What’s in a Name?


Having no name can make a girl a little wild.

This morning I received an email from my friend Kay, asking whether I had settled on a name for my kitten yet. “If not she will have a psychological problem,” Kay declared.

It’s true that it has taken me a long time to figure out what the little one’s name will be. My friend Peter always chooses his pets’ names before the animals arrive.

This strikes me as odd. It is what most people do with their children, however. In fact, people generally MUST choose children’s names in advance these days since post-natal hospital stays are dwindling and bureaucrats seem to feel that babies’ names must be on birth certificates before newborns go home.

I gather that at one point one could write “Baby Boy” or “Baby Girl” on a birth certificate. This is apparently no longer the case in most states.

And yet … what if the child’s name doesn’t work out? My birth name (which I won’t identify here) was replaced by Tinky a couple of weeks after I was born when my parents decided that I looked like a Tinky instead of a … whatever it was on the birth certificate.

In school I went back and forth between the original name and Tinky. At one point I even toyed with using the middle name on my birth certificate.

I knew I was in trouble when my undergraduate college, Mount Holyoke, an otherwise sterling institution, refused to give me a diploma with the name “Tinky” on it. The registrar argued that the person with my birth name could have a twin sister named Tinky who was appropriating her/my education.

Our compromise was to tack a name that sounded as though Tinky might have come from it—Katherine, my great-grandmother’s name—onto the front of the name on the diploma.

After that odd experience I just registered as Tinky in graduate school. Before I got my Ph.D., however, one of my professors remarked that Dr. Tinky sounded a bit like a weather girl … so the middle name “Dakota” was born. I am now sometimes known as Tinky Weisblat, sometimes known as Tinky “Dakota” Weisblat, and even occasionally known under the original name.

About 15 years ago when I complained that it was awkward not having Tinky on my driver’s license an obliging employee at the Registry of Motor Vehicles typed Tinky into my license file in front of the other name. (This definitely helped me cash checks since naturally my checking account is under the name Tinky.)

After 2011 this led to trouble when the name on my driver’s license didn’t agree with the name on my social-security card. Apparently, such discrepancies show up in the papers of suspected terrorists. I finally got all my identification lined up, but it was awkward to have the government think of Tinky as an alias.

If my parents had just waited a couple of weeks to finalize my name, I might have been saved all those complicated moments!

On the other hand, as Kay pointed out, parents can’t wait too long. I once knew a father and mother who gave their child a “holding” name and allowed her to change it to a name of her choice legally when she was 18. Let’s face it, 18 is a difficult and romantic age, and she chose something quite bizarre. (I can’t remember it, but I do recall that it was odd!)

Before we got the kitten my family and I thought her name might be Yoda. She has big ears, and she looked wise and thoughtful in the photographs we had seen.

She seldom looks or acts wise and thoughtful in person, however. A typical kitten, she is full of energy and always leaps before she looks. We decided to try out names as we got to know her.

Over the past couple of weeks the kitten has gone through several names. Social-networking technology gave me not only my own and my families’ ideas to consider but those of my Facebook friends … and in some cases THEIR Facebook friends.

Some names lasted for an hour. Some names lasted for a day.

The final (we think!) name came from Nancy Bischoff, a friend of my mother’s former business partner and chum Claire Roth. Nancy mentioned a movie about a cat named Rhubarb. This name appealed to me instantly.

Now that she has a name, Baby Rhubarb can rest.

Rhubarb works on a lot of levels, particularly when one attaches to it the nickname Ruby. (I know it should be Rhuby, but indulge me!)

I love rhubarb. I devoted a chapter to it in my Pudding Hollow Cookbook. And I have many rhubarb recipes on my food blog.

Like my little kitten, rhubarb is assertive (some would say aggressive) and colorful. Like her, too, it responds well to sweetening.

And Ruby … well, if I weren’t named Tinky (and I’m not planning to change my name again, I promise), I’d love to have a chorus-girl name like Roxie or Trixie or Ruby.

Like the heroines of the Gold Diggers movies, little Ruby and I like to think of ourselves as street smart yet adorable.

And when I remember that one of the ultimate movie stars, Barbara Stanwyck, was born with the name Ruby Stevens, I’m particularly glad to call my little one Ruby. May she grow up to be as glamorous and self-assured as that Hollywood icon.

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7 comments on “What’s in a Name?

  1. Anne says:

    I often wish I had a glamorous name – not only is Anne plain and boring, but there are an awful lot of us about!!
    Ruby definitely goes with Tinky – you sound like a pair of chorus girlsm kicking up your heels, doinng the cancan!!

  2. jean says:

    Outstanding! Love the name. New pictures?

  3. Esty says:

    lovely name , and this kitten loooks very sweet , enjoy here

  4. Elinor says:

    I loved your post! My 7-year-old (whose nickname is Tookie) just changed her cat’s name from Daisy to Jackie Chan. I’m not sure that any of that is relevant, but I thought you should know. I often wonder if she will remain a Tookie when she is grown. I hope so.

  5. Doris Matthews says:

    Oh, and let’s not forget Muffy and Buffy either! I kinda, sorta like Yoda best-she even looks like Yoda in that picture of the chair-I guess it’s the ears. But, alas, she’s your kitty and she deserves the name you like and that you think fits her so Ruby it is. Keep on keepin’ on!

  6. Cathy says:

    And both Rhubarb and Truffles are food names!

    • tinkyweisblat says:

      Submitted on 2012/03/08 at 6:00 pm | In reply to Elinor.

      Anne, you’re welcome to do the cancan any time with us.

      Jean, yes, they are new–and I’m sure we’ll have more soon.

      Esty, thank you; she is a doll.

      Elinor, I hope Tookie keeps her name, too. I forgot to say that I once had a boss who thought Tinky was an insufficiently professional name. She wouldn’t let the switchboard give me any calls if people asked for Tinky. She called me Jessica, which she thought sounded appropriately assertive. The funny thing was that she looked through directories of executive women for inspiration about what to name me … and half the women in the directories were named Kiki or Mitzi or some such thing!

      Doris, believe me, she is no Yoda. My nephew Michael was disappointed for a few minutes, but then he decided he adored her anyway.

      And Cathy, yes indeed!

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