thoughts on nicknames, cats, and predictive text by Brendan Way.
I’m surprised our cat hasn’t had an identity crisis.
No, honestly, hear me out. Prior to us unofficially adopting him, he was being looked after by our godparents who referred to him as Bandit. Before that, to his first owner, he’d been known simply as Cat. We’ve since dubbed him ‘Jesse’. That’s three names for one pet. How on earth does he know when he’s being summoned?
It doesn’t help that his latest moniker sounds unisex. We could be saying ‘Jesse’ or we could be saying ‘Jessie’ (the latter incidentally is what Mum wanted to call my brothers and I should we have been born female, hence the cat’s name). Consequently, we used to accidentally refer to him as ‘she’ or, when we weren’t thinking, ‘it’. That can’t help a tabby who’s already had to deal with new surroundings, unfamiliar people, and the loss of his original owner, decide if the cod-baby talk is directed at him. Then again, he’s smart enough to know that the sound of clinking and pinging indicates that we’ve refilled his food bowl so perhaps he can deal with multiple names.
Humans certainly can. Over the years, I’ve happily been referred to as B, Bren, Brenny, little dude, B Way, Wayyy!, and, jokingly, babe. Each nickname suggests to me a certain time or relationship in my life. For example, ‘B’ is one I associate with home (it’s also how I could jokingly get a future girlfriend to refer to me; she could call me ‘B’, I could call her ‘honey’…), ‘Wayyy’ is very much a first year of uni thing in that someone cheered whenever they heard my surname in the register, and ‘babe’ is how I and a friend in Devon refer to each other whenever I text him for a lift in order to add a light touch to what otherwise would be a cold formal weekly request to be picked up at 6:45 – that’s PM, obviously; when I’m back home, I consider it impressive if I’m up to see the clock turn noon…
Nicknames then are something I can accept (it helps that most are shortenings of my actual name) and probably a thing the cat can cope with. Heck, even my phone manages to manage with them which is surprising considering that it doesn’t usually like to learn new words.
Yet predictive text, that misguided tool with the limited vocabulary and unusual suggestions (‘nun’ comes up ahead of ‘Mum’ which, although most mothers should be considered saints, vastly overestimates the frequency with which I mention convent inhabitants) has managed to add a few of my frequently used names to its dictionary. For example, it now recognises ‘Tosh’ for ‘Antosh’, ‘Indy’ for ‘India’ (both of who are colleagues of mine at Winchester), and, despite me only mentioning him once, ‘Batman’. What it repeatedly refuses to accept though is the word ‘hooray’. Clearly it doesn’t want me to be happy.
Unfortunately for my dippy digital friend with the deficient dictionary, despite it being my final semester at university, a place where I gained many of my affectionate nicknames, I am happy. Hooray (or, as my phone would have it, ‘hoop’).