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Stob

'No, you don't understand,' the White Knight said, looking a little vexed. 'That's what the name is called. The name really is "The Aged Aged Man."'

'Oh, do get on with it, you pedantic old weirdo,' snapped Alice crisply.

Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll (1871), revised Verity Stob (2009)

It started when we were all in the Pre and Pretzel (or more precisely huddled outside, for such is the fate these days of those foolish enough to befriend smokers) sitting out the Twitpocalypse over a few jars of Fullers' finest.

 A fox terrier wandered up, snuffling under the table for dropped fragments of hand-cooked, double-aged, triple-virgin Drunken-Goat-cheese-and-Andalucian-red-onion flavoured crisplet. (You will have inferred that the P and P is a gastro pub.)

I like fox terriers, so I foolishly put out my hand to stroke the beast. But before I could touch him, a haughty female voice rang out:

'Stephen? Stephen! Stop bothering those people and come here at once.'

Now, I don't really see the point of a male fox terrier not called 'Montmorency', so I admit I am biased. But surely no dog, from the noblest Great Dane to the rattiest little miniature, should be called 'Stephen'. Stephen is simply not a dog's name. To moniker a mutt thus is an act of nominal incaninity.

I intimated this to my drinking companions, but using smaller words.

'Good spot, Verity,' said Mike. '"Stephen" is definitely unsuitable for a dog. As is "Richard".'

'Although some first names do work fine,' observed Colin. '"Mike" is quite all right, for example. "Come here, Mike! Sit, Mike! Bad Mike!" It just rolls off the tongue. And as for "Verity", that is a perfectly beautiful name for a b-'

'"Colin" on the other hand, could never successfully be attached to a pooch,' I interrupted. Colin smiled complacently and prematurely. 'It's far too stately and stolid. No, "Colin" is definitely a tortoise's name. It invokes a typically chelonian view of life, myopically peering at a piece of lettuce for minutes on end before taking a slow motion bite, retreating into your shell with a wheeze whenever it is your round, and so on.'

After this the conversation really got off the ground. Following up on the discovery of the properties of 'Colin', Dave observed that 'Peter' was also an unsatisfactory name for dog (Dave's preferred adjective was 'crap'), but a great name for a budgie. Everybody else pointed out that 'Dave' was a crap name for a TV channel.

Somebody pointed out that Lord Cardigan's horse, on the occasion he led the Light Brigade charging to its doom, was named 'Ronald' (I googled this up afterwards, and found to my astonishment that it is perfectly true). We wondered if the course of British military history would have been different if the beast had been blessed with a proper, horsey name, like 'Desert Orchid' or 'Sanyo Music Centre'.

We began to work our way through all the names we could think of, seeing if we could detect trends. This was harder than you might suppose. Male middle class names were often hopeless (Phillip, William) but sometimes fine (Roger, Timmy). It was found that exotica such as 'Ambrose', 'Clovis', 'Maly' and 'Gretchen' were generally okay (I demurred on 'Gretchen' but was overruled) and the 'jocular pairings' name generation algorithm generally produced results that remained acceptable even after the supposed drollness wore off: 'Salt and Pepper', 'Paint and Stripper' and even 'Dolce and Vita'. If you want to find a good name for your dog, get two.

Then somebody pointed out that 'Mark' was a rotten name for a hound but a fine name for a file server, and I realised we were on the brink of creating a key resource, for which the Internet has been gasping ever since the first DNS server cranked up into life. I diligently kept notes of the conversation on soggy napkins and half-beermats, and the next day was able to distil the essence of our night's work into a few simple tenets, which I present below.

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