Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What's in a name?

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.

Something similar could be said of horses. Because certain breed registries, particularly the Jockey Club, place limits on length and reuse of names, some horses are known by quite arcane appellations. For example, what exactly is a Secretariat? Known as "Big Red" to his friends like another famous race horse before him. (Man O War) it seems that all the creativity race horse owners have for naming is used up in the search to find a name to register a horse with that hasn't been used before. Deciding on what to call the poor dear is beyond the limits of their creativity. 

Secretariat at the Preakness
Now I am going to a Harness Racing museum tomorrow, and the Kentucky Derby is on Saturday, so I am sure I will have more to report about those later on. When I went to at least look up the horses in the derby and was treated to such names as "Pants on Fire", "Comma to the Top", and the hopeful "Brilliant Speed", it made me wonder at the whys behind some of these names. 
Pants on Fire is in the Pink and Orange silks
Some names are obvious of course, Brilliant Speed is hoping to use the power of names to produce a winner. My own horse "Maggie" was originally known as "B B B Fast." (Sadly for whoever named her, she wasn't.) Other horses, like the great filly, Rachel Alexandra were named after people significant to the owner or breeder. But a lot of the names, just make you wonder. Barbaro? Where did that name come from? Or why name a horse "Animal Kingdom?"  There are a lot of rules involved with naming a thoroughbred race horse, so I can see how it can be difficult to meet them all. They are as follows:

A Thoroughbred must be named by February of its 2-year-old year or a late fee will be charged. Six names in order of preference are submitted by the owner and the Jockey Club will decide which they can have. Horse names can be changed for a fee unless it has already raced or been bred. Names can be up to 18 characters, including spaces and punctuation. All horse names must be approved by the Jockey Club and there are a lot of rules about what you can't use:
No initials such as C.O.D., F.O.B., etc.
No names ending in "filly," "colt," "stud," "mare," "stallion," or any similar horse-related term
No names consisting entirely of numbers, except numbers above thirty may be used if they are spelled out
No names ending with a numerical designation such as "2nd" or "3rd," whether or not such a designation is spelled out
No names of persons unless written permission to use their name is on file with The Jockey Club
No names of race tracks or graded stakes races
No names clearly having commercial significance, such as trade names
No names that are suggestive or have a vulgar or obscene meaning; names considered in poor taste; or names that may be offensive to religious, political or ethnic groups
No names from the restricted list (Hall of Fame members, Eclipse Awards winners, Kentucky Derby winners, etc. To see all names that meet the restriction requirement check here in rule 6(F)(15).

Now Quarter Horses, both the racing kind and the showing kind also have a long list of rules to subscribe to. Too long to list in this post, so I will just highlight and put a link to the full details here. Basically, you can't reuse a name unless the horse that had it is dead and neither the deceased horse, nor any of its offspring ever competed (not won or placed) in any sanctioned event. It is not required but many quarter horse owners and breeders tend to parade their horse's pedigree in their name. So I have noticed a tendency to a lot of quarter horses having Zip and Zippo in their name. I am sure there are other famous lines that are heavily referenced, but not being involved in the Quarter Horse show circuit myself, those are the ones I have noticed and stuck in my memory. 

Breyer model of famed Quarter Horse stallion Zippo Pine Bar
Now USEF rules are not nearly so stringent. In fact, after perusing their website I could not find any restrictions whatsoever. Names can be duplicated freely, though I am sure it would be considered in poor taste to reuse the names of famous horses. (For the record there are currently 25 horses named "Sapphire" including McClain Ward's Olympic Gold Medal winning mount.) 
McClain Ward and Sapphire
And of course anyone can call their horse anything they want in their own back yard. Our barn has at various times had 2 horses who go by the name of Hank, 2 Mollys, several Codys (including 2 dogs) and a few ponies who came to us named Brownie or left us and were renamed, Brownie. What I really wonder, is what horses call each other? 

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating! Who knew there were so many rules regarding a name!