On Names

Monday, July 18, 2005 11:02 pm By BigLig

One of the things that make Geeks unique is that we pick our own names.

We have the names our parents gave us, of course, but on the internet – in chat rooms, on-line games and so on – we get to choose what to call ourselves.

Actors, I suppose, often change their name, but they do not usually get to decide what they want – they have to take something their studio or agent thinks will sell.

Michael Caine famously had only a moment to pick his, while standing outside a cinema showing “The Caine Mutiny”. The internet tells me – this is of course what the internet is actually for - that the other Best Picture Oscar nominees that year were “On The Waterfront”, “The Country Girl”, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”, and “Three Coins in the Fountain” - so I guess he was lucky.

My own name is BigLig, which meets the key criteria for an internet name; easy to type, and unique. Uniqueness is good, because when you register for a new service you want to be sure your name has not been taken already. I am BigLig pretty much everywhere, except, unfortunately, on Slashdot - the spiritual home of geeks - where BigLig is already taken, so I have to be BigLig2. And, appropriately, here on blogger.com, although I have a sneaking suspicion that it must be me who registered BigLig as well, and I have just forgotten the password.

Other geeks choose their names from science fiction, names from movies, names from books, names of cult figures. Names that only make sense when you say them out loud, names that are bad puns, names that are really bad puns (the best sort).

My favourites? Names, like mine, that do not mean anything to anyone - except the person who chose them.

The problem with the name that your parents gave to you is that they did not really know much about you at the time. Like choosing a wedding present for an distant acquaintance, you usually end up with either something bland or entirely unsuitable.

Thinking about it though, one other group get to choose their names – transsexuals, who, on changing their gender, usually have to choose a new name that suits. That seems appropriate, somehow. Especially since the name my parents had chosen for me before I was born was Jacqueline. They had to think fast when I unexpectedly turned out to be a boy.