What’s in a name? How the Dickens would I know?

I started keeping a couple of hens as soon as I owned a garden.  My first two were cast-offs, from a friend of a friend.  They were huge black birds that had silhouettes like Queen Victoria in mourning, and arrived accompanied by a cockerel*. 

After two days, the cockerel was not popular with my neighbours, Dave and Gina, who found his 4 a.m. crowing impossible to sleep through.  Even occasional donations of half-a-dozen eggs didn’t reconcile them to him, which is a shame, because passers-by invariably commented on how handsome he was.

Roughly a year later, Gina told me how Dave cheered when Cockerel’s early morning crow broke off midway through his chorus. ‘At last,’ Dave cried, ‘the ****** thing’s had a heart-attack.’ 

I dug a deep hole, and planted a black-currant bush on Cockerel. For me, names are important.  I don’t name everything, animate or inanimate. Somehow, Cockerel never needed any other name, though the two hens were Henrietta and Flossie-the-flew. 

I replaced the hens as time took it’s toll, but decided that I’d leave out cockerels and keep on good terms with my neighbours.  Then Dave asked if I could drop some tools off for his friend, George, as I was passing through the next village.

‘Thanks,’ said George, when I arrived with a car-boot full of drills, spanners and hammers. As we emptied the car, he said, ‘I hear you’ve got hens.  What about a cockerel to keep them company?’ He’d rescued eight male pullets from a colleague who had hatched out a batch of eggs to amuse his children and only wanted to keep the hens. ‘He was going to put these boys in the pot.  Look at them, you couldn’t live with that, could you?’

I said I could, and pointed out that he would be risking his and my friendship with Dave and Gina. ‘Besides,’ I said, ‘my hens are full grown. He’ll get bullied.’

‘Not for long,’ said George. ‘Besides, better bullied, than roasted.’

‘Are you vegetarian?’ 

‘No, and yes I eat chicken, but that’s not the same,’ he said, as he put a cockerel into a box and loaded it into my car.

No one noticed the extra bird.  He hadn’t grown his adult plumage or his voice.  Ray and I watched him skulking under shrubs, and dodging the sudden attacks of our three hens, One, Two and Three.

Benny HillWe invited Dave and Gina round for a drink. ‘Meet Turkey-Lurkey,’ we said, leading them out to the garden.  Turkey-Lurkey was running for cover after another unsuccessful attempt to win over the hens.  ‘It’s straight out of Benny Hill,’ said Dave, when he’d recovered from his laughing fit. 

Turkey-Lurkey matured.  He grew in height and stature, developed a fine plumage, a finer voice, and took his place at the top of the pecking order. He was handsome, and we were fond of him.  He developed idiosyncrasies that seemed to be expressions of his name.  One morning we noticed that all three hens now followed, rather than ran at him.  Turkey-Lurkey strutted and postured.  Now his lurking took the form of lying in wait for intruders, whether that be the postman or our new puppy.   

turkey lurkeyWe apologised, laughed, and enjoyed him, but: ‘We would happily give him away, if we could find someone who wouldn’t put him in a pot,’ I told anyone who would listen. 

Dave and Gina were patient, and possibly more motivated than us.  One afternoon, Gina told me about a family who would love to adopt Turkey-Lurkey. 

I don’t know if his new owners adopted his name as well.  I like to think not, that they took their own measure of his personality and found the right symbol to express what he meant to them. 

Does it matter that I’ve called my neighbour Dave rather than David?  What if I’d called him Paul, or Arthur?  Then there’s his surname: I never mentioned it was Pecksniff, but if I had, and you’ve read some Dickens novels that might have influenced the way you pictured him.

  *  In America, cockerel’s are called roosters.    

Top Photo: Benny Hill chase-scene.


19 thoughts on “What’s in a name? How the Dickens would I know?

  1. Ah, Benny Hill! And it sounds like you’ve maintained a good relationship with the neighbors with and without the roosters. My daughter so badly wants a pet, but we just haven’t the space or budget. I’m hoping to see about volunteering at an animal shelter, or 4-H–it’s a farm-based organization to get kids into learning how to take care of animals and such. I want her to revel in her passions, but in a way we can afford. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I empathise with Blondie. When I was a child, i made pets of any unfortunate wild thing I came across, from small rodents rescued from cats to earth-worms – one thoughtful aunt gave me a wormery for Christmas – not cuddly, but interesting, and longer lived than damaged rodents.

      Volunteering at an animal shelter sounds ideal – though all those pets in need of homes might be very tempting!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh gosh, I know. I’ve said that IF we get a pet, we’d get a rescue dog. The problem is that we have neighbors with one pit bull that’s often not leashed, and one other huge dog that can easily jump their little fence. Not that their dogs have done anything to our kids, but I just don’t trust huge unleashed dogs.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Today we have naming of parts,. Thanks Cath for taking me back there – it’s glorious. Now, with autocorrect on the computer, I have to make a special effort not to address you as Cathy – as you say names are vitally important and play a major part in the whole first impressions thing. We had a rescue cat who would only respond to “Puss” so we called her Pushkin. Imagine the delight of a couple of our Russian visitors when we introduced her. (We did not reveal the actual reason for the name.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you enjoyed the trip, Mike, and thanks for drawing my attention to Henry Reed. I’d heard of his poem, ‘the naming of parts’, but you’ve prompted me to look it up. I wonder why we didn’t have this one on the reading list at school.

      I love the extension of “Puss” to Pushkin, I do hope she developed some intriguing Russian tendencies, perhaps after she’d been introduced to your Russian visitors.


  3. I have a volunteer job where I chit-chat or say hello to quite a few people who work in the building. I know the names of only a handful of those people. I’m not proud of that. On the other hand, those people haven’t made an effort to learn my name either. Oh well.


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  4. In my farming days I had a cockerel called Claude. I had a goose called Gulliver, a matriach of an Aberdeen Angus (cow) called Aggie…I could go on. Is alliteration a symptom of something? Anyway, Claude,like your Cockerel was a noisy beggar, a braggart and a bully to boot (there I go again) and like yours, he had an untimely death. He liked to perch on the edge of a water butt preening and looking at himself. I came home one day to find him floating there and too late for resuscitation. Can’t say I missed him though!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You do seem to have a poetic turn when it comes to naming. Poor Claude, in retrospect he should have been Narcissus, but I see that might have broken your naming rhythm, which is such a neat way to go about the job.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. We have a lot of backyard chickens in the area I live. They free range and provide great eggs. I know that many have very distinctive personalities so I’m not surprised that yours to too. I love the names. 🙂 But those roosters sure do make a racket early in the morning!


    • Oh yes, eggs that are free-range and fresh, are a treat. Lucky you to have access without needing to hand over your garden to poultry, who are not good on design or maintenance, just phenomenal diggers.

      Liked by 1 person

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