So why did the New York Times use this Britishism in its headline referencing Cash’s song?
Easy: euphony. Contrast the quick staccato of “a dog called Blue” with the unremarkable “a dog named Blue”.
I can’t speak to the motivation of the writer with certainty, however while humans are “named”, animals and inanimate objects are often “called”. “What is his cat called?” The response “his cat is called patches” would not be unusual. “His son is called patches” would only be unusual because he gave his child a cat’s name.
Although not obvious, I think there is a certain degree of servitude implied in being “called” something, i.e. beckoned. I am English and would more often, although not exclusively, use “called” to refer to an animal.
I would definitely say, “My name is…” rather than, “I am called…”
But would I ask a friend, “What’s his name?” of a child and, “What’s he called?” of a pet? I’m still thinking.
You made an interesting point, Lynette, full of semantic issues like the question began. Dogs and servants can be called to your side to do your will.
You don’t call your superiors, except for the modern notion of using a phone, which is different. The definition of beckon and naming became intertwined.
A long story short of the etymology of the English language, says that you should say your baby is named, not called, for numerous reasons.
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