Sunday, August 2, 2009

True Names

I recently lost a hard drive and therefore about five months of emails since my last backup. This and some prodding from TomB led me to consider GMail, but that meant I needed an account name. As I was mulling over what name to pick, I was reminded of a question I got from a friend I know through a role playing game, who asked me what name I wanted to be called by. My response was that it didn't matter--I'm comfortable with Laser or Laserlight, or Runehorn, Chainshot, Flurry, Moosashi, Alarishi, Hunter, and so forth in various contexts. What's odd, perhaps, is the answer I did not give; I didn't say "my real name is Chris", because I don't think of that as my real name. Among some cultures, I've heard, a child gets a true name which denotes who he really is; he also has a name which is safe to tell other people, because it's merely a public name rather than his real name, and therefore has no power over him.
In this case everything else I tried was already taken (except MenacingBaa, which would take too much explanation), so I finally settled on chrisdeboe (but since my employer blocks Gmail, keep using the verizon address you're used to).
Is there anyone else who feels their given name isn't their "real" one? If you were picking a name for yourself, what would you pick?


Lux Mentis said...

My name is not my own in another sense. Thomas was my father's father. Robert was my father. Scott was my Mother's father. And my family name came from my paternal line. So really, nothing unique anywhere there except perhaps the combination. The algorithm used was classic Scots.

Mind you, if I had to pick three men in the world to whom a comparison would be a greater honour, I'd be fairly hard pressed. To bear as my first name the name Thomas, after my father's father, is a great honour and (in some ways) something I can't help but think I'll never live up to. But the attempt makes me a better person.

True name? I don't think you can ever know your own true name. If you could somehow see the totality of everything all of those that care about you see, you'd be able to know your true name. They see you without the distortion your own mind and perspective would provide. But you can't ever get there.

If I have one boy, he'll have to be Robert Thomas (something) as his first and middle names. Some traditions are worth keeping.

Lux Mentis said...

One further thought:

In some cultures, you have the name you are given as a child. It serves you well through until you reach maturity and then you select another name which shall be your adult name. Sometimes this is assigned by an elder, but it is inevitably different than your childhood name.

I'm not sure what name would embody the values of freedom, human dignity, liberty, and decency. Maybe Mill or Thoreau.

There are some other wise men whose names would be tolerable - Pliny, Tacitus, Thomas Aquinas, John Locke.

My own handle on the net is derived from a made up name for a made up world. It has persisted by its somewhat uniqueness and because that game has tied me and many friends together over the years and that alone merits its use - as an honorific of that fact.

Laserlight said...

"They see you without the distortion your own mind and perspective would provide", while providing their own distortions--but that's a tale for a different day.
I was dubbed Laser by an acquaintance of mine who was a SEAL Team operator, based on some comments I'd made about a laser being focussed. Shortly thereafter I needed a ten character username, and Laserlight came from that.