Cats, names, art

The cats prowl through ancient Rome, Egypt, and India — and modern Russia, Estonia, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. Leaving their names and (in the work of graphic artists and cartoonists) their images. All of this triggered by the appearance — my copy came yesterday — of Bob Eckstein’s latest book:

(#1) As noted in my posting yesterday, which was unadventurously entitled “The Complete Book of Cat Names”, my name is in the book, in a list of people who suggested cat names to Bob

On reflection, I might have suggested any or all of the names of My Three Cats (now starring in a heart-warming bird and fish comedy shown on a loop throughout the day on The Cat Channel) to Bob, though none of them made the cut: Koshka the Russian cat, Marjarah the Sanskrit cat, and Kurniau the Estonian cat (kurniau is what cats say in Estonian — it’s a purr and a meow — so it would definitely be a candidate for Bob’s “names you would think your cat can pronounce” category). Yes, I know, Marjarah and Kurniau are obscure — arcane and professorial — but Russian кошка (fem.), transliterated as koshka, is just everyday ‘cat’ (specifically female if sex is relevant, but also used for male cats; a tomcat is қот (masc.), transliterated as kot).

That was yesterday. Today I’ll take you to one section of Bob’s book, on “Roman cat names” (which, the Roman Empire having been what it was, also takes us to Egypt), with two cartoons; and to Donald Brun’s famous Swiss thread-cat poster, depicting the cat Silken Zwicky (which will take us also to the Cat Museum in Amsterdam). So, a tour of Eurasia, from Nederland to Bharata.

Roman cat names. In two pages:

(#2) Catlas and Sphinxat

Egypt, with the Sphinx, gets in there thanks to the Roman interventions on the far shore of the Mediterranean that we mostly know through stage and screen, notably in: Shakespeare’s play Antony and Cleopatra (first performed ca. 1607); George Bernard Shaw’s play Caesar and Cleopatra (written in 1898); the 1945 film Caesar and Cleopatra (with Vivien Leigh and Claude Rains); and the 1963 film Cleopatra (with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton).

Silken Zwicky. In a 1950s poster by Swiss graphic artist Donald Brun, advertising the Swiss thread firm Zwicky; Silken Zwicky is wielding a spool of silk thread (soie à coudre, literally ‘silk for sewing’). The poster comes in a two-cat version:

(#3) The street cat is looking at the original (one-cat) poster of Silken Zwicky

Just the original poster, along with a ticket from the Cat Museum in Amsterdam, in my 3/3/10 posting “Zwicky and the Cat Museum”:


And then my framed copy of the original, displayed on a wall in my Palo Alto condo:

(#5) With yet another cat that can look at a regal cat

One Response to “Cats, names, art”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    Russian кошка (fem.), transliterated as koshka, is just everyday ‘cat’ (specifically female if sex is relevant, but also used for male cats; a tomcat is қот (masc.), transliterated as kot.

    Similarly in German, where Katze (f.) is generic cat, and Käter (m.) is specifically “tomcat”.

    I assume, on that page of “Roman” cat names, that “Caser” is a typo for “Caesar” (or “Cesar”).

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: