A Numbers Game


Maybe there was a real-life cat given the name “Garfield” before 1977, when the comic strip debuted. It’s not a ridiculous name, after all. And James A Garfield was a fairly popular president especially after he was shot and spent the summer dying on the Jersey Shore. They even built a short-haul railroad to better update people on how he wasn’t getting any better, you know that? So there must’ve been some cats named for him in the 1880s if people even named cats back then. And then there must be clubs and historically minded people and whatnot who picked “presidents” as themes for their pets and gave them names from that. Even without the presidential theme, “Garfield” isn’t a bad name for a thing. It’s a normal enough name, not embarrassing to say in public but not terribly likely to get confused with the people around you since it’s a tolerably rare human name too.

But then surely after 1977 bunches of cat owners started naming their cat Garfield because who wouldn’t want to name their pet for one of the most popular yet insufferable characters on the comics page? There must’ve been a peak in like the early 80s when every surface and product in the world was covered in Garfield images. And it would fade too. Even though you’d think people stopped really paying attention to Garfield in Like 1992 and the Internet discovered how much fun the strip was without Garfield in Like 2008. Oh and I guess there was that time in Like 2004 when the Internet discovered that weird Halloween storyline that implies Garfield died in Like 1989 or something and this tied into fan theories about Lyman. Still, there’s a lot of people out there and they remember reading Garfield even if they don’t really anymore.

So there must be some number of cats named Garfield, right this day. And some larger number of cats that have ever been named Garfield. How many? 10 is definitely too few. A million? Probably too high. Ten thousand? Somehow that still feels low; the strip has been going on for a really, really long time. A hundred thousand? That seems possible and yet still seems like a weird number to ponder. But still, long time the comic’s been out there, lot of people with cats, lot of people who want to give their cats pop-cultural reference names.

To sum up then, I’m sorry, I haven’t put any thought at all into what I want in my Denny’s Build Your Own Grand Slam breakfast. Could you come back in a few minutes?

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Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there.

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