Tuesday, September 12, 2023

The Contemplation of Gabby's Name, or A Dirge to Gabby

The Naming of Cats 
By T.S. Eliot 

The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter, 
It isn't just one of your holiday games; 
You may think at first that 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.

Our cat, Gabby, died a couple of weeks ago.


We didn’t name Gabby.  She came with that name, and I never thought it suited her.  I thought she should have a stronger, more unique name.  T.S. Eliot comes to mind.  She certainly would engage in some sort of rapt contemplation of thought.  Maybe even about her name.

I think Gabby had at least a few other names that we only guessed at.


Nick called her Crazy Cavewoman Bat-Killer from time to time.  She earned this name for the murderous, merciless killings about which we bragged (mice and bats primarily).


Certainly, she was Dumpster Diver, too, for her veracious appetite and demand for any human scraps we would share with her.  She even dug into our trash for meat wrappers, cat food cans, and certainly anything that smelled like fish.

She was Snuggler, too, because of how she would sleep on my head, hogging the pillow, so I fell asleep with her warm body smushed next to my face.  Funny, after I fell asleep, she would get up and wander off to sleep in the kitchen almost as if she just wanted to make sure I had gotten to sleep.


She was Little Puppers.  She would meet us at the door whenever she heard us coming, talking and demanding food and tripping us, almost like a little puppy who was so glad we were home.  

She was Reading Companion.  I would sit in my favorite green chair, and within minutes, she would snuggle next to me.  Even now as I write, I sit to one side of the chair, leaving space for her to join me.

If you are not a cat person or a pet person, I expect you not to understand.  We anthropomorphize our animals and sometimes treat them better than people.  


But I miss my little, Cavewoman, Bat-killer, Dumpster Diver, Puppers, and whatever her Ineffable Name is—the name that was much more dignified and wilder than Gabby.


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