Posted by: David Stewart | August 5, 2010

Your name and what it says about you

I once knew of a man who named his daughter “Xyzzy”.

No lie. It’s pronounced “Zye-zee”. I’m reminded of this fact periodically by my friend Bob when we reminisce about the old days when we used to work with Xyzzy’s dad.

It’s hard to come up with a good name. I thought that a good name for our oldest daughter would be Fiona. It’s a cool Scottish name. My wife didn’t like it so much.  Sorry, Anne.

We can’t change our own name, usually. OK, people change their names when they get married. Many people I know in China have picked English names for themselves. Sports figures get nicknames, but they say it’s uncool to pick your own nickname.

I have occasionally been called “Digital Dave”. Or “Diggie D”. I suppose I could be “Notorious D.I.G.”, except I think people would confuse me with being a shoveler.

My running friends John and Susie are having their second child and invited name suggestions. If it’s a girl, I suggested they pick “Hailey” in honor of Hallie Gebreselasie, the holder of the men’s marathon record.

But John tells me that they won’t tell anyone what names they are considering. This is because for almost any name, people have some negative connotation with that name. “Oh, I knew someone in school with that name. She was really stuck up.”  I can imagine.

But once the kid is born, it almost doesn’t matter what connection there is with the name. You look at that little bundle of joy and you say “Awww… so cute.”

We finally seem to have the name set for our new project. Picking a name is hard for projects that will become public. Maybe as hard as picking a name for your child, but for a child, the parents’ opinion is the most important.

But for a project or product, you have a thousand people who like or don’t like it and who want to tell you they don’t like it.

We finally said, “Look, unless you have a better idea, we’re going with it.”

See, it’s always easier to criticize than to be constructive.

Does my name say anything about me? Would I have been a different person if I grew up as a Fred or Ian or Joe? The ancients’ names were changed (often by God) when something momentous happened. When people are forced to register on web sites to make blog comments, they tend to be more civilized when they have to give their true name. So people do get attached to their names, I suppose, and for good reason.

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