People Google the darndest things: Why don’t Jamaicans name their pets?

Okay. When I came across this one while checking the tracker stats for my blog, I felt it was my civic and cultural duty to stop working on my latest project and offer my perspective, analysis and actual life experience as it relates to this oft-misunderstood aspect of Jamaican life.

The internet seeker (from the UK) asks, “Why don’t Jamaicans name their pets?”

Now, you might think, based on my previous response to “Why don’t Jamaican’s like frogs?”, that we Jamaicans, as a people, have an utter disregard, disrespect, and disdain for forms of life we perceive as beneath us–both animal as well as certain humans.

You would be forgiven for extrapolating that we Jamaicans would see it as the height of folly and foolery to confer a humanizing name to animals we consider as merely security investments (intruder-barking dogs), housekeeping implements (rodent-catching cats), and household decorations (beautifying fish).

Ahhh, but you would be mistaken. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, particularly when it comes to dogs, we have not one, mind you, but SEVERAL names for these household purch–, I mean, um, pets. Let me give a few examples.

Had you the honor and privilege of actually residing with a Jamaican family on the island of Jamaica, you would, at any given moment, hear the head of the household confer one or more of the following terms of endearment on the dog(s) of the house:

“Dutty Mongrel!”–as in, “get dat dutty mongrel offa mi settee!” (Actually, this name would rarely be used in this context as all Jamaican dogs know–by training and instinct–the boundaries and limits of their cohabitation agreements with Jamaicans. Rare is the dog, indeed, that would make it far enough inside the house to actually end up on the settee. Rarer still would be the dog who survived such a transgression.

“Tiefin’ Ginal!”–as in, “Dat tiefin ginal wait til mi tun mi back and grab di piece a meat offa di table!”. [See “dutty mongrel” for information on transgressions of the human/dog domicile boundary.]

“Di Dog Dem!”— as in, “Lawd gad, mi couldn’ sleep, di dog dem just a bark all night!” As mentioned in another post, “di dog dem” is the pluralized form of dog. (“Dem” can also be used to pluralize just about anything living. eg. The cat dem, the people dem, etc.)

“Lazy Brute”–As in “You lazy brute, go look wuk!” (go look (for) work) This was a favorite term my grandfather would use whenever he would exit the house to find “di dog dem” sleeping on the steps or staring expectantly into his face or hands for any signs of food.

“Mangy Ras”–as in, “Listen mi. If you no keep dat likkle mangy ras dog offa mi grass, me an’ you a go war today!” Translation: “Please curb your dog, or I’ll be very upset.”

So, you see, unlike you Brits and Americans, we Jamaicans do not limit ourselves to expressing our affection for our dogs and household pets to merely one name. We believe that a dog’s name should be malleable! Why name a dog once, when you can give your pet the true gift of love with a name that changes to match the mood of the moment!

Glad I could help clear this up!