Duana Names: Name in the Hand

May 20, 2015 18:17:48 Posted at May 20, 2015 18:17:48
Duana Posted by Duana

Hi Duana,

I need help! I am about to adopt the sweetest little dog from a rescue and I am having a hard time deciding on his name (a yorkie-schnauzer cross, with a beautiful red and white blended coat). Currently, he is named Jerome…which I find very cute, yes, but might want to change (one of the fun parts about getting a dog is all the great name possibilities)! Yet, I always feel slightly guilty about changing a dog's name when he is adjusting to a new home, so I thought about maybe adapting it; I noticed that the main syllable/sound in his name is Rome, which could be easily adapted to Romy or Romeo.

I love both, and am strongly leaning towards Romeo (who would also get a lot of Romy)! I am a literature student about to finish my Masters thesis on (broadly) Shakespeare (I love his plays and the Early Modern period), and I have always loved the idea of naming my pets the wonderful yet perhaps completely unusable Shakespeare/literary character names I could never give to a child (Oberon, Cymbeline, Mercutio etc). I also feel I would like to give my future children names with literary referents--of authors or characters or books that I love that I feel have attributes I would love my children to look up to (etc). The challenging part of this though is finding a name that you love in itself, but has a referent to a character/author/book that you also like (ex. as much as I love Ishmael, its too much name for any human being).

Juliet, however, fits the bill on all fronts. I love the name itself (feminine, classic, nice shortened form, utterly beautiful, etc) and of course it has a lovely referent to a play and an author that I adore.  I am 26 years old and don't think kids will be in my future for another 4-5 years, if that soon, but I might--most likely--want a little Juliet. There are of course so many variables between now and naming a little girl (i.e., getting pregnant, having a partner whose sister/ex is not named Juliet/Julie/Julia, and of course having a girl instead of a boy), but this is where I run into a problem: is it weird to have a dog named Romeo, and then a few years later, (having already loved the name), call a daughter Juliet? My dog-to-be is only 1.5 years old, so there is the possibility 10 years from now that my 5 year old girl could be at a park calling out for her Romeo...to bring back his ball.

Of course there are some other lovely names that might work (Marguerite, as in Marguerite Duras), but I do not want to have Juliet off the table.  What if I have two girls and need both names? Juliet and Marguerite (Jules and Mara) sound like lovely sisters to me.

So, could I have my dog named Romeo, and my daughter named Juliet? Or must I give up on Juliet if I name my dog Romeo?  I guess I could start calling him Romy full time instead of Romeo (or just tell people his name is Romy) if and when I do have a girl…or am I simply over-thinking this?  I don't hate Jerome at all though--there is a lovely old-man charm to it--or I could just go with Romy.

I'm stuck: Jerome, Romy, or Romeo?


Okay, I’m going to start gently, because this is amusing to me. First of all, congratulations on your new rescue, who sounds absolutely delightful. We’ll get to the meat of your letter in a minute, but I have to say that while what matters is that he’s healthy and getting to go to a great new home, the name Jerome is a delight, especially for a rescue dog. Usually the vast majority are called Sparky or Bones, so Jerome is already coming out way in front!

I’m glad you know, too, that if you’re going to rename a dog that it has to sound like the name he already has, because the poor thing has gone through so much already.  It’s clear that you know this, from your letter, but I thought I would PSA while we’re here. So that’s a vote for Romy, and I might even call him “Je-ROoooo-Meeee” across the park for a while until he gets the gist of just ‘Romy’.

From there, if you want to go into Romeo, of course you can, eventually. Romy and Jerome are both super cute and not heard on the dog park very often. Romeo is a bit more run of the mill – but if you’ve been loving it for a long time, don’t let that get in your way.

All this to say that your puppy’s name is your actual concern right now.  It’s the name in the hand. And when you have children, as you pointed out, there will be all kinds of factors that will mitigate your usage of ‘Juliet’. You may not love it anymore. Your partner may have dated two, or have nieces named Juliet and Julia. You may meet a Juliet in your workplace who turns you off the name utterly. There are a million reasons why you might not. 

But if, when you get there, you want to choose Juliet, nobody’s going to be scandalized, or think you’re trying to marry your daughter to your dog. It will be fine. I’ve heard of people who name their pets the same name as their children, or who try to make them match (i.e. Jodie and Bodie) but I think this feels different, particularly if either the dog or the kid have nicknames. If you’re still not convinced, there’s the uncomfortable discussion of longevity – depending on when your children are born, this may be a nonissue, or a memory.  I mean, what will happen is that, in one of her bratty teenage moments, she will say ‘and you named me after a DOG, Mother’ but chances are there will lots of other things for her to be bent out of shape about. And she’ll tell you. To the point where if you want to stay on your Shakespeare tip you could consider Katarina. 

The upshot here is that it’s all going to be fine. Jerome is a great name for a dog, but you can change it if you decide you’re not feeling it. Name him Romeo if you’re dying to, but know that Romy is a delightful and much more rare choice. Either way, you get to enjoy your pup and you’re not doing any irreparable damage to your future progeny.

And send us a picture!

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