It’s 2024 – call your dog Bluetooth, not Buster (2024)

There is plenty about modern life to cause celebration and aggravation in equal measure. Thankfully, old hand Christopher Howse and young gun Guy Kelly are here to dissect the way we live now...

Dogs are easily embarrassed, so many must be in a permanent state of shame at the names to which they have to answer. On any piece of open ground you find them having to own up to the high-pitched demand, ‘Gerald, Gerald, come. Come here, Gerald. Good boy. Time for din-dins.’ No wonder cats have taken a vow never to obey, even a summons for tuna.

There used to be a convention of giving dogs doggy names. ‘His Highness’ Dog at Kew’ that Alexander Pope had given to the Prince of Wales in 1738 was the puppy of his Great Dane called Bounce, also the name of the dog next-door when I was a boy. Queen Victoria’s dog when she came to the throne was Dash and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s dog was Flush.

Those are doggy names. You’d hardly call your children Bounce, Dash or Flush. By the same law you shouldn’t call a dog Stephen or Alexandra.

I think pets now suffer too from the influence of rather arch names for soft toys, such as Aloysius, Sebastian’s teddy bear in Brideshead, or Archibald Ormsby-Gore, John Betjeman’s teddy.

It’s better with creatures unaware they have names. A goldfish hardly knows it is called Norbert, and would be no better off with a traditional dog’s name such as Fido. Indeed it would be funny to call a goldfish Fido, though the amusem*nt would rapidly decrease over time, as loudness decreases over distance.

As for dogs, it also strikes me as a bad sign if they are called Beast or Killer, just as it’s a cause for concern if your daughter’s boyfriend has Love and Hate tattooed on his knuckles. I’m afraid there is now a fashion for badly bred dogs.

When The Telegraph campaigned against dog fights 150 years ago, our low-life correspondent James Greenwood even reported a fight for betting between a dog and a man in a cellar in Stoke-on-Trent. There was an uproar.

I must say the report doesn’t read tremendously convincingly. Nor does Greenwood’s claim later that he’d got the name of the dog and the name of the man muddled. The man was called Physic, not the dog. But what’s in a name?

I’m a little dismayed to find that Debrett’s, which seldom deems anything unworthy of a completely arbitrary etiquette guide, hasn’t previously issued guidance on pet names. (That is, names for pets. When it comes to human-to-human pet names, absolutely anything goes, my little goose-plums.)

For this is a topic by which you can judge anybody. As with children, the appeal and appropriateness of a pet name is entirely dependent on the appeal of the thing it is naming. If they’re perfect and adorable, well then the name is just right. And if they’re not, well... Your new dog is called Snoopy? So good, how did you even come up with that?! Your cat is called Salem? Very avant-garde! You have a fish called Nigel? No you do not, oh you absolute bloody nutter! Stop, stop, I’m dead.

I could bitch like this all day, until every pet name in the world sounds hackneyed and awful. But to save time, I will present a clear, unimpeachable 2024 guide. Please don’t blame me if you cannot look your schnauzer in the face again.

Acceptable names: Ozempic, Pauline Quirke, Puffin, Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Fish Finger, Mary of Teck, Spork, Zendaya, Nick Thomas-Symonds MP, Air Fryer, Air Fryer Tuck, Crapulous, Ronnie Pickering, Lizo (as in Mzimba, not Lizzo), Borage, Clint, Bluetooth, Kristi Noem, Guzzle, Mis-Teeq, Cortado, Nowt, XL Bully (but only for a budgerigar).

Passé, or simply cringeworthy, and thus to be retired: Clifford, Milo, Barney, Hedwig, Ripper, Nelson, Widget, Teddy, Rocky (unless preceded by A$AP), Luna, Nigel, Loki, Buster, Marley, Spot, Patch, Merlin, Jack, Nipper, Boris, Tim, Ruby, Lupo, Laika, Harambe, Boo, Black Rod, Hannah Waddingham, the Marchioness of Cholmondeley.

Due a comeback: Fido (Christopher’s right, so basic it’s come full circle), Rover (same reason), Santa’s Little Helper (unheralded), Pippin (an icon of my childhood), Cat (in tribute to Breakfast at Tiffany’s), Vladimir (was this ever in?), Dart (for a portly beagle), Patter (popular with the Victorians), Scud.

I reserve the right to edit the online version of this list on an almost daily basis, as and when my friends get new dogs.

It’s 2024 – call your dog Bluetooth, not Buster (2024)


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