What’s in a Name?

I was given the wrong name.

I have always felt as though I was given the wrong name. I don’t feel like a Barbara. I never have.

I think we should all have naming ceremonies as adults, and we should get to pick our own. You should have a birth name and a real name. Mine would be Serenity. But the way the culture is at present, if I tried to change it now, I’d be laughed at by everyone who knows me. I am resigned to my name.

Even better, our names should be our story. They should be added to with each passing year based on our traits and experiences. By the time we are 80, our full names should take hours to recite.

For example, You would have “Mary, who danced before she walked, who loves dogs, who shocked everyone by spelling O U T at age 2, who was Rudolph in her Christmas pageant…”  And so on, and so forth.

In a world like that, if someone said, “Tell me your name,” they would be indicating that they really wanted to know you well, and they’d settle in for the duration with a nice cup of tea. And telling your name would be a gift that you would only bestow upon those who you felt deserved to know the very core of you.

And after telling your story, you could say something like, “But call me Serenity, for short.”


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What’s in a Name?

Has this ever happened to you? You run into a friend that you haven’t seen for a long time. You’re happy to see him because you have fond memories of laughter and camaraderie. You’ve always enjoyed his company. You have no idea why you grew apart in the first place. But you can’t introduce him to your significant other because… his name is on the tip of your tongue… what is it again?


We place so much value on the naming of people, places and things. It’s as if we must be able to pin things down, validate them, make them a part of our world by calling them something. The right thing. The proper thing. It’s important to name things to prove you know what or who they are. Why?

Is the accurate description of a thing what causes it to be real? Like Schrödinger’s cat, can a thing’s state of existence only be locked in when it’s observed? Is calling you by name the only way to prove that you are truly alive?

When land is colonized, the place names often get changed. For example, Mount St. Helens used to be called Suek by the Native Americans who lived there. Names are powerful things. Renaming says, “Your sense of the reality of this mountain isn’t valid. We take ownership of this place and its history is now our history. Nothing else counts.” It’s the ultimate violation.

And yet, the mountain itself is still the mountain. But even calling it “the mountain” is a sort of naming, is it not? That tall mound of… oh, bother. Everything is a description. You could keep an image of it in your head, but you’d have no way of discussing it with others without some commonly agreed upon name.

If a name is what defines something, shouldn’t people choose their own names? I have never felt like a Barbara. No one could ever know me as well as I know myself. And yet, the name I would choose for myself now is probably not the name I would have chosen 20 years ago. I am constantly changing. But my name stays the same. I kind of feel as though I should be able to shed it like old skin. But there’s no cultural mechanism in place for that.

Words have value. They help us connect with each other, and with the wider world. But maybe we need to find a way to work on our interior sense of who or what constitutes the true essence of things, before we lose the ability to do so.


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Naming Things

I just adopted a new dog, and I’ve named him Quagmire, because he seems to be getting me out of an emotional one. In fact, he’s filled my life with joy, so you’d think I’d be kind enough not to saddle him with a ridiculous name. But no.


This made me think about the act of naming something. It’s a huge responsibility that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Once something has a name, it’s pretty much stuck with it for all eternity. It becomes part of how we perceive that thing. It influences our ability to take that thing seriously.

For example, the Rocky Mountain pussytoes is a pretty little flower, but it invariably makes me giggle. Seeing a yellow-bellied sapsucker produces the same result. And who would want to live in a town called Two Egg?

Some names are so weird that they’re rarely used, thus defeating their purpose. These include nacarat, which is the name of a bright orange-red color; linsey-woolsey, which is a type of inferior wool; and bangtail, which is a mustang or wild horse.

I won’t even get into the strange names we give to places, except to say that I once almost went off the pavement in the Florida panhandle when I came across Choke Chicken Road.

And some parents shouldn’t be allowed to name their own children. One child in New Zealand was able to have her name legally changed after being stuck with “Talula Does the Hula from Hawaii.”

But there is a word that I’d love to see make a comeback in this current political climate: trumpery. It means deception, trickery or showy nonsense. How apropos.

Naming Yourself

I have never really related to my own first name. And my middle name? It feels downright foreign. If I could have named myself, I would be Serenity. I’d actually legally change it tomorrow if I didn’t think I’d be laughed out of my family. It’s the name I chose for myself in the virtual world of Second Life, and it feels right.

It seems exceedingly strange to me that the one thing you are stuck with for life, the thing that identifies who you are and makes you stand out from everyone else, is the one thing you don’t get to choose for yourself.

Over the years I have come across some really amusing names in Second Life. I started making a list so I wouldn’t forget them. Some of them are well thought out, others not so much. Naming yourself should be serious business because you are stuck with that legacy for life. But one thing I’ve learned from all of this is that if we all got to choose our own names, the world would be a much more interesting place.

Here are some of my favorite Second Life names.

  • Aloof Hermit
  • Always Schmooz
  • Antenna Rae
  • Anytime Thursday
  • Argyle Socke
  • Athiest Priestman
  • AyeLove Yue
  • Before Afterthought
  • Belgian Waffle
  • Bittersweet Lime
  • Blunt Fhang
  • Blvd Ho
  • Born Aristocrat
  • Bratty Childs
  • Breezie Catnap
  • Bringiton Paine
  • BrokenGuitar String
  • BrokenHeart Paine
  • CallYou Back
  • CanYouHearMe Snoring
  • Cheese Twist
  • Cherish Clarity
  • ChickenNoodle Soup
  • Cold Frog
  • Cooky Munster
  • CoolComfort Nirvana
  • Counterfactual Fizzle
  • CountTo Infinity
  • Crawfish Gumbo
  • Creepy Janitor
  • Cryptic Quandry
  • Denied Flatley
  • diddlesme gearbox
  • Discovered Clarity
  • driveme Oppewall
  • dry Rage
  • Editorial Clarity
  • Enticing Destiny
  • Experimental Afterthought
  • Extremely Noble
  • Failed Inventor
  • Fifty Winx
  • FreeWee Ling
  • Gathering Gloom
  • Gawdawful Calamity
  • Harmonic String
  • Heinous Deed
  • Ina Tryce
  • Justyn Tyme
  • Katydid Something
  • Love Pang
  • Naturally Offcourse
  • OctopusDropkick Sorbet
  • Oh Mercy
  • Pickle Soup
  • Pipsqueak Halfpint
  • Prison Barrs
  • Promises Paine
  • Rational Clarity
  • Shouting Kidd
  • SkittlesofDoom Waffle
  • Sling Trebuchet
  • Starlight Melodie
  • Story Writer
  • Strangely Broke
  • Subtle Charisma
  • Subtle Difference
  • Subtle Signals
  • Subtle Witte
  • Tainted Love
  • Tenderlee Held
  • Twisted Fool
  • Vry Offcourse
  • Wandering Homewood
  • Yorma Destiny
  • Youbetcha Babii
  • Younever Rang

What would your name be if you had a choice?


[Image credit: Redbubble.com]