When my brother Will was 2, he liked to pretend he was a puppy. He'd crawl around and bark, and my mom made him a headband with dog ears and fed him cereal out of a bowl on the kitchen floor. One day, my mom asked my brother (in dog character) what his name was:
Mom: what's your name, little dog?
Will: Today's Potato Soup Blaster
No one knows where this idea came from, but it stuck around. From that day forth, whenever Will was being a puppy, his name was Today's Potato Soup Blaster.
Then, three years later, we got a puppy.
We all talked about what to name the puppy. No one really cared, except Will, who was now five. Will insisted that "Today's Potato Soup Blaster" was the only name right-thinking people would name a puppy. The rest of us grumbled, but acquiesced.
Except, my other brother, Matt, who was four, had some trouble remembering this name. So when Will was off at kindergarden every day, Matt would spend his mornings playing with the puppy and asking my mother what the puppy's name was. Over and over again.
My mother grew weary of this game with predictable speed, and to amuse herself, turned to sarcasm.
Matt (for the 10th time in an hour): What's the puppy's name?
Mom: (fondly, exasperatedly, and totally expecting to be ignored): Oh, just call him WHAT!
To those who have met any of the people involved, what ensued is not surprising.
Matt, who at the time had the attention span of something-with-a-very-short-attention-span, somehow glommed on to the new name, and proceeded to go into the front yard to play with the puppy.
Informational Aside: My mom hated our next door neighbors at the time. They had lots of vicious Rottweilers and were rude and annoying. But they did like dogs, and we all maintained a veneer of polite acquaintanceship.
The neighbor lady was in her front yard. Matt and the puppy were in our front yard. My mom was in the kitchen,
Neighbor: Hi sweetie! What's the puppy's name?
Neighbor (louder): What's the puppy's name, honey?
Matt: His name is What!
Neighbor: No, what's his name?
Matt: Yeah! What's his name!
Mom: (silent hysterical laughter)
This conversation went on for a long, long time. Matt didn't get bored, and just got very slightly frustrated and annoyed. He was such a charming, well-meaning child. The neighbor lady was annoyed and frustrated, but since she was talking to a four-year-old, she didn't think anything of it. My mom laughed harder than she had any right to, and didn't ever intervene.
Neighbor: is that your new puppy?
Neighbor: does he have a name?
Neighbor: what is his name?
Matt: yeah! his name is What!
So. At the end of this momentous day, everyone came home from work and school and my mama told us the story (she cried a little bit, from laughing, while retelling it) (I cry a little bit from laughing when I retell it too).
And from that day forth, the dog was called What.
postscript: when people yelled to each other ("MOOOOOM!" "WHAT!?!?") the dog always came running. "No, not YOU."
And it was pretty fun to stand at the back door yelling What! WHAAAT! What! at night.