“The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn’t just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I’m as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.”

TS Eliot, “The Naming of Cats”

It is unclear how much life this deceptively childlike poem of Eliot’s would have without the arrival of the Broadway show “Cats” but there is a brilliant and miraculous playfulness in this and the rest of his “Practical Cat” poems. Eliot teased his readers in all his poetry – there was always a broad question of his intentions. To be sure in this verse, the end waxes serious as he contemplates the secret inner name that cats (and by extension all of us) possess. But that sobriety is just shadow behind the ebullient linguistic nonsense of his listing of names. (“Such as Munkstrap, Quaxo, or Coripat,/ Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum…”

(Photo of my nephew felines courtesy of A Mankin)