The three kinds of names that a cat has are explained in “The Naming of a Cat” in T. S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats . The poem’s speaker distinguishes between the different psychological needs of a cat, each of which correlates with specific requirements of distinct...
The three kinds of names that a cat has are explained in “The Naming of a Cat” in T. S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. The poem’s speaker distinguishes between the different psychological needs of a cat, each of which correlates with specific requirements of distinct names.
The second type of name that each cat has is something specific to his personality but also corresponds to some general qualities that all cats share. Using direct address to the reader, the speaker insists that this “particular” kind of name is a necessity for every cat, in part because “pride” is an important feature which they all share. These names should be unique to each cat, rather than used by numerous cats. Their distinctiveness makes these names suitable for sharing among their intimate associates. The symbols of “pride” are the physical mannerisms that the cat displays through the position of his tail or whiskers:
But I tell you, a cat needs a name that's particular,
A name that's peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
This second type falls between the first type, which is provided for daily use within the cat’s (human) family. Examples of the “everyday names” that the speaker provides include Peter, James, and Bill Bailey, as well as the slightly more distinctive Augustus.
At the other extreme is the name kept secret from the humans, who will never manage to learn it. This is such a deep secret that only “THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS” it, and often contemplates it during “profound meditation.”