Friday Fluff, Sweet Machine

Friday fluff: What’s in a name

I’m shamelessly ripping off a recent question of the day from Shakesville for our Friday fluff: what’s the story behind your screen name? “Sweet Machine” is the title of a poem (and a book) by Mark Doty, one of my very favorite writers. It’s a wonderful poem about the beauty of the human body and the ethics of aestheticizing it, and if you’ve got a few minutes I highly recommend you click that link and read the whole thing. There’s one part in particular that made it come to mind when I was trying to pick a name to consolidate my online identity in the fatosphere and feminist blogosphere, given that I was going to be writing/commenting on body image:

The photographees

left him headless, his gestures multiplied
on builders’ makeshift walls, page after page

of blank torsos already beginning to be inscribed:

Check out the whole thing.

So what’s the story of your name? Do you feel like you are that person, or do you feel like it’s a disguise or a persona? (We all know, of course, that “Kate Harding” is a fictive persona designed to fool millions of fat people into not doing their patriotic duty and becoming as skinny as possible.)

149 thoughts on “Friday fluff: What’s in a name”

  1. Being extremely boring, I almost always go by my real name. :) It’s unusual enough that I don’t generally get confused with anyone else.

    The question of online identity is actually an interesting one that I’ve been thinking about lately. I like to think that I’m always myself in my regular online communities. However, which aspects of myself that I actually display in a given community varies widely.

    Here, and in what other fatosphere and/or feminism blogs I frequent, I’m very careful to always be polite and (hopefully) reasonable, and also to be nice! I am nice and polite in real life, so it’s not acting at all.

    However, I also belong to a couple of snark communities. There, politeness is not valued very much, and “niceness” is often held in contempt where it is counterproductive or leads to bad situations or ignoring bad behavior. So I feel free to show more of my sarcasm and be more assertive. They’re not faked either.

    In my friends’ personal blogs, I’m nice and also try to be supportive even if I don’t agree with a decision they make. But I’m not as restrained by politeness. Again, very similar to how I try to treat my friends in real life.

    So, not fake, but I’m not showing everything either.

  2. Another bore here—Bree is my middle name and the name I go by out dere in da real world. But since it also means “broth” in Scottish, it’s weird enough, and hey, I’m a food!

  3. I haven’t commented much recently, but will happily come out for this one. The easy answer: I collect penguins and love them. The more interesting answer: My father is a meteorologist who was part of a research project in Antarctica in the 60s and 70s, and my very first stuffed animal was a penguin from the Admundsen/Scott Station. You could say I’ve been hooked since birth. :)

  4. “In a land where image is King, challenging that image is a revolutionary act.” I read that somewhere on the internet and it stuck with me. So I though, “Vive la Revolution” and then immediately thought Vive la Fat!
    I struggled with deciding to use it as a screen name, not just here but everywhere because I wondered what people must think when they see it.
    I finally made up my mind to use it though when I realized that most comments on blogs degenerated to “lol your fat.” This way people know how I feel about fat from the very beginning. Kind of takes the wind out of their sails.

  5. I used to use a nick that was a shameless and horrible play on words between my name and a kind of ritual suicide. Then I switched to an overly long and mostly incomprehensible lyric from a song I wrote. Then, I gave in to my ginormous ego and swapped up for the real name, sometimes appended with the word “Rocks,” ’cause, well, I rock. Literally and metaphorically. Why pretend otherwise, I thought to myself.

    What really cracks me up is that people sometimes think that “Rocks” is my actual last name. how fucking cool would that be?!

  6. Becky is my first name. I actually didn’t start commenting here that way, I commented with one of my screen names (under zenith, which doesn’t have an interesting story behind it either – it’s just the name of a song I like and I thought it sounded cool). Then I sent Kate something and she made a post starting with: “A reader named Becky sent me this” so I thought I’d identify myself as that reader and start posting under that name. I do feel… more like me when I post under my real name.

  7. ’cause, well, I rock. Literally and metaphorically. Why pretend otherwise, I thought to myself.

    This is why I love you.

    I figured “Kate Harding” sounded like a good name for a fictive persona designed to fool millions of fat people into not doing their patriotic duty and becoming as skinny as possible.

    Also, I suck at coming up with clever screen names. When I posted online before I started this, I was either “Kate” or “Lucysol,” for the dogs, Lucille and Solomon. MY ORIGINALITY, LET ME SHOW YOU IT.

    (Please note that half the humor of that last sentence is supposed to come from it being a totally played-out “internet tradition.”)

  8. I have been thinking about my real name lately. My first and middle name are fairly common, both alone and as a combination. My last name is kind of middle of the road, but I have a weird relationship with it because it belongs to my biological father, from whom I am very thankfully estranged. There are three common permutations of my first name – the name itself and two diminutives – and different people call me by all three versions. It sounds weird, but I often don’t know how to introduce myself and I have stumbled over my own name in various business and social situations. The overall effect is that sometimes, I don’t feel comfortable with my own name, or like it is really even my name at all.

    I’ve never been able to hold a nickname, either. People have tried, but not a single nickname has ever stuck.

    Similarly, I have about six different online handles. OTM (which is short for “Ottermatic” (which kind of just came to me one day in a sudden flash of inspiration) and, as I said on Shakesville, also stands for “on the money” or “on the mark” on another board where I used to post and it amuses me to always be OTM when I post on the internet) is the one I use in the fatosphere or when I want to post without using my name, but as a person with a web presence. Most of the other internet names I’ve used have sort of fallen by the wayside, since I have seriously curtailed my random blog/message board posting but every once in awhile I’ll try to log in to a website and have no idea what my user name is.

    Anyway, that’s a lot of babbling, but it’s been something I’ve been thinking about a lot.

  9. As I said in the thread on Shakesville, my pseudonym/blog title is one translation into english of “La Cantatrice Chauve”, the title of a play by Eugene Ionesco –which was the first thing I ever read in French, but that’s not why I picked it. My blog is about living with PCOS (and a few other chronic problems) when you’re not trying to a) lose weight and b) get pregnant. Since I think I’ve started to lose my hair recently, thanks to the PCOS, it seemed fitting.

    (and yes, I sing soprano)

  10. Bree, I always thought you were named after the talking horse in “The Horse and His Boy”.
    (Mine’s a Wilde reference and a nod to my pretentious / pedantic tendencies.)

  11. Oh, and OTM/ottermatic are the first gender neutral user names I’ve ever used, but like I said, I mostly use them on the fatosphere or other tangentially related websites (Shakesville) where I think people already know I identify as female, plus I was always more drawn to smaller communities where I knew some of the people IRL anyway, rather than like giant swamps of idiocy like Slashdot (well, there was Metafilter (I have a two-digit member number OMG), but I have long since quit reading/post there) so whatever sexism I encountered was more of the known source variety than the random violent asshole variety.

  12. Constance is my real name but when I entered the online dating world I needed a nickname for my profile. After discarding various forms of “ruebenesque whatever”, I took my cue from mythology…Juno, wife of Jupiter, queen of the goddesses and junoesque.

  13. I’ve been using lnr (or LNR) online since about 1995. It’s the fault of a computer game we rented one time for my sister’s SNES. We managed to get on the high score board, and it had one of those grids of letters you move the cursor to in order to select your initials. And for some reason the grid had no vowels. Steph was OK (SCB) but Emily and I became MLY and LNR. It’s been my online name for so long that some people even use it in real life. And quite often people will use L as an initial for me rather than E.

  14. Even though I study physics, one of my favorite classes I took as an undergrad was on French Existentialism, where we read a bit of Proust. Depending on when you asked, I either loved it or hated it. Hence “aproustian”, which can be taken either positively, “a” as in the article, or negatively, “a” as in “without” or “against”. The ambiguity just amuses me :P

  15. I picked the name Caitlin so people wouldn’t know I’m actually Kate Harding. (What’s the usual short form of Caitlin, I ask you? COINCIDENCE, I THINK NOT.)

    Or: I’ve been on the internet for a long long time under my own name, from I was 14 and hadn’t heard of things like “internet safety” (because no one really had at that point). It’s a pretty uncommon name, and my writing/speaking style (they’re more the same than most people’s, I think) is very distinctive once you get to know it, so in order to have a tiny bit of anonymity I decided to go with Caitlin here instead. It’s close enough to my real name that it still feels like me, but it just gives me a little feeling of protection from flack while I work my way out from under the “girls shouldn’t get angry/be opinionated” shite that’s been pounded into me.

    Interesting (?) fact: in my head I’m occasionally pronouncing it the Irish way (“Katchleen”). But not always, because why ever be free from contradiction?

  16. Oh, and you ask how much it’s really me or just a persona? I think a few years back it would have been entirely really me, but now I just use my real name instead pretty much everywhere, because it’s easier than swapping it in and out when sending email for grown-up reasons (like to my solicitor) where LNR would have seemed a bit silly.

    In real life people call me Eleanor or Ellie, and it’s interesting watching the latter fade in and out of fashion among different groups of friends – it used to mostly be with family, but it’s caught on much more these days. It always seems weird when someone I don’t know really well uses it of me though.

  17. I literally have no idea. One day I signed up for a message board as harvey the penguin. Then I signed up for another one as harveypenguin, because it was shorter. I don’t know why that’s the name I used. I guess I’ve always liked penguins, and Harvey was a name I tended to use whenever I needed a random name.

  18. Mine is from an Ash song that I used to like about a million years ago. It also sort of lines up with part of my surname (which is so distinctive that I decided not to use my real name on the unlikely offchance I ever said something stupid on teh internets), and I started to identify so much with thegirlfrommarz username that I use it everywhere.

    I’m a Kate too in real life – perhaps I’m also Kate Harding?

  19. With my screen name, I guess I’m trying to reconfigure the way people think about diabetes by calling it out as part of my identity (type2) and also point out that I’m much more than just someone with diabetes (wellrounded).
    Also, that I can remain fat and still be doing a fine job managing diabetes.
    The problem is that it’s long. So when it’s been shortened to WRT2 that works for me, except that it sounds like a robot or computer name. I like it when I get a nickname, though, because, well…

    Off-line, I go by my first and middle names even though I’m not from the South. Some people have a hard time with it, but it just sounds so much better to me that way. They are both short names and when I was younger I longed for a long name like “Elizabeth” — I used to love to think about all of the nicknames that could be generated from Elizabeth. So someone pointed out to me when I was lamenting how short my name was that I could use my middle name too, and it worked.

    I try to be easy-going about it but I do really prefer using both names. Also, when I got married, I didn’t want to change my last name, but finally decided when I wanted to become pregnant that changing my name had some symbolic meaning and keeping the first two names felt like the most important part of my identity would stay intact.

    One thing that I think is kind of fascinating is that I do reference fatness in my screenname even though online, no one has to know that about me. Not just here. And the same thing goes for type 2 diabetes, it’s not like you can tell by looking at me and no one would know online unless I mentioned it. So why not assume an identity that disguises rather than calls these out?

    I think it’s because I am afraid that I’m “passing” some of the time as a fat person who is not pro-FA, or someone without diabetes. I look fat, sure, but you can’t tell by looking at me that if you ask “have you lost weight?” I might go off on you. (I won’t. I will want to, but I have a niceness problem, so I won’t.)

    Long answer.

  20. On the identifying with your username thing – thegirlfrommarz is me. She’s just me with a cooler head and far more patience with anti-feminist idiots at the Guardian’s Comment is Free comment site than I would have in real life. She’s also more openly political and certainly more openly feminist than I am in real life.

    Hmm, this is making me wonder how much I hide my feminism in real life because it makes people uncomfortable.

    Damn you, Shapely Prose, for making me think! :)

  21. Bunny was my nickname in college, and then university; a combination of intense stress and exhaustion, coupled with the brain-melt that comes with studying astrophys, plus a diet consisting of cheap coffee, caffeine tablets, lucozade tablets, lucozade and mars bars plus a maximum of 5 hours sleep a night left me a bit… bouncy, ditzy and confused.

    Mazonas is my mother’s maiden name, and a name I am considering taking back for my own, since us Mazonas’ are a pretty rare species.

  22. MissPrism: Hahaha! That is undeserved praise. I didn’t even put my website address there because I didn’t want to garner the attention of any haterz, plus I had intended to post links and all that jazz, but after I started typing I just got exhausted and gave up. Then I took Unclutterer out of my RSS feed (it was no loss because sometimes Erin is a little too “It works for me so it is universal!!!” and there is a guy who posts there who is absolutely uncritical about gendered divisions of labor “When my wife gets up at four am to make breakfast and pack our lunches and starch my boxers and churn the butter and wash the dog, she really hates clutter…”) and now I am more relaxed, having “uncluttered” my daily blog reading.

  23. I latched onto vesta 11 years ago, when I got my first computer and email account (thus the 44, since I’ll be 55 in Nov). Vesta was a cat-person in an E. E. “Doc” Smith novel I read 35 years ago (humanoid, walking upright, but had all the characteristics of a cat, fur and tail included) and she was the coolest person in that book, to my way of thinking (obviously, as I hadn’t forgotten her, even though it had been almost 25 years since I had read the book at the time I picked my online nick). I’ve never felt the need to have another online name, so I use vesta (with different numbers behind, depending on where I am, like Pogo, since someone there already had vesta44 [how dare they!]). And some people, who have met me IRL, but are so used to calling me vesta online, call me vesta instead of my real name (which is fine by me, I don’t like the nicks that people try to make out of Mariellen, like Mary or Mare [I’m not a horse]).
    I also liked that Vesta is the Goddess of the hearth and part of every fire. “Vesta commands the sacred fires of the hearth, the heart of spiritual and emotional stability in your home.” Very appropriate for someone who is a Scorpio, I think.

  24. My name here: Lilah comes from some songs by one of my favorite bands, Morphine. I chose Cello because I love the shape and sound of the instrument. When I put them together, it sounded pretty and Italian-esque, at a time when I was trying to embrace and reclaim my Italian heritage from a less than “ideal Italian” family.

    On MySpace, I usually go by ‘Sauntered (or Sauntering) Vaguely Downward,” which is from the book Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman. Crowley is a demon, “an Angel who did not so much Fall as Saunter Vaguely Downwards.”

    I’ve also used my high school nickname, Mokei, which is my spelling of the Fraggle’s name.

  25. In real life people call me Eleanor or Ellie, and it’s interesting watching the latter fade in and out of fashion among different groups of friends – it used to mostly be with family, but it’s caught on much more these days. It always seems weird when someone I don’t know really well uses it of me though.

    I’m the same way with Katy. Even my family mostly calls me Kate now, but I have a few friends who started calling me Katy after they knew me for a while, and I like that fine — I’m actually very big on nicknames. I can’t stand it, however, when people leap right to that after I’ve just introduced myself as Kate. From friends, it’s charmingly affectionate; from strangers, it’s infantilizing.

  26. Mazonas is an AWESOME name. It makes me think of fun made up words like “bazongas” or “simoleons” which are pretty delightful, plus it is a little reminiscent of Amazon. The name invokes an image of somebody badass and hilarious and boisterous and fun.

  27. I’m the same way with Katy. Even my family mostly calls me Kate now, but I have a few friends who started calling me Katy after they knew me for a while, and I like that fine — I’m actually very big on nicknames. I can’t stand it, however, when people leap right to that after I’ve just introduced myself as Kate. From friends, it’s charmingly affectionate; from strangers, it’s infantilizing.

    DITTO. Although if somebody arrives at the most diminutive of my nicknames naturally, after an appropriate period of getting to know me time, I am usually delighted since the people who call me the -y form of my name are my closest friends/family. I have an internal rule about when this is okay, but I can’t articulate it; I just know it when I see it. Ha.

  28. Well, lessee. The Leigh part is pretty simple. My IRL moniker is Kimberleigh. Tadaaa.

    Sugar is my online handle and I got it in the fun and simple way that one day I decided I should draw myself as an animal. What animal, I thought, would I be? Probably something little and fuzzy and cute, because I’m short, and mammalian, and probably mostly adorable, except before coffee if I’ve been woken up early.

    So, obviously, sugar gliders are just exactly like me, because mostly nobody understands them or even knows what they are, and they’re small and painfully adorable even though they have weird, socially-unacceptable features such as huge bulgy eyes, big ears, and a patagium, and they have a deep love for sugar, from which they draw much of their life force, and well, me too! So really, it was a match made in heaven, and I drew me as a sugar glider, and I called this alter ego Sugar. The rest is history.

  29. I’ve had this screen name since the days of the BBS, when I was 14. It’s short and sweet and (I think) gender neutral. I originally got it from the Smashing Pumpkins album of the same name, though when I first read Gish Jen a couple years later, I wanted to lie and say that’s where I got it. :D

  30. Aww! *blush* It is actually, kinda made-up as well; they original name is in Lithuanian and was mistranslated when my great grandparents moved to the UK. Don’t actually know what it was before.

  31. Wellrounded, whenever I see WRT i automatically think of “With Respect To” so the shortened name you put up went in my head “with respect to 2 … wait, what?!” So I had to read it again.

    My original nickname on the intarwebs (most recently, at least, I’ve been in the netosphere for far longer than I want to admit to) was Kersplat. That particular person is gone now though. I’ve been going by LauraSplat for a long time and kicked it around for here and haven’t really decided one way or another and inertia is making me leave my name as LauraAnne for now. I’m another realnamer.

  32. Lilah Morgan was the evil lawyer who worked for demonic lawfirm Wolfram & Hart on Angel (the Buffy spinoff). Since I originally signed up for a blogspot (or whatever) account, thinking I might start a law blog, it seemed appropriate (given that was a law student/am a lawyer (how weird it is I can say that now)) and am also, you know, evil.

    My real name is Katie, so you know what that implies. Interestingly, I did actually get mistaken for Kate Harding once when I posted a comment linking to one of her posts on an unrelated blog under the name “Katie.” The blogger posted another post saying “Well, Kate Harding decided to link to her blog in my last post.” Way to display reading comprehension, buddy.

  33. Lilah, every time I see your name I think “That looks so familiar . . .” I feel like an idiot now, because I LOVED that show! :D

    Oh, um – my name is really my name. Although I mostly lurk and don’t comment. ;)

  34. I actually have two online handles that I use for different purposes. The amusing thing is that Twistie developed out of my other persona.

    When I started out online, I used a handle that was a combination of my first name and the first syllable of my last name. When I got heavily into online fandom I…well…I didn’t want to post my terribly smutty fanfic under any version of my real name, so I created a handle based on my favorite character in my favorite show: Giles on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The original handle got dropped in favor of my new fandom identity.

    Shortly after I started posting my rude little tales of Hellmouth debauchery, I started getting feedback from another fan of the show. We quickly discovered we had a lot in common beyond love of smutty stories about television characters and started referring to one another as ‘my twisted sister, x’. Eventually that got shortened to Twistie. To this day we sign our emails to one another as Twistie and greet one another on the phone with a cheery (or otherwise) ‘hey, Twistie.’

    When I started commenting on Manolo for the Brides, I decided I didn’t want those comments connected to my fanlife and signed my comments as Twistie. When The Manolo eventually asked me to join his stable of bloggers, there was no question of coming up with another handle. Other readers already knew me as Twistie and it seemed silly to come up with anything else.

    The name works for me, largely because my brain has been known to behave like a corkscrew in its efforts at logic.

    In fandom, though, I’m still known as Gileswench.

  35. LauraAnne, I like your name as it has the two names in one thing happening, and thanks for pointing out that WRT2 is redundant.

    I doubt I’ll change my screenname just to make it shorter, so the redundancy will just have to stay for now.

    And my online person is pretty much me, maybe slightly braver. Only in real life, I’m more adorable.

  36. My name, I thought I made up. I liked “Mae” and wanted something vaguely Olde Englishhe-y so I tacked on the “wyn” and called it original. There’s one or two other Maewyns on the internet — one has already registered, the bastard, and the other posts on game forums — and Google tells me that “Maewyn” was St. Patrick’s birth name, before he converted to Christianity. (As a Pagan, I like that bit.)

    I started posting here under my real name, Rachel, but there are other Rachels in FA (which is very weird for me; I’m usually the only one) and one writes a well-known blog, so I went back to Maewyn so as not to provoke confusion.

    On LJ I’m bohemianeditor, which popped into my head one day and I liked the tension between “someone who is anti-rules and does whatever” and “someone who works closely with rules and does what’s correct”, both of which I am at times. (Also, I work as an editor. And if you catch me at the right festival I’m probably a little more hippie than bohemian, but it works.) I’ve been thinking about posting here as bohemianeditor just to consolidate my online personas, I haven’t made the switch yet.

    What I write is always written as myself. I don’t change things or fake thing to give different names a different persona. All are just use-names that map back to me.

  37. My name is the name of requisite fat girl in the Sweet Valley High series.

    If people insist there’s no such thing as fatphobia, they need to (re-)read those books.

  38. rooibos is an African plant that makes an excellent tisane (herbal tea, except herbal teas are not really teas, but anyway . . . ), and “earl grey rooibos” is roobois blended with bergamot, which gives earl grey tea it’s distinctive flavor. Earl grey rooibos is one of my favorites, because I love bergamot, but earl grey tea does not agree with my stomach.

    By the way, I’m a tea fanatic.

  39. “I started posting here under my real name, Rachel, but there are other Rachels in FA (which is very weird for me; I’m usually the only one) and one writes a well-known blog, so I went back to Maewyn so as not to provoke confusion.”

    Oh, and this is partially the reason I go by Lois Waller. My real first name is Lesley, but Lesley from is well-known. I am used to being the only Lesley! :)

  40. I have a bit of a Seattle obsession. (No, unfortunately, I’m not from there; I’m British, and still stuck in Blighty for now, dammit.) I’ve met about equal numbers of Seattleites who love and hate the term ‘Emerald City’, so forgive me, anyone, if it seems overly goofy and Wizard-of-Oz-ish.

    I have a number of aliases online, mainly because in various arenas I’m a lot more open about the ‘real’ me than I am to either my family or my work colleagues. About the only place I use my real, full name is on MySpace.

    I’m actually a Sarah, but can’t say I was ever keen on the name; I was named after a particularly stuffy maiden aunt, and I got the impression my mother expected me to take after her in other ways too (long story!). But, I’ve never found any other name that felt ‘me’ enough for me to change it by deed poll.

  41. I don’t actually have any nicknames. I’ve never been that kind of person, I guess.

    When I started the Rotund, I wanted something that was both fat and political and I picked rotund because it was a play on rotunda, like the rotunda at the Capitol Building. I figured that brought in the political aspect nicely. *grin*

  42. I use both annagnesh and Talley on the internet. When I was setting up email every iteration of my real name was taken so I combined my two middle names and my first initial: Anne, Agnes and H. I love the way people sound it out, and I am completely planning using Anna Gnesh as my pen name for any childen’s book I might write. Talley is my maiden name.

  43. I grew up hating my name – Sarah – because so many other girls shared it…when we took our requisite Spanish course in third grade and they latinized our real names, I had to be given Maria because of the other girl named Sarah in my class. So I’ve always longed for a nickname.

    So when coming up with a screen name, I’ve always wanted to not use my real first name; and since my last name is MacMurtry, which no one can ever spell, people end up calling me Sarah Mac. So I became “Simply Mac” due to that and the fact that I’m a fairly laid back person, no holds barred, who doesn’t hold much back – like, I just am who I am. Or, I am simply Mac.

    If that makes any sense.

  44. When I started posting to Usenet lo these many years ago, I used my real name. It’s unusual enough that I pretty much was the only one, and I’d met enough posters face to face that most people knew me by my real name anyway.

    But when the web came along, I found that my real name was already in use as often as not. So I came up with another handle that was a combination of several other roles in my life, and used that for awhile…until THAT started being taken a lot, too.

    One night, I was extremely frustrated, as I was trying to sign up somewhere and every variant of that name was already in use, so I looked around my computer desk for something to use…..and glanced upon my collection of nail polishes sitting there.

    It pains me to admit it, but yes, I’m named after a shade of nail polish. Tropical Chrome (two words, I concatenated them) is a shiny, metallic lavender.

    It also has a lovely, mellifluous sound to my ear. And there are worse things than being shiny and purple.

    As for the persona – I’ve been around long enough to know that maintaining a persona that really isn’t me is too difficult and energy-consuming in the long run. TropicalChrome is more of a handle so people know it’s the same person posting than anything else.

    But it’s not ALL of me. I still stick with my long-standing rule that I do not post anything to Usenet/the web/anywhere public that I do not want my current boss to know about me right now.

  45. I’m sorry to see so many Sarahs who don’t like their names. It’s actually my RL name.

    I was named for my great-grandmother, who was a hell of a woman. In fact, if the technology had existed when I was born, I’d be tempted to say I was cloned from her. I look almost exactly like Sadie and inherited her legendary talent for baking…not to mention her stubbornness, and her outragous sense of humor. She was strong, practical, generous, and tenacious.

    It’s awesome being named for such a great person. If I can find a way to be half as cool as she was, then I will be well content with my life.

  46. Mine is from a somewhat inside comic/message-board joke that hardly anyone got, involving the line “‘Big Scary American Girl’ is a ton of fun to say.” I was using it long before I left America, and it works even better now.

  47. I actually outed the reasoning behind my online identity in “The Fantasy of Being Thin” thread.

    My alias on the Web, Weightless One, is a homophone that relates directly to the “when I’m thin” excuse. I’ve always been judged by my weight so to be weightless is to be just me—not judged by one physical attribute, but by the content of my character. Also it means I’m the “wait less one” as well. In other words, I wait less to do the things that society (and formerly myself) wants me to put off until I’m thin.

  48. Shinobi is my blogging handle, I started using it in 2004 right around the election when I was commenting on both right wing and left wing blogs. (I really only thought of it because it is my Cat’s name. She climbed in through the window of my first apartment, very ninja like. Anyway, I thought it was cool enough that we could both use it.)

    42 is the answer. Obviously.

    I also have another online ID I often use that is the same screenname I’ve been using for over 10 years now. It was the name of a horse I used to ride (back when AOL was still dialup.)

  49. Another boring one over here. My name is Emmy. But there’s another Emmy ’round here, so I switched to a little e to avoid confusion. Especially since I often find myself in agreement with comments by capital E Emmy, which could make it look like just one of us agreeing with herself.

  50. My name comes from an offhand comment a friend made to me in a pagan discussion group. He said “oh come on, buttercup!” and for some reason the name stuck.

    I would like to note that I am probably the least buttercuppy person you’ve ever met.

  51. Killedbyllamas came from playing too much Perfect Dark in college; it’s a multiplayer first person shooter, and when you kill another player in the game, it prints “Killed by [your name]” on their screen. So of course I had to make the funniest/most ridiculous username that I could for that. Llamas are one of my favorite animals and also a bit of a Holy Grail reference, so there you go. I used to use just ‘llamas’ for a lot of online things, but that is taken more often than not lately, so I went to the whole phrase because it’s both funnier and more readily available, and is helping me establish a consistent online presence. And I do consider that to be ‘me’; I’m not sure I could pretend to be anything else even if I wanted to!

    I do use my real name, or rather my nickname, on Myspace and on a couple of boards where most people know me irl. I’ve very rarely used my full first name for any extended period of time, ever. It just doesn’t suit me as well as the nickname, I think.

  52. though when I first read Gish Jen a couple years later, I wanted to lie and say that’s where I got it. :D

    Fun fact: Gish Jen’s birth name was actually Lillian, and in a move that’s similar to a lot of online handle-creation stories, she took the most famous other Lillian’s last name for her first.

    if somebody arrives at the most diminutive of my nicknames naturally, after an appropriate period of getting to know me time, I am usually delighted since the people who call me the -y form of my name are my closest friends/family. I have an internal rule about when this is okay, but I can’t articulate it; I just know it when I see it. Ha.

    Dude, EXACTLY. It is the pornography of direct address.

    I think TropicalChrome might win the thread for A) explaining one of the names I was most curious about, B) having a hilarious and unexpected reason for it, and C) using the word “concatenated.”

    Pattie/Pirate Alice gets some kind of points, however, just for having a name that is an anagram of Pirate Alice, which RULES. Also for spelling Pattie with an IE, which is how my mom spelled it, which might be why she saddled me with Katy-with-a-y — to experience the same pain of having a common nickname with the less common spelling.

    And speaking of which, LilahMorgan, I remember that case of mistake identity, but I had no idea that Katie was you! That actually predated the “I am Spartacus!” post, even. And tying all this together, of course my first thought was, “THAT COULD NOT BE ME BECAUSE IT’S WITH A Y, DAMMIT.”

  53. I have an internal rule about when this is okay, but I can’t articulate it; I just know it when I see it. Ha.

    Dude, EXACTLY. It is the pornography of direct address.

    This is the advantage of having a name that is pre-nicknamed and already ends in an “eeee” sound. My only decision around my name is whether or not to correct people when they pronounce it wrong.

  54. I’m sorry to see so many Sarahs who don’t like their names. It’s actually my RL name. I was named for my great-grandmother, who was a hell of a woman… I look almost exactly like Sadie

    First, I’m sorry to see it, too, ’cause I love the name — though I can totally see hating how common it is. (And there appear to be as many Sara/hs in the Fatosphere as Kates — Kates Harding notwithstanding — so it must be especially trying around here.)

    Second, there was a Sarah (but not A Sarah) upthread who was bummed about not having a nickname, and Twistie’s post made me think, “What the hell happened to Sadie and Sally?” I mean, at this point, you’d spend your whole life saying, “Yeah, it actually is a traditional nickname,” which my sister Mary-goes-by-Molly can tell you is a PITA. But still.

  55. This is the advantage of having a name that is pre-nicknamed and already ends in an “eeee” sound.

    Oh, give it time and I’ll be calling you Tares, whether you like it or not. Those of us who are unrepentant nicknamers will always find a way.

  56. (Tangent Warning!) I SO know what it’s like to have a less common spelling! This is one of the two major reasons why I changed my legal name (the other was the hyphenated last name mess). I was so sick of getting told that I spelled my own name wrong!

    Now I know why Lois Waller kept ringing bells for me…

    I don’t have an online persona to speak of –it’s all me. I just use a pseudonym to reduce the likelihood of stalkers.

  57. I like my real name. There’s a lot of story with it. When your last name is “Lipp,” well, just visualize.

    And “Deborah” was an enormous effort to acquire, after 20 years as “Debbie.” I can barely tolerate typing “Debbie,” I just don’t relate to it.

    So it means a lot to me to be able to have this name.

  58. Speaking of nickname spellings… I decided when I was in first grade to spell the diminutive of my name (which pretty much everybody called me) with an “-ie,” which is more unusual. I then spent the rest of my school years getting all bent out of shape when people spelled it wrong. Then, I guess it was around the time of the internet, because I used the diminutive of my name plus my last initial as a user name in a couple of places, I switched to spelling it with a -y.

    It’s kind of how when I was in college, I changed my major three times while staying within the English department. I keep changing my name, but within the confines of the name they gave me. Or not. I don’t know.

  59. I don’t comment much but this is interesting. “Tigi” is short for “tetetetigi” or “tete tetigi,” which comes from Latin and means, more or less, “I totally touched you.” I like to think of it as a gloat, kind of like I’m going *poke, poke* “I TOUCHED YOU! HAHAHAHAH!”

    I like to think it reflects the more playful, impulsive side of me, the part of me that has a quick temper, and the part of me that’s willing to forgive and forget. “Tigi” gets into fights on the internet, but makes friends again afterwards. I do identify with my internet persona, I think… I don’t think it’s too untrue to my real persona.

  60. From a previous incarnation of my business card…

    “The name’s Tricia…
    Well, actually it’s Patricia…Trish is fine. Even Tish would be ok.
    (whatever…) Just not Pat…I don’t answer to Pat.”

    Nothing against the Pats of the world, it’s just that there was already a Pat in the family when I was born, and I got the other half of the name. :-)

    IRL I go by “Sister” as much as any other name, but online I figured people might think I was a nun. And since I’m actually a witch, that could lead to lots of unintentional hilarity.

    I might not be Kate Harding, but what with the Morphine, Pratchett, Gaiman, and Fraggle references I might be LilahCello. ;-)

  61. OTM, I briefly tried using the -ie instead of -y for my nickname too, but it really didn’t stick. I think because I waited until 6th grade to try to change it.

  62. I go by my real name here, but I tend to go by the handle ‘Magicklorelai” elsewhere on the internet. I’m Pagan, formerly Wiccan, thus “Magick”, and I’ve always been in love with Sirens (Mostly of Greek mythology), hence “Lorelai”. Which I found out later was “Lorelei”. XD

  63. I went through a big puzzle phase a couple of years ago, when I was travelling around the country in an 18-wheeler without the company of television, and wanted to make a complete anagram of my name. What I came up with was Bella Coker Caiine.

    I registered it for my email address when hotmail decided that I should pay for my address, before that I used wreck_gar, who was my favorite Transformer.

    My mother hates it, by the way, she always tells me: It makes you sound like a Beautiful Drug Addict. :D!

  64. That’s made of 100% Pure Awesome™

    So is Taytay, so it is only fitting.

    when I was travelling around the country in an 18-wheeler without the company of television

    Oh, now, really you can’t just leave it at that. I know there are good stories to be told here.

  65. I yam what I yam.

    But my children have names which are easier to spell and pronounce in three languages. You can’t be me and not learn a thing or two about names.

  66. I use my nom de plume, Minerva Koenig. I’ve been minerva online since the internet was invented, because I identify with the goddess Minerva, and when I started writing, I added a maternal grandmother’s maiden name.

    Now, if I get ungodly famous and rich, I may return to using my real name so I can cash the checks. I’ve always tried to remain as anonymous as possible on the internet. Not necessarily out of fear, more out of self-preservation, being a 100% introvert.

  67. IRL I go by “Sister” as much as any other name, but online I figured people might think I was a nun.

    My sister J. had the same problem! When I started referring to her as “my sister J.” around here, she started commenting as SisterJ. Then the nun thing occurred to her and, since the readership was still very small, she switched to “YourSisterJ.” Then the readership grew and she actually started having convos with other people, at which point she became “Kate’sSisterJ,” which stuck.

    You can’t be me and not learn a thing or two about names.

    Ha! Ailbhe, how do you pronounce your name? I say “IL-va” in my head, but I have no idea if that’s right.

  68. I hate the -y thing. My IRL name is not Kate, it is Paige. Paigie (Paigey makes me shudder) is a name I only answer to when my sister or other select individuals use it. For the most part it causes me to glare and look threatening.

    Some of my coworkers have started calling me Paigela which I like. But the urge to make my short ugly name longer is not something I understand.

    Perhaps the most irritating thing about my real name is that every time someone uses the phrase “all on the same page” someone looks significantly at me and starts giggling, or stops talking or makes unfunny remarks. This joke is OLD people! There are NO original jokes left about my name.

    Perhaps the only vaguely original joke I ever got was when my piano teacher’s husband walked up to me and started turning me around. “What am I doing? He he Turning the page!”

    Seriously, my eyes could not have rolled any further back into my head. So I hate my name. A freaking lot.

  69. My real name’s Alexis (which I sometimes accidentally use) and Lexy is the nickname I use around the interwebs, sometimes I add a modifier to it that’s specific to what I’m discussing (LexyKnits at Ravelry, VintageLexy, etc)

    I go by Lexy and not Lexie mostly because I think Lexy looks prettier, and it’s just the way my nickname is spelled to me.

    I second (third?) people being weirded out by strangers deciding to call you nicknames. I don’t mind Lex or Lexy, many of my friends call me one or both of those but it is always unnerving when I say “hi, my name’s Alexis” and they respond “Hey Lex, how’s it going.

    on another note, my friend’s husband calls me Alaska, which I love, it cracks me up.

  70. I have three that I use in various places…

    The first, my AOL screename Redwall33, I created when I was eleven (I’m twenty now). At the time I was obsessed with Brian Jacques’ Redwall books. ’33’ was a random number I picked since just plain ‘Redwall’ was already taken. Even though it reflects an obsession I have long since moved past, I’ll probably keep it forever.

    Genevieve Dusquesne was a name I made up when I was sixteen in order to disguise myself when writing into a local alternative weekly. They had published a piece about the life of a really sexist, homophobic, right-wing Christian guitarist; and I wanted to say that the man’s beliefs sickened me…without my parents finding out. At the time, I was obsessed with Germany and Norway, and so I decided to make my alias ethnically French to create even more smoke and mirrors. About six months after my letter was published, I created ‘The Mind of Genevieve,’ my personal blog, where everyone in my life has an alias. (I’m pretty paranoid.) This is who I identify as in my head. I will frequently think of myself as ‘Gen.’

    UneFemmePlusCourageuse is the name I use when commenting on Blogger blogs. There was one particular blog I used to comment on which only allowed people with Blogger accounts to respond…so I created one. I wanted to continue the Genevieve Dusquesne/French alias theme, but I don’t speak French…it’s supposed to be ‘a woman with more bravery,’ and it’s interesting to see how people abbreviate it. (UFPC, Femme, UneFemme…et cetera.) My blogger icon is a knife.

    And now I’ve combined my latter two for the Feministing Community Blog to become Genevieve PlusCourageuse.

  71. About the nickname thing… my full name is Rebecca, but my parents have always called me Becky (apparently my mom wanted to name me Becky but my dad didn’t want to because then my initials would’ve been BJ… heh). I used to introduce myself as Becky but decided Rebecca sounded more grown up and have started using it. And I’ve started to really like having that layer of distance from people I don’t know well.

    And it’s true that people will find a way to nickname you regardless, Becky is already a nickname, but when I went by it people still nicknamed me by calling me Becks or Beck.

  72. ALva is a very good approximation of it – the final vowel is more of a schwa though. ALvuh. ALveugh.

    Good story: Moved to England, got job as phone support for ISP. End of call…

    Client says: Well, thanks for your help, what’s you name so I can call you back?
    me: Ailbhe
    client: A-L-V-A?
    me: No, AILBHE
    client: AILVHE?
    me: No, not V for Van, B for Bertie.
    client: Are you sure?


  73. I needed an on-line pseudonym, and somehow or other the only possibilities that occurred to me were genus names — Hallucinogenia, Myliobatis, Triakis, Opabinia … aha! Eucritta.

    It’s from Eucritta melanolimnetes, ‘the good creature from the Black Lagoon,’ a Carboniferous tetrapod named in homage to the 1954 monster movie. And it’s been a comfortable fit — I’ve come to use it for all my creative work, such as it is.

  74. I got twincats from when I was still pagan and decided my horoscopes only made sense when I combined the ones from my sun-sign with the ones from my rising sign (Gemini and Leo, respectively.)

    I’ve always liked the name Paige. My cousin’s daughter’s name is Paige and the whole family calls her “Paigey” which just makes me cringe. Poor child! But then, they named their other daughter Anna Nicole!

  75. I’ve got a commonly misspelled first name, for some reason everyone wants it to be Jaime when it’s actually Jamie. And yeah, it has the “ee” sound at the end which I have always hated. But I swear, Mr. Buttercup and I have been together for six years and his sister STILL spells my name wrong. GAH.

    I had a succession of horrible last names and when Mr. Buttercup came along with his one-syllable last name I was all over that. Has nothing to do with my identity, I’m down with that. I wanted an easy damn name with less than ten letters for once in my life!

  76. I’ve been through a few different handles. I have a hard time picking something that I feel will represent me, and still feels like me, and that I’ll be sure to remember. So I use my real name a lot. But lately, I’ve decided on Enomis, and it’s sticking and here’s why:

    When I was in high school I was in a classroom after school with a bunch of people, and we were just messing around, writing crap on the board, and we started spelling our names backward. This cute older boy looked at mine, and said to me (and to the other Simone in the room, who remains my best friend to this day), “Hey, your name backward spells ENOMIS.” And I nearly died of embarrassment, because I thought, great, here’s a new way people can make fun of my fatness. Cause it sounds pretty close to “enormous.” Which is also why I totally love it now. I think using it represents a certain self-acceptance barrier I’ve crossed as a result of FA (I’ve been reading and lurking on various blogs for probably a year and a half).

    I also like it, because it’s like a mirror of me, or the self that reflects back to me from the spaces where I post online. And it somehow makes me feel strong and confident, instead of wimpy afraid of criticism. Now that I’ve found it, I’ll probably start commenting more around the fatosphere.

  77. Mine is a nickname I got in junior high school, but was only used by a small group of friends. I like it because it means me, and feels like me, but it’s obscure enough that most people wouldn’t think to link it up to me specifically IRL, which keeps my pseudonymity somewhat intact.

  78. Jumping in mid-thread …

    When I was a kid, I *desperately* wanted to be named Sally. Tried to get my parents to call me that for about a week. It wore off when I realized it was short for Sarah.

    My birth middle name was Elizabeth, and I totally ditched it because I couldn’t write it very prettily in cursive. I hate the way I make cursive E’s. It was less trouble to change it when I got married (to my maiden name, which I’m the last in the family to have anyway).

    Also I didn’t have a nickname until college, when my new friends started calling me Rach, and I didn’t object. I thought the only possible nickname was “Rachie” and I HAAAAAAAAAAAAATE THAT. I immediately dislike other people named Rachel who use it for themselves. (Not that I have an opinion on my name…)

  79. I had a succession of horrible last names and when Mr. Buttercup came along with his one-syllable last name I was all over that. Has nothing to do with my identity, I’m down with that. I wanted an easy damn name with less than ten letters for once in my life!

    I hear you on that one! My last name is uncommon, with both a compound consonant sound, and a German vowel (backward pronunciation from English) But there are only 14 of us in the world, so I kind of wanted to keep it. So, I have two last names. I use mine when I want something distinctive, and my husbands, which is Greene, so common I don’t even mind telling internet strangers what it is, when I want people to be able to spell and pronounce it.

  80. Only since beginning to post here a few weeks ago do I see that you can actually pronounce my moniker:


    It’s actually pronounced at-it-un and is the phonetic representation of a nickname my three-year-old cousin used to call me. I have found that many people add an extra ‘i’ when typing it themselves, interestingly enough, making it atition. I don’t know how you’re supposed to pronounce that.

  81. I was actually named after the character Bree Daniel in the movie Klute. Mom watched it while she was pregnant with me and decided she wanted to use it.

  82. Shinobi, I think Paige is a pretty name! But I totally sympathize — my last name is unusual and inspires people to make puns constantly (as FJ can attest). I’ve been hearing basically the same ones since I was 8 or so.

  83. I actually go by LCAmazing online, but I think I forgot to do that when I registered for commenting here.

    Anyway, when I started blogging, I went to a very small college, and I wanted to be slightly anonymous, so I used my initials instead of my name, because my mom has always called me by my initials. (My name is Laura Caitlin, and my last name is a common A-name that I still will not reveal online.) Of course, when my real-life friends started reading my bog, they would call, “Hi, LCA!” across the quad, so so much for anonymity. Now, a bunch of people call me that, and I’m pretty amazing, so I had to incorporate that.

  84. A fillyjonk is a sort of creature that’s very anxious and believes in disasters. (Well, at least the one in the story “The Fillyjonk Who Believed in Disasters” does, and she’s the one I was thinking of.) I took it because when Kate first asked me to join the blog I was quite sure I would have a complete meltdown from the ensuing stress. (Lately I’ve been right!) But when the Fillyjonk Who Believed in Disasters actually encounters a disaster, she finds out it doesn’t destroy her after all. That’s been kinda right, too.

    And boy, it’s a persona — is it ever. I get a new name every time I take on a new part of the internet, because it allows me to develop a new persona… my handle on Usenet was not the same as my handle on IRC (well, some channels but not others) is not the same as my AIM SN is not the same as my gmail account name is not the same as my livejournal username is not the same as my Twitter. Usually I choose a name that’s relevant to something in my life right then. So if I ever write for another blog, that’ll be different too — because it’ll be another chance to reinvent my persona and I always take those. I don’t care, most of the time, if people know that however many personas are all actually me — it’s actually the fact of naming that creates the blank slate.

  85. Well, Stephanie is my real first name. I’m part of that crazy-ass generation of girls named after Stefanie Powers and Stephanie Zimbalist, although my parents spelled it the standard way. I like the ‘ph’, but the ‘f’ would probably have been more accurate; my mother’s entire family is Quebecois. My last name is very distinctive and very Germanic (Swiss, actually) and very uncommon in the US, so I don’t use it online at all if I can help it.

    My normal online name is “avengangle”, which is a contraction of “Avenging Angle.” It’s a joke from a Mercedes Lackey novel. Yes, I’ve had that screenname since I was thirteen and still allowed to read Mercedes Lackey novels and think they were awesome.

    I’m, uh, probably a lot like this in real life, except worse. :)

  86. Dani. It’s my name. This is also probably the only place on the interwebz I go by it.

    My LiveJournal username is “peskipiksi,” though, and I admit without shame that I totally found it in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. My SO calls me “Pixie,” though, so it works.

  87. HI all,
    I have lurked here for a while, but never posted.

    My moniker is a smushing-up of my first and middle name, sort of. My name is Maya Azul. My mom calls me Mayita (the diminutive of Maya in Spanish) hence..Mayitaazul. I used to just go by Mayaazul, but some one had already taken that when I signed up for a hotmail account so I went with this instead and have kept it ever since.

  88. But then, they named their other daughter Anna Nicole!

    Brian at Incertus (who goes by Incertus at Shakes) named his daughter Brittany some time in the early ’90s, I think. Unfortunately for her, their last name is Spears. That’s gotta hurt.

    Also, to finally answer the question of the post, even though I use my real name, online Kate Harding is totally a persona. I think the best example is probably the way I deal with trolls and other ill-natured and vexatious persons. Online Kate Harding issues a swift FOAD without batting an eye. Real life Kate Harding is not nearly so sure of herself when confronted with such vexation. I definitely feel like I’m playing a role here — which doesn’t exactly mean it’s not me. Just that it’s only a slice of me, because the blog allows me to focus on one slice in a way real life does not.

    Also, there’s the fact that as the readership has grown, I’ve become Kate Harding of Shapely Prose, not Just Kate, which is how I felt when I started (and still feel, frankly). Because we get a lot of links and comments, I’ve developed a sort of authority I didn’t really expect and have had many nervous breakdowns about not really wanting.

    Liss advised me a loooong time ago that there would come a time when commenters started getting testier with me and challenging me more because they felt they were going up against THE Kate Harding, not just little old Kate — and further advised me that it would happen before I had any concept that people saw me as anything but little old Kate. Best fucking advice I ever got as a blogger. Usually, when I comment here — or even post here — I just feel like one of the Shapelings (unless I’m laying the smack down), but I’ve had to accept that my words have a different weight now than they did when I had no readers. Mostly, it doesn’t feel that different to me, but it is different, and that means KH has become even more of a persona, because I somehow became a Figure in the Movement, not just a chick who writes about her feelings.

    That has obvious pluses (book contract, hi), but also a whole lot of minuses (feeling like I have to be all things to all people, fucking up very publicly when I fuck up). I haven’t quite come to terms with it and don’t know if I ever will. But the one thing I can say is that I don’t think blogging pseudonymously would make a big difference. (For one thing, Fillyjonk has the same issues.) It’s one more layer of distance, and I am always worried about fucking up badly enough to kill the career of Kate Harding, Writer — but then, Kate Harding, Writer, would not have a career if it weren’t for the blog. And in terms of taking shit too personally and feeling the weight of being A Figure in the Movement, I think it’d be exactly the same if I went by Lucysol.

    Also, I love the name Paige.

  89. I used to go by a nickname that I had spend HOURS inventing until it seemed like the most perfect name ever, and it was gender-neutral at that. Then the fatosphere came along and made me reconsider everything … not quite sure how it did that. In any case I’m Tiana now because it sounds like a shortened form of my real name, although no one has ever called me by it.

  90. I go by my first name (on Shakeville I had to add the first initial of my last name because “Dorothy” was taken). I’m real original like that. I think the main reason I went with my name is that I want to keep my on-line comments real – as in I want them to represent the real me. (Think I used “real” enough?) I want to be totally honest and say what I think because I can’t always do that IRL. (Yes, I snuck another “real” in there.)

    To those of you who get the same jokes over and over and over on your name…I can’t tell you how many times in my life I’ve been asked where Toto was. I wish I had a nickel for every time – I’d be rich…well, moderately comfortable anyway.

  91. Dorianne is my real name. My mama thought she made it up – it’s a combo of her mom’s first name (Doreen) and her own middle name (Anne), but then there turned out to be other Dorianne’s in the world. Strangely, though, I usually reserve it for special people like my doctor and dentist and the income tax folks…..mainly because it’s on all my ID and official paperwork (as opposed to the nickname Dodie, which I’ve been known as since infancy).

    I’ve also used the name Doodlebug all over the internets for the last 12 or so years. This was a nickname given to me 26 or so years ago, in grade 9, by two cute, sweet boys (who never ostracized me for my weight like all the others). They sat next to me in Typing and Math classes, and gave me the name because I was good at drawing, always doodling on the margins of my books, and because it was a tiny bit similar to my nickname.

  92. It is the pornography of direct address.

    A. Men. My mother hates nicknames and tried to give me and my sisters names you couldn’t shorten. She succeeded with my sisters, and with me for 18 years. Then I went to uni in Scotland and discovered that Scottish and English people have this COMPULSIVE NEED TO NICKNAME. I mean, yes, Irish people tend to nickname people by their surnames or a variation thereof, but before I went to uni no one had EVER responded to me saying “Hi, I’m [real name]” with an immediate “Hi, [diminuitive]!”. Now it happens ALL THE TIME. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I correct it, in person or in writing (e.g. for programmes) — most people will not call me by my actual name, which I prefer, when there’s a one-syllable alternative. That’s not affectionate or friendly — that’s rude. Nicknames from loved ones, yes. From Johnny Random, no.

    /pet peeve

    Also, Ailbhe, I completely hear you on names that are easily pronounced and spelled in more than one language. I have a list of names that work in English, Spanish and German for my future children’s sake. But I also like pretty old-fashioned names, and some days there’s a powerful temptation to just give them Irish names no one will be able to pronounce (Caoimhe, Niamh, Fionnuala or Sinead being favourites) and be done with it. *evil*

    Liss advised me a loooong time ago that there would come a time when commenters started getting testier with me and challenging me more because they felt they were going up against THE Kate Harding, not just little old Kate

    That happened to me on an internet community I lived on years ago — I’d gone on hiatus for a while, and when I came back I made (what I thought was) a pretty innocuous contribution to a discussion, and I got some “Is that THE [my name]?” comments, and the people on the opposing side of discussion were either weirdly aggressive or too…cowed? to respond the way they had been doing to everyone else. It was mental. I wish I’d had that advice to know what it was about.

  93. [Answer From Shakes]

    Freshman year of high school. I was 14. Through Drama Club and other sources I had managed to get myself tied into an awesome group of people who consisted almost entirely of Juniors and Seniors and did I mention they were (and still are, seeing as I’m still friends with most of them) awesome?

    The next part of this story is rather long and embarrassing, so I’ll skip the details and say that I was in Drama, Marching Band, had all AP classes, and would frequently pull the-good-kind of pranks as a thanks to my friends, especially the ones who were driving me all over the place because I was 14 and my parents both work all the time. I started to get sort of a reputation for it (most of them weren’t all that elaborate, and several just involved clever use of e-mail, but anyway). And one of these pranks involved a friend’s car, which was cleverly and elaborately decorated by myself during an assembly which all the rosters say I attended and which at least one friend saw me at, so I must have been there, but I was the one who did the decorating, so how…?

    Now, I went home after the assembly, and so did not get to see the fruits of my labor, but heard afterward that it was quite well received, and generally admired, which I sincerely hope is the truth.

    Anyway, next morning, I’m there early (always – my brother had zero hour), and in come the swarm of friends, whom I will refer to by first initial only. Only overly dramatic friend K, runs up to me and yells,

    “YOU! You have way too much time on your hands.”

    And from then, though memory is hazy, the conversation moved something like this.

    N, “Seriously. That was awesome. How did you did it?”
    Me, “Who says it was me?”
    K, “You know what it is, so obviously, yeah.”
    R, “Plus, who else would have.?”
    N, “I saw you at the assembly. Did you get someone else to do it-”
    Me, “NO! I have pride!”
    K, “Maybe she can create time. Just build extra time around herself.”
    N, “Dude. She’s like a superhero.”
    R, “She needs a superhero name.”
    Me, *dies laughing*
    K, “Captain Stop…NO! Wait! We should call her Time Machine!”
    R, “Time Machine…I like it…”
    Me, “Um….”
    N, “I still like Captain Stopwatch.”
    K, “No! Time Machine! But how would you spell it?”
    N, “Like T I M E M A C H I N E?”
    R, “It’s a name though.”
    K, “Yeah. It’s a name, and it’s connected. So it should be hyphenated. Like Time hyphen Machine.”

    *J shows up* J, “Hey guys-”
    K, “Spread the word!” *points at me* “Her new name is Time-Machine!”
    J, “Okay.”

    I never really got a word in edgewise. Everyone was calling me Time-Machine within a week. Including my teachers. AND MY PARENTS. I figured, why fight it? My real name is boring anyway. So choosing it as my screenname was easy. A couple months later and I had many friends who didn’t even know my real name. And while changing schools helped the nickname drop away a bit, there’s still many many people out there who I regularly talk to who call me Time-Machine, and when I’m in a situation where I’m mostly associating with those people, I will introduce myself that way.

    (In fact, once Mike Birbiglia came to my community college and I bought his CD and went to have him sign it, and without thinking about it, had him sign it to Time-Machine. Months later we were talking about Mike Birbiglia and I was like, “And then I got him to sign a CD to me!” and then my friend J was like, “Yeah! And then he mentioned you on the RADIO” And I was like “WHAT?” And they were like, “He totally mentioned you on the radio. He talked about signing your CD and then officially gave you the award for Fan With The Weirdest Name or something like that.” And I was like “Why didn’t I know this? NOBODY TELLS ME ANYTHING.”)

    [/Shakes Answer]

    And thinking about that, plus some blogger poking around, led me to test out a blog (I’ve had a blogger account for FOREVER, just never done anything with it), and so I randomly named it Jessica is Time-Machine. And then, based on that, made my first post. And then I was like “Maybe I should start blogging!”, but then I was like, “Maybe I should watch some DVDs.”

    But I might start an actual blog. MAYBE. I’m about to head of to school (I’LL BE THERE IN THREE WEEKS!!!) and so it depends on if that means I’ll Have Zero Time For Blogging or if that means I’m In A School With Three Men For Every Woman, Focusing In A Historically Sexist Industry And Medium (Film) And Need An Outlet Damnit.

    You can check out my first post, written on the fly and mostly to see how it would look (whilst pretending I would actually start blogging), if you like. Only because the post was written about my name and the persona around my name. It’s here.

  94. Wow. That looked like shameless plugging, which it wasn’t meant to be. It’s just that it was kind of relevant to the whole Names and Personas thing.

  95. I took Unclutterer out of my RSS feed (it was no loss because sometimes Erin is a little too “It works for me so it is universal!!!” and there is a guy who posts there who is absolutely uncritical about gendered divisions of labor “When my wife gets up at four am to make breakfast and pack our lunches and starch my boxers and churn the butter and wash the dog, she really hates clutter…”) and now I am more relaxed, having “uncluttered” my daily blog reading.

    I knew I recognized you, OTM! I read that post with horror, expecting to be the lone voice in the comments with a different point of view, and was pleasantly surprised (and quite happy, to be honest) to be beaten to it. You have spurred me to take them out of my Google Reader as well – I’ve been thinking about it for some time but just hadn’t gotten around to it.

  96. Wow. That looked like shameless plugging, which it wasn’t meant to be.

    I think you’ve earned it, T-M. :) And I can’t wait to read your blog! Yes! Do it!

  97. I’m using my real name, but people often THINK it’s a pseudo, since my namesake’s a half-elf recognized by a lot of geeks.
    My middle name’s for the elf, too.

  98. I hit on this name when casting about hurriedly for a pun on my field, which is Epidemiology–in public health circles epidemiologists are often called “epis,” derogatorily or otherwise. I chose a handle to hide behind just in case I said something stupid in print (though I probably just outed myself to FJ and SM). Only after I’d started using it did I actually look up the definition of “epiphenomenon,” but when I did I loved the meaning I accidentally chose. And you know, that was pretty meta.

  99. My friend and I thought the nonsensical lyrics of “The Joker” were HIGH-LARIOUS ’round about middle- or high school, so her RL nickname became Pompatus and mine Space Cowboy. Then when the internets were invented several years later (OK, they were invented long before that, but average folks like myself didn’t know that), I went by Space Cowboy (or sometimes the mistyping Spade Cowbot) for a while before I learned that it would be easier not to have to correct everyone as to my gender all the time. Come to think of it, I could have just stuck with Spade Cowbot if I was worried about that, except it doesn’t make any sense. Anyway, by then (1995 or so) I had become a fan through my boyfriend of John Wesley Harding, and loved the song “Spaced Cowgirl,” so that seemed like the perfect choice. It’s a long story, but at least it’s boring. :)

  100. Oh, and I think my online persona is me, more or less. I express myself in writing far better than in speaking (I was commenting to a friend the other day that if I could answer all job interview questions by email, I’d never not get a job… which is of course untrue owing in part to my total inability to edit, but never mind), but I’m pretty much just as plaintive and insecure online as I am in real life. Luckily for all of you. :P

  101. …have had many nervous breakdowns about not really wanting.
    yeeees. yo tambien.
    not so much with the blogging, but just recognition in general. Wish I had a friend like Liss.. :)

    Before I got a youtube account, I was tengogozo on the internet.
    I named myself after the Sunday School song that got sang to me the most:
    “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy joy down in my heart…”
    When I learned it in Spanish, I thought it was awesome:
    “Yo tengo gozo, gozo, gozo, gozo, en mi corazon…”
    But I don’t think AIM would let you have a screenname 4 letters long- so I had to be tengo gozo and not just gozo.
    I went merrily about my way creating IM profiles, social networking profiles, and dating profiles, (lots of dating profiles), until the day a very considerate man who happened to speak Portuguese made me aware of the fact that in Brazil, “gozo” means not “joy”, but “female ejaculatory discharge.”
    SO, the VacationBibleSchoolAllStar had been parading around the internet as I’mCumming basically.
    or maybe SkeetSkeetSkeet.

  102. SO, the VacationBibleSchoolAllStar had been parading around the internet as I’mCumming basically.


    That’s okay. My friend and I, when we were like 11, each had Japanese pseudonyms which we used both online and passing notes to each other in school. We were very adamant that in the real world, these names were exclusive for US, but still. In real life we were running around middle school calling each other Japanese names.

    (Yes. We were huge anime dorks. How did you ever guess? By the way, SAILOR MOON FOR THE WIN!)

    Anyway, we basically pulled these names from a list of Japanese names we found online (remember, this was the 90s. The internet was not so awesome then) and trusted the definitions.

    My name was Amaya, which means “Night’s Rain”. Now, and we even knew this at the time, but Japanese word for rain is “ame”. Despite knowing this, when Mizu (yes, she was and is Mizu…”water”) would call me by name, she would call me “Ama-chan” instead of “Ame-chan”, because it was short for “Amaya”.

    Well. Years later, and I’m taking a Japanese class and get my very first Japanese/English dictionary, and so decide to look up “Ama” to see if it means anything. Turns out it does.

    It means two things.

    1) Nun
    2) Bitch

    So I see this and I immediately call up Mizu, and say, “Mizu, guess what? You’ve been calling me a bitch FOR THE PAST EIGHT YEARS.”

    After explaining, the first thing she had to say was, “The Japanese use the same word for nun and bitch? That’s super mean. And totally funny.”

    And I was like “There’s probably some tone difference when you pronounce them though. And you’re missing the bigger picture here. YOU’VE BEEN CALLING ME A BITCH FOR THE PAST EIGHT YEARS.”

    “I’m sorry! Okay. Now I feel bad.”

    “What for? That’s AWESOME. I love my nickname so much more now. It just gained, like, a whole new level of cool.”

    And then she laughed at me.


  103. To those of you who get the same jokes over and over and over on your name…I can’t tell you how many times in my life I’ve been asked where Toto was. I wish I had a nickel for every time – I’d be rich…well, moderately comfortable anyway.

    We could totally start a support group. You have no idea how many times I’ve heard “Auntie Em, Auntie Em, a twister, a twister!”

    Though I can imagine you and my friend Roxanne have it pretty bad.

  104. I picked Naamah back when I was still dancing, as my dance name. You can research the origins of it on Wikipedia or such, if you like, but she was a pre-Hebrew goddess, later a demoness that strangled babies and incited the unwary to adultery, and still later, angel of prostitution. I liked that progression, so I adopted it.

    Only later did I find out about Jacqueline Carey’s books (after having about a hundred people ask if that’s where I got it). I am glad I acutally liked the books, or I’d have had to pick another handle.

    The “darling” part is a play on “Naamah,” which translates as, variously, “pleasant,” “beloved,” etc., and also on my real name, Amanda, which means “worthy of love.” It’s a bridge between the names. It’s also euphemistic. Sort of the way calling fairies the “good people” is euphemistic.

    Call me darling, because that’s the side of me you’d best hope to see.

  105. Mine… is immensely peculiar.
    Aside from a few embarrassingly teenyfannish handles in the early years of my internet use, I’ve mostly gone by names I’ve thought SHOULD be mine. Either Arinye ver Khia Natasu or, more recently, Sharl kai Harmakhis.
    I’m Otherkin. My body and spirit don’t match, but not in the ‘usual’ transgender way. I’m female straight through, I just feel I shouldn’t have been born human. And so I rename myself.

  106. Caitlin: All the Caitlín’s (should be Caitlíní) I knew at school were Cáit!

    My children have the more complicated names, Swedish and Irish, as middle names. I personally find the Anglophone inability to prounounce basic vowel sounds like aoi, ia and ua grates on me – I particularly love the name Caoimhe, so mispronunciations make me wince. So I wouldn’t expose myself to it.

    But then, I also had to factor in that I am raising my children with English accents, so those vowel sounds are likely to be almost impossible for them to pronounce anyway.

  107. in public health circles epidemiologists are often called “epis,” derogatorily or otherwise. I chose a handle to hide behind just in case I said something stupid in print (though I probably just outed myself to FJ and SM).



  108. Also, T-M, when I was in school I had a friend Ben whose fencing coach had nicknamed him Benpi. The other Ben on his team was called Benjo. This was a joke on the coach’s part because they mean “constipation” and “toilet” respectively, in Japanese.

    Of course I forgot all about the origins, just being used to Benpi being called Benpi, so I was very surprised when I mentioned him to a friend who spoke Japanese and he reacted with utter horror. “That’s not really his NAME, is it?” “Well no, it’s a nick….. ohhhhh, right.”

  109. The Rotund: “When I started the Rotund, I wanted something that was both fat and political and I picked rotund because it was a play on rotunda, like the rotunda at the Capitol Building. I figured that brought in the political aspect nicely. *grin*”
    You may be interested in the fact that “The Rotunda” is the name of a Dublin maternity hospital – which adds another rounded dimension to the name!
    And another bit of Irish – Caitlin, you may be interested in the fact that another Irish pronunciation of your name (there are lots of different accents in Irish Gaelic) is the same as the way you would pronounce Kathleen – except with the emphasis on the first syllable, never on the second.

    I go by my real first name, but there is a small story to it. My mother made it up (for obscure reasons, but she liked it) and gave it to me in 1960, She spent years unsuccessfully trying to persuade someone else to pick the name for their daughter (and as a labour coach she had lots of opportunity, too). I recently googled Scotlyn and discovered that there are now hundreds of girls with this name mentioned online, but the oldest one I found so far is in her early 20’s, so if absense of evidence is evidence of absense, I am the first. I’m pleased to say, the photos supplied showed Scotlyn’s come in every shape and colour, but I didn’t find any boys with that name, despite the fact that half of my junkmail is addressed to Mr. My google search even turned up a fictional sword and sorcery type character called Scotlyn! IRL I can’t get anyone to actually call me Scotlyn, Scotty is the usual nickname. My grandmother was the only one who ever got away with calling me Scot.

  110. Oh yeah – the jokes. One job I had as a waitress required that I wear a name tag on my left chest lapel with “Scotty” on. The two standard jokes were – “Beam me up” and “what do you call the other one?” GRRRR!!

  111. I’m lame and dorky and super-into TV, so TWoP Fan is short for Television Without Pity Fan.

    I was more into the website (Television Without Pity, that is) before Bravo bought them out, but when I thought about changing my screen name, my husband said, “It (TWoP) doesn’t have to be the website, it could be how you enjoy watching TV and commenting on it. YOu know, ’cause you’re a dork.”

    Before it was Lorisae, which I just thought was pretty.

  112. RE: Nicknames — I call my little one “kitten” because it really fits, this child is kitten-like in many ways. When said child recently asked for a kitten, I had to fess up that I’m allergic. Since “allergic” doesn’t mean much to a 3-year-old, I had to say that if we had a cat, it would make me sick.
    I’m thinking that we need to start saving for therapy for the child now.

  113. Because I’m a very private person, I feel that I can’t use either my first or last name on the Interwebs because they are both very unusual (and forget about using my full name)–and so everyone will know who I am. Even my nick is unusual. On the other hand, I love all my names, and I love the fact that there’s only one of me in the whole world.

    True story… When I was in first grade, I decided that I did NOT like my first name. My middle name is the eastern European version of Maria, so I decided to sign all my first grade work as “Mary.” My first grade teacher was horrified: she thought my name was very beautiful, and told me to embrace it and be proud of it. After a week or two of my nonsense (and my teacher’s consternation), I decided that my first name wasn’t so bad after all. That lovely teacher moved out west after a year, so I never saw her again. However, one day on the playground in 5th grade, one of my first-grade classmates came up to me and said, “Didja know that Mrs. X had a baby? She named it after you.” Thirty years pass by, and I was bored at home one night, so I googled the teacher’s daughter’s name. Turns out that her middle name is my first name. Through the daughter, I got back in touch with my teacher, and she told me that although she loved my name, she really chose it because she wanted her daughter to be just like me. Talk about being bowled over… (The daughter is a successful astrophysicist, incidentally.)

    Okay, one last story. Kindergarten this time. I was a very bright, happy, and social child, and COULD NOT WAIT until the first day of school. I get on the bus, enter the first classroom of my life, and join my classmates in a circle on the floor. The teacher passes out index cards with our first names on them–there’s a piece of yarn attached so we can wear the cards around our necks. Now, all the boys had a picture of a truck next to their names, and all the girls had a picture of a flower next to their names–and I got a truck. (My name comes across as gender-neutral.) This was 1969, so things were different then. Still, I was so utterly confused! I don’t remember being upset, but being the very logical child that I was, I just could not figure out the truck. My brain was racing to understand why I did not get the flower. When I asked the teacher about it, she sort of just brushed it off. And then I just sort of thought it was cool, since I was a tomboy anyway.

    Sorry for the long post–I find names and how people feel about them intriguing. I’ve been a long-time lurker and have learned a lot on this site. Thanks for all the intelligence and support that constantly emanates from this corner of the Interwebs!

    P.S. “Catlover” is my usual nom de plume online because I’m a Crazy Cat Lady.

  114. Last paragraph: should’ve been “emanate.” Grrr–I hate when I make stupid grammar mistakes like that. (You see why I don’t want to sign my actual name…?!)

  115. “Lil” is actually short for lilpinkchainsaw — I wanted a username that sounded nice and badass and was something different from my usual username. The way I figure – you have a chainsaw and it’s little and it’s pink. Typically, most people look at things that are little and pink as no threat, but when you get right down to it, it’s still a freaking chainsaw and it’ll do just as much damage as a regular-sized one, which hints at my tendency to seem harmless and amenable until crossed, then I pull the starter cord ;)

  116. It’s great to read the stories behind the names–thanks everyone! I made up my screenname back in 1996, when I wanted to change my yahoo handle from its lame–or so I thought at the time–original: “viz75”, my high school nickname and my year of birth. I wanted to be “paradox”, because I was coming to see myself so, but it was taken. So, erm, I added “live”, because I was in a big Live phase at the time. I’m not into them so much now, but it works in other ways for me. I also occasionally use “Ms. Paradox”–my SO’s mother first called me this, and it’s the title of my LJ. And I am also “Cuilanië” in a few places, which is the Quenya translation of the meaning of my first name, Eve. :)

  117. Hello people from the Planet Abbrevia – where, apparently, there just aren’t enough letters to go around.

    Can someone please supply an old (ok middle-aged,) woman with no internet cred, with a translation for the terms SO and LJ?

    – would I know them if I saw them? are they contagious? do they come in pink?

    Alternatively, I’m happy to do my own homework if someone can point me in the direction of an english/abbrevianese dictionary. Thanks!

  118. Xtina because my name is Christina.  S because (a) my last name starts with S and (b) A lot of people refer to Christina Aguilera as “Xtina”, and I am not her, that I’m aware of.

    Oddly, while I still answer to “Christina” (and perk up at any Chris-like name), you’re more likely to get my attention by saying “Xtina” or “X”.

    (Generic “you”, natch.)

  119. MissPrism and TropicalChrome – love both your names and stories! and thanks for the refs – I just bookmarked the dictionary and I will do my own boning up in future.

    Re my SO, before I married him I used to introduce him as my “next of skin” – and still do sometimes, if I’m honest, because I rarely even think the word husband. “Husband” does actually apply to him as the excellent practitioner of animal husbandry that he is, but it’s not how I think of him vis-a-vis me. I didn’t make up NOS (next of skin), though, but I cannot remember who did, so I can’t give due credit.

  120. PS – just getting creative here. Check it out. I’ve just added a new term to the urban dictionary since it was sitting there undefined – JLW (“Just lose weight”). I’ve defined it as “a non-sequiter or an instruction that has no bearing on the original context.” I’ve given as an example – “patient: my knee hurts. Doctor: JLW.” My proposal has probably gone to moderation now, but if youse all check it up from time to time, maybe we can coin our own useful term.

  121. Boring screen name: my first name. Other screen names I have are netekay (a combination of my first and middle names) and camelot (after a fetish for Arthurian literature)

    Mind blowing…I know… :)

  122. I always have a bit of an existential break down every time I have to choose an online user name. For some reason or another it always causes way too much panic for me.

    It may come from being female and having a unisex first name that is most often used as the male spelling. So I was always that little girl that got the boy prize in school because no one bothered to ask the teacher my actual sex, which did not make much of a difference to me seeing as I have always been a tomboy but it generally provoked teasing from my classmates.

    Did I also mention that the Dr’s told my parents that I was going to be a boy? And my favorite color is Blue. So I have thought a lot about how your name reflects who you are in the eyes of others.

    I have been a night owl my entire life. My internal clock is just set differently. I prefer to wake up late and stay up late into the morning hours. So when it came time to choose an SN I went with that characteristic and have used it ever since. And the numbers…. My birthday… I know not very creative.

    You would be better equipt at telling me my own online persona being that ones online persona really only exists in the minds of the people they interact.

    As far as managing it I try to be as concise and respectful as possible. I appreciate how posting online gives me a chance to step back and reevaluate before i hit the submit button. And I can’t spell worth anything so i am painfully aware how a spelling error can make someone appear, so i try my hardest to double and triple check everything. I hope my efforts have paid off.

  123. Ydnic is my first name backwards. My brother and I used our backwards names as nicknames when we were kids, and after I realized how many Cindys were posting in the Fatosphere, I decided to use my old, silly, nickname. Just for a bit of differentiation..

  124. Lynne is my real name. This is the first place on the internet where I ever used it! Now I use it on Shakes, too, though for a little while I was banjo over there (because I play it. A little bit). Then I got less chicken on Shakes and switched to the real name there, too.

    Before this, pretty much everywhere online I was “sydzg.” It was guaranteed to never be taken on the webz (except by me, if I had forgotten my pw and had to sign up again). Back story: After a rousing game of scrabble in college, our remaining letters at the end of the game inspired SM and I to become old-school Japanese warriors. Immediately after that we had to RUN back home to catch the X-Files season premier! Later FJ became SM’s warrior horse. The horse that kills.

    And epiphenomena (sp?), do I know you??

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