Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats

by T. S. Eliot

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What is the first type of name that a cat should have according to Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats?

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One poem in T. S. Eliot’s book about cats is “The Naming of Cats.” The speaker asserts that cats are fundamentally mysterious and secretive, so a cat will have several names—not all of them will be known to all of their acquaintances, whether human or feline. The three levels of naming move from the daily or ordinary level to one in which the cat may feel more pride to the most profound or interior sort of name.

The first type of name will be used daily, such as the cat’s family (by which the speaker apparently means the humans with whom the cat lives). Names of this type are “sensible everyday names,” such as Peter, George, or even Alonzo.

Beyond this, the cat needs a “particular . . . peculiar . . . dignified” type of name. This sort of name will enable the cat to walk proudly, with “his tail perpendicular.” The last, secret name goes along with the cat’s “inscrutable” nature.

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