Thursday, December 29, 2022

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Writing, naming characters and pets
Sweet ol' Ollie


Coming up with a great name for a character is one of the hardest tasks a writer will face.  I always explore the meaning of names to make the job a little easier and more fun.  And, having had practice naming characters for my stories, I assumed I'd have the honor of naming our cat.  

My daughter Abby however, didn’t want to hear any of my ideas.  She decided to call our cat Ollie.  And I’m not sure why.  Maybe she liked the sound of it.  Maybe it was the first name that popped into her head.  Maybe the cat looked like an Ollie to her.

Being a writer, I wanted to know the significance of his name.  So, I looked up the meaning of Ollie.  According to, Ollie is the pet form of Oliver, derived from the French word olivier or olive tree.  Which begs the question: why would anyone name a person or a pet after an olive tree?  I read on.  Some think the name Ollie has a Germanic origin composed of the words alf (elf) and hari (army). Whatever that's supposed to mean.  Regardless of the meaning, Ollie ended up being a fitting name for our cat. 

Our second cat is named Ozzie.  This time, it was my choice since Abby was 400 miles away in college.  I adopted him from the Lexington Humane Society several months after Ollie died.  Originally, Ozzie was named Polo, meaning brave wanderer—which he actually became seven years later when he escaped our house last Thanksgiving*.  But Ozzie didn't look like a Polo.  I wanted to pay homage to Ollie, so I decided to use a similar name using a double consonant.  After naming him, I discovered that Ozzie is Hebrew for strong and Old Norse meaning bear god.  Ozzie is neither.

Ozzie, not Polo 
I keep the bestowing of names to a minimum, for family, pets, and fictional characters. 

Some people get a little carried away and give names to their cars, boats, appliances, and laptops.  I knew a gal who gave her plants the names of Shakespeare characters.   
Some people name body parts.  I'll just leave it at that.    

Writer Geraldine DeRuiter, travel writer and blogger of The Everywhereist, gave her brain tumor a name.  

"As for why I named it Steve... well, duh. What else was I going to name it? There is no one to whom I am particularly close who is named Steve. I’ve never kissed a boy named Steve. I’ve never uttered the phrase, “Steve, I love you.” And Steve is nice and short and easy to add to a long list of unrepeatable words. Behold:  Fucking goddamn miserable piece-of-shit Steve.” 

As you know, names are important to writers.  We want our characters to be memorable and we want the names to reflect their personalities.  But sometimes, we choose names just because we like them and the name seems fitting regardless of what they mean.  

Which brings me back to our pet's name.  think Ozzie is perfect for our cat.  However, my husband tells me if he had been given a choice, he would have decided upon something different.  Something shorter.  In fact, it's even something he calls Ozzie from time to time.  Yes, Geraldine, my husband thinks like you, although his usage is less profane.  If he had been given a vote, he would have named our cat Steve. 

✌ and 

*Last year, Ozzie escaped on Thanksgiving evening.  Being an indoor cat, he didn't have the skills to survive outside.  We had given up hope of every seeing him again.  But two months later, someone posted a picture online of a lost cat that looked like our cat. Long story short, we were reunited with a very skinny, but unharmed (and grateful) Ozzie.