(I’m making random short posts to entertain certain people during spring break.)
Since air-dropping into this crazy cultural salad bowl of a place, I’ve met a lot of people whose names get mispronounced. All sorts of long vowels and short vowels and consonants and word boundaries that jump across languages unpredictably. As a result, people often acquire nicknames or alternative names to get called by, whether actively, passively, or somewhere in between.
In contrast, my name is easy and boring. Now, I rather doubt I’d want an exciting name, in the sense of a name that everybody mangles in excitingly different ways. I’m not exactly dissatisfied with people calling me “Brian”. It just strikes me that I think I’ve gone my entire life without a meaningful nickname or even meaningful derivative of my name.
(I’m ignoring the transposition. Why am I ignoring the transposition? I’m not sure I can rationally justify that, but thinking about it makes me cringe, which is the reason I’m delicately avoiding explicitly writing out what nickname I refer to by “transposition”. I will just say it is rather uninspired… and also, perplexingly to me, used by accident a lot…) Now of course, there are some other names I have that may jump to mind, and I stand by them for other name-related reasons, but I’m not satisfied with them along this “meaningful nickname” dimension. My handle pretty much flat-out fails: it doesn’t mean anything except for containing a Greek letter, as I’m hoping long-term readers know; but also, since I came up with it so long ago all by myself, it can’t even serve as a proxy for some interesting meaning in its origin story. (I believe it excels at a different function names have, though, namely (no pun intended) being a unique identifier.) My Kerberos (≈ MIT) username originated from a drawn-out formal decision process that, while perhaps not too boring, erred towards professionalism and also doesn’t really convey anything interesting about me. (Well, there’s the fact that I’m the kind of person who sometimes creates formal decision processes to choose a username. Meh.) Sure, the letter-that-is-not-a-middle-initial gives me some flexibility for inserting meaning, but it still feels after-the-fact and artificial. I don’t think I regret passing over the quirkier options — my Kerberos does its day job well — though I do wonder how my life would be different had I chosen differently, and wish professionalism didn’t have to be at the expense of personal quirkiness.
Driven by this vague and utterly trivial feeling of dissatisfaction, I’ll confess, I’ve spent time lying in bed thinking about possible nicknames people could have synthesized from things I’ve done or said or gotten involved in, but it’s like the way the Jargon File treats the title of “hacker”; it feels really inauthentic and also just plain arrogant if I come up with some random epithet (…and yes, I have quite a few) and just tell people to call me it. It has to be started by somebody else, or at least arise organically, without me trying to force a particular name to happen. I imagine a really good nickname would also act like a shibboleth of sorts through its meaning, reminding everybody who uses it about some collectively shared memory and identifying them as participants. If that can’t be achieved, I feel like it’d still be nice if usage of a nickname narrowed down a user’s relation with the person being named, by virtue of it being a nickname.
Also, a nickname really should sound cool. (Obviously the most important criterion.) At least, they should not be uncool — no choppiness or clunkiness or unnecessary verbosity. I wish I had thought more about that before coming up with my handle in fourth grade. Four syllables without any exotic vowel or consonant clusters is just too much.
What’s the point of all this? I almost want to request that readers start attempting to call me whatever nicknames they want and hope something good happens, but I’m worried maybe this is something that will quickly become tiresome (although it doesn’t emotionally feel that way! ::starry eyes::), and also it will be awkward if I say so and this totally fails. But then again, this blog is basically an infinite progression of awkwardness. So.
Here’s a Google form, and your chance to make me regret this in the morning.
(Note to self: what the heck?? This 700-word wall is your idea of a “random short post”??)