Déjà Vu Blogfest—Renaming Yourself


DL Hammons is once again holding his annual Déjà Vu blogfest, wherein participants revisit a post from the past year which didn’t get the audience one expected, or that one wishes to run again. I chose a post I originally published on 9 March 2016, “Renaming Yourself.”

Adopting a new name is a very serious decision, not one to be treated flippantly or rushed into. And while everyone has the right to rename oneself as one chooses, there are some factors to consider if one wants to choose a realistic, appropriate, lesser-used name.

Reasons for changing a name include:

Converting to a new religion, or becoming religious in one’s pre-existing faith
You just don’t like your birth name, and aren’t interested in just switching to your middle name
You’re moving to another country and want a name reflecting your new language and culture
You want a complete break with your old life
You have to go into hiding
You want a name more closely reflecting your ethnicity or culture
You want to honor a deceased loved one
You’re trying to make some kind of political statement
You want to live as the opposite sex

Some things to consider when making such a monumental decision:

1. How common/popular/unusual/trendy is it? If you really want to avoid a name that’s overly popular, try looking in the lower reaches of the Top 1000, or among names that haven’t charted. If you want a name that’s been steadily popular for generations, don’t look for names at the bottom of the chart.

2. Is it plausible for someone of your age? It’s pretty damn obvious a name was chosen in adulthood or adolescence when no one of that age has such a name (coughbrucejennercough). If you never heard a name like Kayden or Nevaeh-it’s-Heaven-spelt-backwards-TEEHEEHEE! until very recently, why would you think it sounds realistic and believable on an adult, or even a teenager? Sure there are always outliers, but there’s a big difference between, say, a 66-year-old Jennifer and a 66-year-old Caitlyn. One name existed and wasn’t completely unheard-of; the other name didn’t appear until 1983. Even the traditional spelling Caitlin only began charting in 1976.

3. How common is it in your community? If you’re taking a religious name, would you really prefer to be yet another Chaya Mushka, Mary Margaret, Francis Xavier, or Menachem Mendel, or would you prefer a more distinctive name like Esther Zahava, Naomi Raizel, Jerome Zachariah, or Omri Daniel?

4. How well will it age? Let’s be honest, some names date quickly, while others stand the test of time. A name that sounds cute today may sound incredibly babyish past childhood, while other names immediately call attention to one’s generation. A name like Julia or David could belong to someone of any age, whereas names like Beulah and Milton conjure up images of elderly folks.

5. Do you like the meaning?

6. Is it something your friends and relatives can get used to calling you, and is it a name most of them like?

7. Does it match your personality and appearance? Some names work best on certain kinds of personalities, while other names seem to work best with certain physical features.

8. How long have you liked the name? If you’ve only liked this name for a short while, the love affair might not last. It’s the same way with how you’re more likely to be happy with a tattoo or piercing long-term if you’ve wanted and thought about it for a really, really long time and didn’t just get it on some youthful whim.

9. Do you like the nicknames, or would you prefer no nicknames?

10. Does it flow well with your surname and middle name?

11. Is it fairly easy to pronounce? Do you mind going by a nickname if some people find it too hard to pronounce?

12. Is it easy to learn how to spell?

13. Is this a name you’re choosing for yourself, or because someone else is pressuring you to choose this name?

4 thoughts on “Déjà Vu Blogfest—Renaming Yourself

  1. I tried to get my family to call me Elizabeth for a few years when I was eight or so. (Elizabeth is my confirmation name.) They couldn’t or wouldn’t… Didn’t take me seriously, I guess.

  2. When choosing names for characters, I definitely consider the age of the character and what names were popular at that time. As you said, a 66-year-old Caitlyn doesn’t really make sense unless that was a name she chose herself as an adult.

  3. This is a really interesting topic. I never really liked the name (Don) when I was growing up, and thought about switching to my middle name (Lee). Hey, who knows, maybe I’ll get to use it as a writing pseudonym some day?! 🙂

    Thank you for taking part this weekend and re-sharing!

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