Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Pompey Chronicles, Part II: Naming the Pug

In Part I of this series, published February 16th, I described how we found our most-beloved pug.  Today's essay discusses how we decided on his name.

Once Boy and I selected the Scamp as the pug we would be bringing home with us in a month’s time, our next task was to name him.  We wanted it to be perfect -- clever, playful, and appropriate for a pug.

Boy's inspiration
photo by Boy Fenwick

We never considered "Pugsly" or "Winston" for a moment, since they are much overused as names for the breed.  We liked "Bamboo," but thought it might be a better name for a second pug, if we were to get one.  After much debate, Boy decided his first choice was “Duncan”-- as in Duncan Phyfe, the Federal-era cabinetmaker (we have some furniture at Darlington that is attributed to his workshop).  I, on the other hand, in what I now recognize as a complete loss of sanity and taste, settled on "Skippy" as my top pick, inspired both by the mischievous, early-20th-century comic strip character of that name and the peanut butter brand found in virtually every American pantry in the 1960s.

My inspiration
photo by Boy Fenwick

We also canvassed others for their opinons.  I come from a family where the women are dog-obsessed, with a tendency to find themselves all too easily owning too many of them, anywhere from two or three at the low end, up to five or six when things get really out of hand.  I am closest to my dog-owning and dog-loving eldest sister, Camilla (known as “Sister”), and I speak with her regularly, usually once a week or so.  Sister has a good sense of humor.  I asked her for her input as to what we should name the pug; she thought about it for a while and suggested “Donut”.  We both got a good laugh out of that, and agreed that it was actually a rather good name for a pug.

Sister's choice
photo by Boy Fenwick

Several days later I shared these three options with my dog-owning mother, a woman of decided views who was still alive at the time but in declining health.  She didn’t approve of any of them.

“None of those names are any good.  They have no dignity!  You need to name your dog with a name that conveys a sense of dignity, and which is a good calling name, too.  I’ll think about it and get back to you with a good, sound name.”  She then hung up the phone.

One of the many books we consulted

A week later I got a message at my office that my mother had called.  This was extremely unusual.  She rarely called me, never more than once or twice a year, and only at home.  I couldn’t remember her ever calling me at work.  So I quickly called her back.

“I’ve got it!” she said excitedly.

“Got what?” I responded.

“His name! The dog’s name!”

“What have you come up with?” I asked.

“Pompey!  That’s his name.  It has dignity, it is appropriate for the breed, and it’s a good calling name, too.”

Pompey the Great in middle age
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek
Copenhagen, Denmark

Pompey, also known as “Pompey the Great” as I learned, was the name of a highly revered Roman nobleman and military hero who lived during the reign of Julius Caesar.  Pompey was considered to be one of the greatest military heroes in all of Roman history and was the subject of a biography by Plutarch.  I thought it was a marvelous name, and quite clever, too.

Yet more about pugs

When I told Boy what my mother had come up with he agreed that Pompey was, in fact, an ideal name for our pug.  It had a nice, almost musical, sound to it; it rolled off the tongue easily; and it ended on an up-note.  It also, as my mother said, had dignity -- unlike our other choices.  Furthermore, we thought that naming him Pompey as she suggested would be a fitting tribute to her, and would give her pleasure at a time in her life when there wasn’t all that much left for her to be happy about.  Besides, and not to get too morbid here, we felt that naming him Pompey would be a pleasing link with her after she died, which, as it turns out, she did relatively soon thereafter.

And that’s how Pompey got his name.

Next week: For the Love of Pompey


  1. Delightful story. I adore how the Darling siblings found inspiration in food (junk food!) whereas Boy's influence is firmly ensconced in the decorative arts. Pet's names are as revealing as one's medicine cabinet.

    Thank you for sharing.


  2. THAT is a beautiful story.

    (i love reading your Pompey chronicles....)

  3. Reggie Darling, I now feel very close to you for thinking to name your dog skippy!I feel we are somehow more connected, I can NOT imagine from what I've read of Reggie that this would remotely enter your mind , I am to say the least thrilled-It is what keeps me returning to Darlington House! Your Mom is golden-You should speak with her more often and bless her for working this out for you. Great fun, oh and Duncan would be a terrific name for your second.

  4. Hi Reggie,
    What a cute recollection! The other choices could well be his middle names...Pompey, Donut,Skippy, Duncan Darlington. Quite a "mouthfull" for a dearly beloved.

  5. Among James Lee-Milne's voluminous diaries there are references to
    his dog, also named Pompey. Great minds thinking alike! In this case,'
    your Mother's and JL-M's.

  6. My friends have 2 pugs named Donut and Porkchop. I'm a fan of Porkchop myself.

  7. Modern Traditionalist -
    Amused to read your comment because, as another Darling sibling, I have a whippet named Soup!

    Hermione Darling

  8. What a great story. Your mother sounds like she was a fine lady. And Pompey -- perfect!

  9. As a ninth grade student of Latin, starting with the imitable Mrs. Frey, I certainly appreciate the name selected. "Latin is a dead language" LOL.ROTFLMAO.


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