunny”. The speed was another factor, creating names such as “chase wind” or “chase lightening”.

In the Tang Dynasty (6th-7th century) with the popularity of domestic cat and dogs, people were able to take their naming abilities one step further and started using other species to name their cats and dogs. One of the most famous dog in this period of time was named “Oolong”, the black dragon. Yes, you read it correctly, the actual meaning of the oolong tea is in fact “black dragon” tea.

The most common naming strategy in the Eastern world is giving the pets a name that brings fortune and wealth to themselves (our recurring theme), and there appeared quite a few “fortune bringer” or “hundreds of happiness” in turn. I guess names such as “fifty cents” would simply not make the cut. This is a strategy that regained popularity amongst the millennials in our modern world, this “naming renaissance” is quite interesting, producing names such as “Fortune Li” or “Rich Zhang”.

Li Di, Tang Dynasty

Another very popular naming strategy is focusing on the characters of the pets. “White cloud”, “snowy” or “pink nose” became the popular name for quite a few fluffy cats in historical record. The most common cat name throughout history has been “mi mi” which resembles some sound they make; When it comes to dogs, the most interesting and fitting one I have ever heard was “go”, literally the word for dog in Chinese. Another way to call dogs is “wang”, which is mimicking the sound they make (in Chinese).

The modern world has also seen a wave of international names for their pets. So taking Chinese pets for example, you may very well hear names such as “Lucas” or “Amy” being used. My friends who come from all over the world, perhaps it is also time to consider some Asian names for your pets?

Corgi freehand brush painting, Fiona Sheng

Nowadays people enjoy to name their pets with food (many Asians are foodies in fact), so “egg tart”, “jelly”, “steam-bun” or “watermelon” could all very well be the name of pets, but you have to be prepared that your neighbours having the same ideas as you. Some people decided to give celebrity names to their pets, so we also know of many “Beethoven”s and “Li Bai”s, a very famous Tang Dynasty poet. I have also heard that some people choose the pet name by employing mathematical methods, for example, if the pet was born on February 14th, then in order to be more unique, the name could be “28” (you know, 2×14) – the sky is the limit in the naming creativity!

Honestly I cannot decide which strategy is better, they are all wonderful! I guess we just need to have multiple pets so that we can put our intelligence to proper use in pet naming!

Border Collie freehand brush painting, Fiona Sheng

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Enjoy such cultural discussions? Have comments? I look forward to hearing from you!

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