What's in 69 Million Names and Counting?
PET CENTRAL - After my
last article on thinking up good pet names, I received some very nice
feedback. Thanks to all who wrote! Several suggestions were made, and some were
so good that I felt it was a waste to have them sitting in my mailbox when I
could share them with others. So, following is what you, the readers, suggested,
along with some more ideas of my own that you managed to spark.
First, a side note on the title. The last article I wrote mentioned 68 million
names, and this one, just a couple of weeks later, says 69. Yes, pets are being
created that fast! There are literally about half a million pets being created
each week, so the competition for names is fierce... but your best hope is that
most of those names won't use the methods and thought that you can put into
I had one reader write me, defending the use of numbers. They pointed out that
some accounts will have numbers following them. You then put the same numbers
after all of your pets' names, thus using your "number key" as a sort of surname.
While this is true, I personally would try for an "actual" surname consisting
of letters. Confusing, you say? Maybe not...
As another reader pointed out, using the underscore ( _ ) character is a great
way to in effect add "spaces" to your pet's name. So, in our preceding example,
you might add "_memine" to both your account and pet names, and it avoids both
numbers and confusion caused if the letters are combined directly with the "regular"
I had one reader who challenged my comment that you shouldn't put more than
two vowels or two consonants in a row. The reason I said this was not because
there is a hard and fast rule that you can't do that (anyone with a good vocabulary
could provide a nice set of examples of ordinary words using three consonants
or vowels in a row), but that when you're thinking of random combinations, you
will find it hard to work in a sensible three consonant or vowel combination.
In other words, they may be around, but there's not enough three vowel or three
consonant combinations to make it worth the trouble of thinking them up for
your pet name!
More suggestions on meanings
There was a lot more to be said about my "method one - mangled meanings" than
what I did, and this was pointed out to me on two or three different points.
So, to continue where I left off, what other ideas can you use to create a good
(unused) name that involve meanings?
Sources for names
- A thesaurus. Don't have one? Well they're available online, so start hunting!
A thesaurus gives you all sorts of possible alternate words for your pet's
- Name meaning sites. There are places where you can find out what a name
means. If your name is taken, try looking up its meaning. You could well find
that there are other ways of saying the same thing.
- Foreign languages. This works particularly well if you actually speak a
foreign language. You will immediately have an advantage over the majority
of users who use English. You know many names, words, and terms that you can
use, and only others from your country (or other countries with your language)
would be likely to use them! Don't speak a foreign language? There are free
translator sites out there. I personally would recommend using some caution
with them. They will translate what you give them literally, and you may find
that your pet's name sounds neat, but that it has connotations that you didn't
intend for it to have!
- Another method that relates back to both of the previous two methods is
to find root words in Greek, Latin, or other languages which you could use
to create a meaningful and unique name. My pet MonoKeras got his name that
way - it's a combination of a Latin and a Greek term.
Baby-naming sites! There are plenty of baby name sites out there, and they
will often have the meaning of the names as well as possible root terms. Thanks
to one reader, I can also assure you that there is at least one site that even
includes a "random name" generator which gives you "nonsense" combinations that
are often quite nice!
Color names. Sound odd? It shouldn't! Sure, you know about color names like
blue, green, or yellow. But what about more obscure ones: alabaster, alazarine,
azure, bisque, cerise, cerulean, chartreuse, fuchsia, gambroge, maize, mauve,
saffron, veridian, or vermilion? There is even a color thesaurus out there,
with 150,000 entries - I'm not kidding! (Whether there is an online version,
I can't say.)
Want to get technical? Try hunting for sites that list specialised vocabularies
for specific fields of knowledge. You can come across words that neither you
nor anyone else has heard of, and they might well make a good name, with a bit
of adjusting. Be sure that you're also comfortable with the original meaning
of the term, though, in case someone decides to try and find out what your pet's
Homonym is simply a fancy term for words that sound the same but that have
different spellings (and meanings). If the name you want is taken, you could
try substituting parts of it with alternate spellings that could be pronounced
the same way. To help you, here are some suggestions:
Long "A" sound: a, ay, aye, ai
"ä" sound: ah, aw (or a short "o" sound)
Long "E" sound: e, ee, ea, ie, ei
Short "E" sound: e, eh
Long "I" sound: i, eye, aye (ah, if you want an 'accent' version)
Long "O" sound: o, oh, owe, oa, ou, eau, ow
Short "O" sound: o, ah, (or a "ä" sound)
"Ow" sound: ow, ou
"U" is either oo, eau or ewe, ew
Consonants are most easily changed by making doubles single, or singles double.
Most of the time people will instinctively say them the same way. Some consonant
transformations might be
s to z
g to j, or j to g (soft g pronunciation)
Th to T
c to k, or k to c (hard c pronunciation)
v to f, or f to v (NOT exactly the same, but possibly close enough)
x, ks, and cks should be just about interchangeable in any situation
y to i, or i to y
Then there are syllables that are pronounced the same way: -en and -in, for
example. Other times, you can add "silent letters". H is a good one, and other
possibilities are Y, E, and W. The flip side of this is deleting silent letters
- changing "-ght" to just "-t" for instance.
To illustrate, try these variations on the name "firelight":
Or try "Stockings":
Ever play anagrams? I'm not too good at them, myself, but they can also
be a handy way to come up with an unused name. The idea is to take a word and
mix the letters into a different order. The beauty of this is that you have
a seemingly random name with a perfect meaning: "Hi! My name is nairt - it's
'train' spelled backwards!"
Another good way to come up with a name is to create a phrase and use the first
letters as an acronym for your pet name. This actually gives you the chance
to create an "unpronounceable" name and get away with it - the meaning is the
acronym, and you call them by their "initials" (which is what an acronym is
anyway). There are a couple of twists on this: you could separate the letters
with the _ character (both the period and the dash are illegal) or you could
choose to spell it phonetically. For example, it's not "A_T_O_N" it would be
"ayeteeohhen". If you want to do that, here's suggested spellings for the alphabet:
aye, bee, cee, dee, ee, eff, gee, aich, eye, jay, kay, ell, emm, enn, ohh,
pee, qew, arr (or are), ess, tee, ewe, vee, dublewe, exx, wih, zee
Well, that's it. Thanks to everyone for the feedback, and I hope you enjoy
these further suggestions. Better yet, I hope they prove useful. Just remember
my warning: you use these ideas at your own risk!