Monday, November 07, 2005

What's in a Name?

What do you call yourself? If you are one of those people who have had multiple names in your lifetime, they probably fall into neatly separated eras, with the diminutives in the earlier years. For example, my childhood friends know me as “Barbie”, but to this day they are the only ones who are allowed to use that name that is also identified with the doll that looks so unlike me! Until recently, my father was the only one who shortened it even further to “Barb”. Deborah has evoked this variation and I let her get by with it. Otherwise to the rest of the world I am “Barbara”. I was careful to choose names for my children that could easily be used in their entirety. To me a person’s name is just about as significant as her sexuality in identifying her. WOW! That almost sounds profound...

With that said, one of the first things a BLOGger has to consider is how to refer to the people who drift in and out of her posts. Will they be faceless, nameless, anonymous “friends”, or will they use their actual first names, or will they have fictitious names? Early on I decided to use real first names unless those names seemed so unusual that they would easily reveal a person. I also chose to use Dr. X, with only the first initial of the last name, such as Dr. E, Dr. O, and Dr. L, where clearly I would have liked to expose Dr. L as the one who never followed up on my thyroid cancer. But I believe a certain amount of anonymity for medical professionals is required. In reading other people’s BLOGs, I find it hard to sort through all those “friend” references and somewhat off-putting, whereas the use of names of any sort adds a real personal level, even if I don’t know these people.

Yesterday one of my first-name persons suggested that I just refer to her as “a friend” or that I change her name. I agreed because I don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable with what I write for whatever reason. Several observations after actually going through this change:
– It is unbelievably laborious to go through and make changes in a year’s worth of posts, especially when you write almost every day.
– I now have a problem with my legacy to the future, because my readers will need another piece of information to really know who I am talking about when I reference this person. The solution will be a final post before I depart this earth that says, “By the way, Person X is really Person Y!”
– But probably most significant for me is the fact then when I read my past posts now, they talk about a person who is not currently one of my friends since they use another name. I’m sure I’ll get used to it (just like I got used to calling me husband “David” after knowing him as “Dave” for 2 years.)

For an instant I thought of leaving just one reference to this person in the original name form and challenging any readers to find it. As far as I know I have only two regular readers and they will know immediately. The person whose name was changed will also know. And to anyone else, why does it really matter? So there will be no “Where’s Waldo?” in my BLOG.

A lot of these decisions about names must relate to your reason for writing. I happen not to be doing this to pass on gossip or innuendo. In fact, I try never to pass on anything that the person herself wouldn’t be willing to share. In contrast to a lot of those in BLOGdom, I don’t spend time dumping on my boss or my job. My BLOG is really just about me, the people who intersect my life, and my various activities. There is nothing to be gained from discovering someone’s true existence, not in my BLOG anyway.

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