Vol. 60 No. 1 (2012)
Research Article

Dear Rin Tin Tin: An Analysis of William Safire’s Dog-Naming Survey from 1985

Published 2012-03-01



This paper contributes to the study of how and why we bestow particular types of names upon companion animals, specifically dogs. The research is based on a cache of letters written in 1985 in response to a request from New York Times columnist, William Safire. Although the survey is in no sense scientific, it nonetheless taps trends in dog naming that have become steadily more prominent to the present day. Dog names as well as the criteria by which they are selected reflect central aspects of the relation- ship between pet owners and their canine companions. The letters reveal a growing preference for people names for dogs, which accords with the increasing treatment of companion animals as human. Dog nicknaming is common, particularly for those pedigree canines registered with the American Kennel Club. Dog naming provides pet owners a creative outlet, and a way to reinforce and communicate publicly a particular self-image.


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