Thursday, November 17, 2011

What's in a Name?

by Allison Pang

There's an old saying that names have power. There's a definite difference between the casual, everyday name and someone's "true" name. You see it in all sorts of stories and fairy tales - Rumpelstiltskin comes to mind right off the bat - guess his name and the girl gets to keep her good fortune and her first born. (Funny what we promise when we don't know the future, eh?)

There are plenty of cultures around the world that put great weight on names in general - whether there are rules about who you can name your children after, to having both casual and secret names, to not naming a child at all until they're at least a month old. (I got to experience that a bit - obviously I named both my children when they were born, but marrying into a Chinese family still meant we had a red egg ceremony at the one month mark. My father-in-law did give both my children their Chinese middle names as well.) Sometimes, people get one name when they're born and a second name once they enter adulthood.

Even in modern Western society, we change names...or at least debate it, in the form of marriage. Do you take the man's name as your own, or keep the one you've got? Obviously a personal choice, but it's still one that  can have repercussions in your personal and professional life.

And online? How many of us have avatar names that aren't "real" names, but have their own deep, personal meaning to us? I go by mynfel in a lot of places. (And yes, that's a character from a Charles de Lint book, but at the time I loved it.) But that name is how a lot of people know me and it's something I've deliberately pulled into myself. On the other hand? There are nicknames I don't like at all. Call me "Alli" and see how far you get. (And for the record, only my dad and my best friend from high school can get away with that. Everyone else is like nails on a chalk board for me. It just sounds "wrong".)

But as far as pet names go, the DH and I do have a few...most stemming from our early dating days, and they weren't used aloud so much as sign-offs  on notes or emails, that sort of thing. (One did become my IM name - lickbat. Which sounds really pervy, but it isn't. Or it wasn't supposed to.) But on a daily basis I don't think we use them much at this point. Maybe we've moved past that, or maybe we just reserve them more for the kids these days.


  1. Ineffable, effable, effanineffable
    Deep and inscrutable

    Guess what your post made me think of?

  2. Heh, Kev - *I* know what you mean, but Allison, who wrote this post but neglected to put her name on it, will not!

  3. Remedied with the name thing. :P

    The Naming of Cats?

  4. Try saying my name in pig latin and you'll get it ;-)