Originally Posted on Tuesday 31 January 2006 at jgs.net.
Many people ask where we came up with the term Okapis. Within a couple of weeks of finding out my wife was pregnant, we went to the Bronx Zoo with her family. Since we had found out, both my wife and I had been struggling with how to refer to the little being growing inside of her (yes, at the time we thought there was only one baby inside of her). We didn’t want to say “he” or “she” and certainly didn’t want to say “it.” Yet, since we didn’t know the gender, we hadn’t come up with a name for our baby.
With this problem percolating in our minds, we walked around the zoo. Every time we came across a four-legged deer-looking animal, my wife would call it an Okapi. Neither of us really knew what an Okapi looked like, but she liked the sound of the word and kept repeating it. At the time, the Bronx Zoo had recently opened up their Congo exhibit and we hadn’t seen it yet. For the first time the line wasn’t long and we got to go in. As we walked through, thoroughly enjoying the utterly different environment they created there, we suddenly found ourselves face-to-face with a real-life Okapi. We were absolutely amazed. I had never seen anything like it in my life. It is a large animal, about six feet tall at its body and another two-to-three feet taller to its head. Its hind legs are striped black-and-white like a zebra, but it has the head and tongue like a giraffe (it is actually a member of the giraffe family). It is a strange looking animal, but incredibly unique and beautiful. It just stood there, out in the open, staring at us as we stared at it, neither one of us wanting to be the first to move.
Finally, it broke contact and hid itself in the bushes and trees as people walked behind us, with no idea what they had just missed.
That night we were lying in bed and my wife patted her stomach and said, “How are you doing little Okapi?”
“Okapi?” I asked.
“Yeah, is that okay?”
“Yes, I think it is.”
Four weeks later when we saw the sonogram and learned it wasn’t a shadow, but another baby inside my wife, we started calling them Okapis. Three years later we still do.
Image by: Jinjian Liang, Flickr