I have a cat named Hampton. He was named after the Hampton Inn, which in this story should absolutely be taken as a euphemism for the dumpster behind the Myrtle Beach waterfront Hampton Inn, which is a euphemism for a generic mid-tier hotel. When you press your nose to his fur he smells like a gingerbread cookie.
I have three seashells from the Myrtle shoreline: bluish, wave-worn brutes of whelks. When you take something foreign into your home, you must first bleach it, letting the particulate matter leech out into the sink and down the drain. Then you wait for it to approve of its transplantation by appearing to adapt to its environment.
The cat we renamed, both from the embarrassment of having a cat named Hampton, and also from the embarrassment of the implication that we lacked imagination to do other than name our cat after the place where we found him. Therefore, we now have a cat named Minwu, named after a videogame character’s English rendering of a Japanese conversion of a Chinese name. None of us have played this videogame, but I think the whelks might enjoy it.
Some of my favorite city names come from Colorado, a place where imagination fully abandoned the white settlers who mapped this frontier: Golden, Monument, Gunbarrel, Boulder…Myrtle Beach. That is, beach, with myrtle.
I’ll admit to wanting a cat with an Asian name. Wanting something to show he is like me, even if he is not. When we assume a new name, we, like the unceded lands of the Waccamaw and Arapaho I’ve lived on, hope to blend in with American culture. My parents named me Maria.