Screen Names

With the advent of the internet, we all have been given the opportunity to give ourselves any number of new names.  We can use our real names (not many do and not for all forums), we can use the same name pan-net, or we can choose a new name for each venue.  For example here I use my real first name, and on my prefessional listservs I use my full triple-barreled legal name, the one I published under back in the day.  I frequent but rarely post on a poker forum, and there I am LittleOldLady in a sort of in-your-face gesture to the extreme misogyny (and ageism) rampant there.  Well, I am little, old (by their standards and on my way to being so by any standards)--the lady is arguable. In comments on news sites I generally use my initials, but on one news site I am Thryth for the character in Beowulf.  So, and this was brought to mind by someone asking in another thread about how Clarebeorhte is pronounced, would folks like to talk about how a name enthusiast goes about picking a screen name?  Even the poker dudes have threads about the inspiration for their screen names and the most interesting, funniest, weirdest screen names they've run across.

As a corollary, could I invite all the people who post as guest to register a screen name, so we can get to "know" you as individuals?


July 16, 2012 11:46 AM

What a great topic!

I tend to have a lot of trouble coming up with screen names because I really want the name to feel like *me* and in a stroke of extremely narrow focus, it seems like my actual name is the only thing that fits that requirement. Back in the days of Livejournal, I was very pleased with my screen name because I realised that if I wrote all of my initials out (EnglishFirst / EnglishSecond / HebrewFirst / HebrewSecond / Last), when read, it actually sounded just like my EnglishFirst Last initials (is that clear? Basically, Keyef sounded like K.F.)! I am still very fond of that screen name and I think that I considered it when registering for this site way back when. However, I obviously ultimately decided to go with my actual first name. (I think that I made that decision because I didn't want any of my LJ friends to search for my name and come up with this blog... That feels a bit silly now, but I'm actually a very private person.) 

One thing that I've noticed is that now, since so many sites beg to be associated with Facebook accounts, many more comments on articles from various news (and "news") sources are now being made under real names. Yes, more people are not using their real names on FB as they used to, but still, with so many sites now linked and the broad attempt to have people have pan-internet identities, there are fewer screen names floating around.

I do find screen names to be interesting, but I also really like to know the real names of the people associated with those pseudonyms when I interact with them on a regular basis! Since this blog is the one that I read most, I feel like I know a lot of the people - but like I don't know them at all when I don't have the faintest clue what their real names are. Plus, whether founded or not, I tend to feel like someone's name affects how names are approached in general, so on a name blog/forum in particular, I get especially curious. But I also get really curious about how people created their screen names so I'm looking forward to other responses to this question :)

July 16, 2012 1:45 PM

My screen name is pretty silly. I chose it when I was 16, a solid decade ago. I honestly can't remember how it originated; there's a band called The Starlight Mints that I loved (and still do) at the time, so I think that might be it? I was also the quintessential artsy teenager, and I think the red and white swirl motif was a big deal for me for a bit. All of that is conjecture at this point, as I don't think I can know for sure.

For some reason, though, the name stuck. It feels solidly like me, and if you were to search for it, every ilikemints except one would be me (who the other one is, I have no idea.). I like that it's solidly gender-neutral and positive. I think sending the message that I like something as silly as mints enough to make it my online identity is just the right amount of weird/whimsy and general good-naturedness that I want to convey. Does that make any sense?

My own name, Molly, which I think most of you know by now, I use in conjunction with my ln for my serious, grown-up email, but for the most part I try to avoid mentioning it online. As has been seen on this forum when people suggest it for various expecting parents, to many it seems almost aggressively childlike. It's a nn, brings to mind a sticky four year-old in overalls, and isn't a name that can be taken seriously on an adult. My mother was solidly in the "name your kid what you plan to call them" camp, so there's nothing "serious" to fall back on. In my real life, I haven't had problems being taken seriously, but online it seems that some people will find any excuse to discredit your opinion, so a babyish name, I think, will cast a shadow on what I have to say. This might be completely unfounded, and ilikemints may be just as, if not more so, childish than Molly, but it's worked out this far.


Re: the facebook thing, I find that really disturbing. A lot of newspaper sites have this feature, and these same sites seem to draw incredibly bigoted, hateful people like moths to a flame. To see their faces next to such racist, misogynist,  homophobic, or (excuse my language) batshit crazy screeds is so jarring. It's not so easily written off as trolling if they look like my grandma or neighbor. I'm not sure if having these people's identities is helpful or not. I'm just glad I'm not a free speech lawyer, in any case.

July 16, 2012 2:47 PM

Funny thing, my associations with Molly are Molly Goldberg/Molly Picon, the Molly Maguires, Molly Malone who sold cockles and mussels in Dublin's fair city, the Molly at the Market bar in the French Quarter, not to mention one of my mother's bridge and mah-jong ladies.  Not at all childish....

July 16, 2012 6:01 PM

I actually had/have two screen names for this site, but I don't remember how to get to the other one (which is the name I use in Hungarian), so ever since these forums went up, I've been using the one I came up with for my contributions to Namipedia. I don't much care for it -- it's too long, for one -- but it works well enough that I haven't bothered to change it. I would like to "find" the other one, though, because it seems more appropriate for name discussions to use one's name in some form, rather than an impersonal description.

The other screen name that I often end up using, more or less by default, is the email address I came up with more than 15 years ago (back when AOL was the big thing); it consists of my then-initials plus "miaou", which was an attempt at a sort of internationalized "meow" (yes, I like cats). I haven't done an extensive search, but every instance I've found of it online has been me.

I'm pretty sure many screen names out there had a similar evolution: you come up with something to fit within a particular set of constraints (like not repeating another user's name), and then it sort of multiplies, and sticks around far longer than you ever thought possible.

July 16, 2012 8:35 PM

Interesting topic!

I have different screen names for every forum/site I post on. I really don't like being too trackable, and I refuse to comment on any sites with my facebook log-in for this reason. I also don't use my real name on facebook.  Some people think that is odd, but I don't want to be too searchable/identifiable.

With my maiden name I was harder to google but my married name is fairly unusual so even with a common first name I'm pretty googleable.  I find having different 'identities' on different sites fun as well as useful.  Most of my screen names are names of pets or things I like. I kind of like interesting words/sounds so I pick out names based on what appeals to me and sounds good. Plus, a lot of really obvious screen names are often taken by the time you register so I have to be a little creative.

For the record, Chimu is the name of one of my alpacas. I've mentioned them on here before. I use my other alpacas name on another site and my cats names are my screen names for other forums. When I ran out of animals to use I started picking interesting plant and flower names from my garden.

One forum I post on, I have a nickname that is derived from my screen name. Other people invented it and it kind of stuck. I've met several people from that forum IRL and have many as facebook friends. They all usually refer to me by the nickname which must confuse the heck out of people who have no idea where it came from as it's not even remotely related to my real name.


@ilikemints - I've always wondered where your name came from! I am normally not someone who likes nicknamey or cutesy names but I actually don't have any problem with Molly on an adult. My husbands grandmother is a Molly (full name) so I don't have an issue seeing it on someone who isn't a baby/toddler.

By Guest (not verified)
July 17, 2012 6:42 PM

It's a very interesting question, Miriam, as well as a gracious way of inviting people to de-lurk.

I have been reading this blog obsessively for several months, but am nowhere near as much a long-term regular as you and others.  Once the Forums were instituted, I, like some others, felt welcomed to jump in.  

I have posted a bit as Guest--no, not THAT Guest, the one writing all the snarky comments lately--and various other log-in names. I keep forgetting my log in information, and finding it difficult to retreive, so I've found myself having to make up new user names periodically. This makes it impossible for others with whom I've interacted on here to 'recognize' me.  I apoloize about that.

Dorit may be a keeper, although I now remember there was a Little Dorrit--a reference to a Dickens novel, I think, who is not me, and whose name I may have inadvertently semi-ripped-off.  

I chose Dorit because it sounds like my name, but a bit more my style, if that makes sense.  I'm realizing I like girls'/women's names that do not end in the typical a/ah/ie sounds.  Among my favorite are Dorit, Miriam, Mayim and the like. Some Greek and modern Israeli names seem to be hitting my sweet spot at the moment. However, I've noticed my preferences change rapidly, and fear the day when I actually have to name a little one and stick to it!

I wouldn't use the same name on this site as others for privacy/cowardly reasons. Honestly, I'd be very embarrassed if people I know found out I frequent the site.  I do so because I love linguistics and phonetics and the history and culture of naming, how it ties in with kinship, and the statistics and all the other fascinating things that this site brings up. But I would be afraid that colleagues would think it was... well... babyish. And not how I should be spending my time. The other consideration is that you are all so very, very eloquent. I'm a bit embarrassed that, as truly ridiculously over-educated as I am, I find my posts meandering and unclear alongside your cogent, compelling contributions. So I opt for a pseudonym that isn't linked to my online life elsewhere.

July 17, 2012 8:29 PM

If it makes you feel any better, I starting frequenting this site and posting years before I was even interested in having a baby. I too am interested in language, the history and culture of naming etc. I don't talk to many people IRL about most of these things (unless they come up in conversation) so I use this as my outlet. I think the great thing about internet forums is that you can discuss and learn about things you are interested in with like minded people and not have to bore your normal friends stupid with your obsession!

I'm glad you have joined the conversation! It would be great if you could find a log-in to keep using so we can all get to know you better. 

Your post sound perfectly eloquent and well-reasoned to me, I don't think you have anything to be worried about :)

July 17, 2012 8:31 PM

Well, if you call your interest in names onomastics, no one will think it babyish, and not too many will actually know what it is.  There is, after all, the learned American Name Society which publishes a refereed journal, Names: A Journal of Onomastics.  (Those folks sure know how to come up with a catchy title.)  The ANS also sponsors sessions at the annual (and infamous) Modern Language Association meeting.  You can subscribe to the journal (4 issues/year) for $45 which includes society membership.  I have nothing personally to do with this society, so this is not me spamming the forum.  It's just something I thought people who love "linguistics and phonetics and the history and culture of naming, how it ties in with kinship, and the statistics," etc., might be interested in.  The subscription fee of $45 (less for retired and students) may be a bit steep, but it's not outrageous for a guilty pleasure.

BTW FWIW I always associated Dorit with the Modern Israeli name, not Little Dorrit.

July 18, 2012 8:24 AM

Fittingly, I wasn't logged in as dorit (which my text editor wants to correct as Doritos) above. That keeps happening too, complicating matters.


I'll see if my library carries that journal. Thanks for the suggestion!

July 18, 2012 7:33 PM

Yes!  Like dorit, I had also been following the blog for several months, and the start of the forums made it easier to dip my toes in the water and start making comments.  Especially the lighthearted and theoretical threads, where newbs like me can join in without barging straight into real-baby situations.

For "serious" online things, like the websites I use to stay in touch with people in my area of work, I use variations on my full name, and for everything else it's usually been Clarebeorhte (sometimes hyphenated) for the last couple of years.  Clare is my name, and as people have mentioned above, by the time I get to a website someone has often taken it, so it was a case of finding something original to add to it.  Beorhte fit the bill because:

a) Like Miriam, I'm an Anglo-Saxon fan, so an Old English word seemed suitable.

b) It's a word I feel particularly attached to as I wrote my BA dissertation on the various ways it was spelled in names (like Æthelberht and Byrhtnoth...did you know there are over 150 recorded variants?  But I digress).

c) As a bit of vocabulary, it has a similar meaning to Clare: bright, clear, etc. (this didn't occur to me until well into the dissertation).  Whack on a feminine ending (-e) and it matches nicely.

d) My surname also begins with B, so the name as a whole has a familiar sound to me.

And the disadvantages:

a) As Karyn said, the pronunciation isn't entirely obvious.  In my head it's /'beorxtə/, like the word "bear" + "ch" (as in Bach) + "tuh", but it's a bit of a guess what people sounded like in different times and places in Anglo-Saxon England anyway, so the pronunciation police aren't going to come after you for this one.

b) It's pretentious - check me out with my arcane word that needs explaining.  But at least my real name's there too, so there's something genuine!

Finally, last week I capitalised it on this forum, as I'd been noticing that I find it a bit easier to refer to other users when their screen names begin with a capital - is that just me?

By EVie
July 20, 2012 1:57 AM

My screen name is derived from my first and middle initials, E.V. (hence the capitalization of the V, which I sometimes consider changing). For a long time I didn't feel that my given name was particularly representative of who I am, and at various points I've considered switching to a new nickname derived from my name—Evie is one I considered, along with Ellie, Nell and Vixie (from my middle name, Victoria). I never had the guts to make the change, though. In picking my screenname here, I didn't want to use my actual name, but did want to pick something name-like, since, after all, this is a name site. Thus, I go by my nickname from the alternate universe in which I did make the switch.

I don't use this screenname anywhere else on the internet. On Facebook I'm my real name, but I post very infrequently—I mainly use it to keep track of which old friends are getting married/having babies. My old AOL/AIM screenname, chosen in the eighth grade, was a pair of nonsense words from Jabberwocky plus a number. I used that on a few other sites as well. In a couple of other places I've picked obscure classical or medieval names—recently I made a new identity on another forum, and I basically went through all the ancient names I could think of until I came across one that wasn't taken. In general, I'm pretty wary about putting too much real info out there on the internet. For a long time I was very reluctant to reveal my real first name here, though I've recently relaxed that a bit—it's hard to talk about names so much without eventually having to say something about your own!

July 22, 2012 10:08 PM

I use my real first, real last initial here. A lot of random blogs that I post to, whether I have an account on that site or not, that's how I sign myself.  I'm not the only Laura V around on the 'net -- I'm not by a long shot the only Laura MyLastName, either -- and I like it that way.

In a lot of places I use my (male-sounding) middle name, because when I started using the internet 20ish years ago, many poorly socialized jackasses believed that having a female name was an invitation for sexual comments.  By the time that was less true (Anita Sarkeesian's experience indicates those jackasses are still out there), many people knew me by that name, including a number of my closest friends. So I use that from time to time.

July 25, 2012 12:32 PM

Oh, how I love this thread.  As much as I love screennames, I think.  

ksomething was created for a wedding planning forum when I couldn't decide whether to take my husband's last name.  My first initial is K, but I had no idea what the rest of my name would be.  Of all my screennames, it seemed the least tied to any particular naming concept and so the most appropriate for use in a forum dedicated to names and naming.

In high school and college I was notorious for changing my screenname on a regular basis.  I suppose it can be explained by personal identity crises, desire for anonymity, and my affinity for naming in general.  After hitting 30, I'm more comfortable with/knowledgeable about who I am and don't spend much time in forums where I would want anonymity, so I haven't created a new screenname in years. Having named two kids and now getting to talk names all the time with pregnant friends gets it out of my system, too, I think.  

I keep a Google doc list of many past screennames, so I can consult that to categorize my naming methods...  My favorites are plays on words that describe me in multiple ways (e.g. my college mascot with one letter added so it contains my maiden name without a change in pronunciation.)  Most numerous are names specific to holidays and/or specific forum themes.  Then there are a few pets' names.  

Did I mention I love this thread?  


July 25, 2012 3:58 PM

What an excellent question/invitation and a great thread!

My screen name, Kalmia, is the genus name of the flower/shrub which is my given name, so in a sense it feels like an alternate version of my real name. My given name is fairly uncommon as a personal name even on its own (and since my family name is unusual too, I believe I am the only person with that combination), so I wanted a little bit of a privacy buffer. I'm also eccentric enough in my professional and personal interests and my family situation that anyone who knew me in real life could probably recognize me pretty easily on here by reading posts where I've referenced those influences. Still, at least I can't be connected to my contributions by a straight-forward Google search, and, like dorit, I don't really want potential professional contacts getting to know me first through my name hobby.

Like Clarebeorchte, I'd been using an uncapitalized form, kalmia, but often wished I had capitalized it, because it does sometimes feel weird to me to write out uncapitalized screen names, particularly at the start of a sentence. It also bugged me in the case of kalmia because genus names are supposed to capitalized anyway. (Had it been irritating Linnaeus? :-) He's been too polite to say so!) It didn't occur to me that it was possible to change it - but thanks to Clarebeorchte I've now made the switch!

I do use my real name on Facebook (it didn't occur to me to come up with a pseudonym when I joined since at that point I didn't know anyone using one there), and elsewhere on the Internet I've occasionally used Kalmia/kalmia or some combination of my initials. This is the only site where I'm a regular (if I even qualify as such here, seeing as I don't get around to posting that much). When I picked Kalmia to use here, I also liked that it worked as a sort of pun on "call-me-a ..." (I believe the word can be pronounced with either an "ee" or an "eye" sound for the I). I suppose I was inspired by others who use screen names here that are also obviously naming-themed (but a bit more clever than mine), like A Rose, Anne with an E, and Linnaeus.

I'm enjoying hearing about everyone else's stories and strategies as well!

July 25, 2012 7:07 PM

Hooray, go capitals!  I hadn't thought of "call-me-a ..." before but like the pun very much :)

By Guest (not verified)
August 1, 2012 12:03 AM

Haha! This is sort of embarassing, actually! When I was in high school I joined a Harry Potter Roleplaying site and thought up a name off the top of my head. (Morgan Madding) I got so used to using the name online I just started using it as my spam/message board names whenever I had to sign up for something. Now, 10 years later, I STILL use my old character's name as a login on forums.

October 20, 2012 3:44 PM

My screen name differs. But lately, I've been using "NoakQuade," or any variation. (ex: Noak, Quade, or Noak#, Quade#) # Symbolises an actual number. It depends which website I'm using, though, really. I've even mispelled usernames and ended up using them anyway, because they weren't the type you could change.

Noak was a name I really liked that I found on babynamewizard, actually. I have a pet named Quade. So once, when I was naming something on a computer game, my friend suggested "Quade." I went with Noak# (an actual number again, for #) I decided to combine the names for this website.

I used to use "unpublishedauthor10," for this website - because I'm a writer. But recently I figured everyone else's usernames were more of an actual name on this website, so I should change mine. Since I've only been a member for a short while, I know no one will care... 

I changed it to Noak Quade, as Quade Noak didn't sound as great to me.

A few minutes later, I changed my mind, and thought it looked better like "NoakQuade," or at  least looked more like a username. I changed it to "NoakQuade."

I won't change it again, though. :)