What's In a Name?

A while back, Nate brought up the issue of internet names: Are they goofy? Are they meaningless? What do they say about us? 

But instead of reading the person from the name, why not look at things the other way, and ask how the name came from the person?  What's the origin behind your online handle(s)?

Naming for me has always been a point of importance: What does this name signify, what will it imply?  But after reading about Play Money's Radny, and his nonchalant slip of the keys, it occurred to me that naming isn't such serious business for all.

Still, our internet names are unique--they represent possibly the only times in life when we get to decide for ourselves what we'll be called.  And where we draw our inspiration for these names says something significant about us: how we want to be seen, understood, defined.

*Pst* This is the part where you tell a story about how you picked your name.

Another thing to remember is that online names become our online faces (even in a visually-rendered world)--or at least our online masks.  We can use them to recreate ourselves the way we want to be.  Would you believe that FlirtyGrl91 is really 15?  Maybe, maybe not.  And what does it say about a person who chooses to make their age a part of their 6-10 character identity?

Or, consider another example: You're presenting cross-gender online.  How do you pick your cross-gender name?  A feminized/masculinized version of your own?  Something simple, so that you don't stand out?  Or something outlandishly gendered, in hopes of making the most convincing performance?

Comments on What's In a Name?:

Ben says:

You first, Bonnie. You first. ;)

Posted Sep 24, 2006 4:34:45 PM | link

Idyll says:

Half of my names came out of an encyclopedia. (Wikipedia) The other half were combinations of rare colours and activities.

Posted Sep 24, 2006 9:49:19 PM | link

darniaq says:

Back when Diablo 2 launched their closed servers, I needed a name. I was also big into Star Trek back then, and had previously gone by whatever spelling of D'Artagnan a particular game would allow. So I decided on a Klingon-sounding version of that and ended up with Darniaq.

Posted Sep 24, 2006 9:53:14 PM | link

Cael says:

"Cael" was autogenerated.

As for naming a crossdressed character - tough call. I've only played female characters in single-player games. And in all honesty, there i tend to pick names that i personally like, or think are pretty or interesting.

I suspect i would probably use the same rationale in naming a daughter although i doubt if the traditional spellings of "Niamh", "Mebdbh" or even "Siobhán" would win me many friends from the greetings-card industry.

Posted Sep 25, 2006 5:05:35 AM | link

Paul Schwanz says:

When I was much younger, I couldn't think up a good name for my main Wizadry character (the one who would represent me in the party), so I turned to a book that I knew had old, different-sounding names: the Bible.

I liked 'Phinehas' because it sounded both ancient and slightly familiar. It also seemed to travel well to all sorts of fantasy or science fiction worlds. As an added bonus, my initials were imbedded in the name (PhinEhaS) further strengthening the feeling of identity.

Years later, someone told me about a Phinehas movement that was against interracial marriage. I didn't like the association and felt it stemmed from a terrible mis-reading of the original text, but I had been using the name for so long by then that I refused to give it up. I knew who Phinehas was, and that wasn't it.

As for presenting cross-gender, I typically don't, so the naming thing isn't an issue.


Posted Sep 25, 2006 7:46:34 AM | link

Lisa's Darren says:

Since email and most forums object to apostrophes mine condensed to lisasdarren, I am sure you can figure out how that comes about.

As to names in games, I generally make them up by taking the planned occupation / class / race of the character and finding something suitably obscure that relates to it.

Posted Sep 25, 2006 7:55:01 AM | link

epredator potato says:

When I was but a lad learning my craft and building little demos on c-64 and Amiga I decided that hunting down bugs and generally being a bedroom hacker (in the non nasty sense) that Predator was a fine name to use.
It did not naturally occur in code unlike. So it was easy to find comments.
Then a while later the film appeared. I had already assumed a 'predator' identity but now it felt different.
Equally it got very popular when things started to get online.
Becuase of the industry trend of putting e- in front of all things net I decided to become epredator.
So I am comfortable with my digital identity, people who need to know who I am do etc.
Then along came Second Life and forced a surname on me.
I picked the rather mad "Potato" surname.
1) It scanned nicely epredator potato, sort of bounded along.
2) A quote from Predator2 is "You cant see the eyes of the demon til him come calling". Simply replace demo with potato in the phrase and it sort of works!
3) Mashups are all the rage and you cant beat mashed potato.

So with some thought and bit of luck, some personal in jokes etc, I have maintained my id's for a good few years.

For me they are not too detached from the real me, but just enough. i.e. if I am playing games I can play with the honour and aggression of a predator.

So epredator. I like it :-)

Posted Sep 25, 2006 9:24:59 AM | link

Cyndre says:

I have a post on my blog about this very topic. It is always interesting to see where people derive their virtual names from, and even more interesting, is to analyse why some people retain the same identy for years, while others change it in every game or online community.

From Existential Worlds:

[...]Thus it is the naming convention that allows us to define and hone our virtual selves[...]


Posted Sep 25, 2006 9:41:40 AM | link

Roo Reynolds says:

I've been various contortions of 'Roo' in several places. When signing up for a talker in the mid 90s I opted to be 'Algernon', since I'd just re-read Flowers For Algernon that night. In Second Life I am Algernon Spackler, mainly because the faintly onomatopoeic sound of 'Spackler' appeals to my sense of the absurd.

I too see my avatar as an extension of myself. If I could have been called Roo Reynolds I probably would have been. Reynolds did eventually became a surname in SL, but I noticed it one day too late and my name was already gone.

Posted Sep 25, 2006 9:44:54 AM | link

Greg says:

Very mundanely: my first Unix dialup account had an 8 character limit on user names, defaulting to the first 8 digits of my last name, and "costikya" looked stupid. So I shortened it to costik. Not sure whether my rather caustic online personality is partially caused by or entirely independent of that choice.

Posted Sep 25, 2006 10:22:41 AM | link

John Arras says:

I used to have long hair and people called me Lothar of the hill people (early 90's from SNL), and one day it was taken on a MUD, so I switched it to Lonoth and then Lonath when it sounded better.

When I play WoW, I make characters with goofy or joke names but I never really level them:

Noiwontsumnu: a warlock.
Nerfpallydps: a shaman.
Barenchatftw: a hunter.
Lawnornament my hunter who used Mazzranache (a pink flamingo) as a pet.

I want to make a mage called Ubuyyrownwtr.

I want to make a hunter called Funnycnjoke with a pet called Roundhouse.

I think of it as kind of a Haiku to see what you can fit in the 12 letters you're allotted.


Posted Sep 25, 2006 11:11:43 AM | link

Cayle says:

Cayle was something that just poped into my head one day while groping for a name for a new D&D. I liked it and shortly afterwards, when I joined the SCA I decided to use that character name as my "scadian" name. I still have friends from that period that call me by that nickname.

In recent years, that old SCA persona name has become ny online nic.

Posted Sep 25, 2006 11:21:28 AM | link

Adhar Khorin says:

When I first got into online games (the mainframe MUD variety), I was in college studying Greek history. I selected Pentheus to represent me, and it made a fine name. In those days most of the other players seemed to be college students as well, and I enjoyed several excellent conversations about the origin of the name.

Later, playing online BBS games, I selected the name Pandaron because it sounded cool to me, sort of mythological. Interestingly enough the name took a life of its own, as the Pandaron character seemed to be very nice, but wasn't opposed to the occasional act of casual piracy (it was a space game called Tradewars).

Through the years I've selected many names, often bastardized from works of literature and fiction that I have read, sometimes recently, sometimes not. Reflecting on this post, I realize that I tend to spend much more time selecting a character's name if I feel like I'll have more investment in the game.

Currently I'm playing EvE Online, and took the name Adhar Khorin from Kevin J. Anderson's Saga of the Seven Suns. The name 'Adar' was a title in the book, but it serves as an excellent first name; he was also a good, if tragic character, so I adapted the name.

Sigh, so much for looking down at the "Haireee Pottter" crowd for being derivative...

Thanks for the invite to share, I don't normally post!

Posted Sep 25, 2006 11:52:01 AM | link

Fearless says:

I play WoW on Silver Hand, one of the oldest RP realms, and it annoys me to no end when I see people with silly or downright stupid names.

I'm a bookworm; I read a fair bit of Fantasy and SF, and I'm fascinated with names. Most of my avatars have names of minor characters from obscure books. I have yet to see anyone say "Oh, I know that name! It's from..."

When cross-realm Battlegrounds came out a little while ago, most of Silver Hand had a healthy laugh at the expense of other realms' players and their names. How anyone expects to be taken seriously with a name like "Pwnyu" is beyond me.

Posted Sep 25, 2006 12:13:52 PM | link

Dmitri Williams says:

I've been windchill and variations of sun (suntan, sunburn, sunspot) when living in Michigan and Illinois. All of which is to say that I'm Californian and identify myself with the West Coast and a decidely mellow lack of seasons, regardless of where I live.

Posted Sep 25, 2006 12:31:43 PM | link

Dellaster says:

In the early 80s I had ideas for a fantasy novel, which never went beyond the world-building stage. One element was a a luminescent flower that bloomed only at night, creating the impression of the starry sky reflected onto the small valleys where they grew. "Dell" (small valley) plus "aster" (star) seemed a good name for them.

The name came back to mind later when I was stumped for a unique user name. "Dellaster" is fortuitously exactly eight characters in length, it's unique (it means something in Swedish engineering texts, but otherwise it's all mine), and has meaning only for me. I've been using it off and on for over twenty years and almost exclusively for the past five or so.

Nobody has *ever* asked me what it meant.

Posted Sep 25, 2006 12:37:37 PM | link

Dellaster says:

[Correction: it's nine characters. I can't count. I must have dropped an "l" for the limit when needed.)

Posted Sep 25, 2006 12:45:03 PM | link

Marty says:

Heh, having serious role-players laugh at you while you PvP. Oh, the shame.

If you plan on grouping much, it's a good idea to have a short, memorable name that's easily spelled and pronounced. Makes voice chat a bit easier, and you won't have goofs like me deciding not to initiate chats with you because they can't be bothered to figure out where the hell you put the numerous H's that follow some, but not all, of your consanants.

Posted Sep 25, 2006 1:08:31 PM | link

Endie says:

My handle is a nickname from my days as the only goth surfer on the beach, it's short for a Fields of the Nephilim song title, which (possessed of an evangelical zeal) I would bore everyone with *constantly* when they came round to my house. One person would be "you know, the guy with the hat", or "you know, the girl with the red jacket". I was "the guy that always plays that song." It's a shame they didn't release Psychonaut until later, as that's a much cooler /nick.

Posted Sep 25, 2006 3:24:32 PM | link

Rae says:

On WoW, all my characters are named out of the French miniatures game Confrontation -- my Priest is Arcavia (the capital city of a very religious faction), my mage is Irix (after an iconic character who is a very powerful fire/ice mage), and so on. I tend to pick names out of whatever obscure novel/game/philosophy that I'm into at the moment -- they're already cool-sounding, and it's an added topic for conversation if someone knows where it's from! Regardless of where my names come from, I try to pick something easy to pronounce, that flows off the tongue, and that is an actual "name" and not a silly phrase or soemething. If it's not easily pronounceable, I go for at least something you can make a nickname from -- most people call my priest "Arc," which I'm fine with!

Posted Sep 25, 2006 4:20:40 PM | link

Andy Havens says:

Having GM'd a couple dozen major adventures, written lots, etc., naming seems to come easy, so it's never been a big deal. The character restriction makes it more fun, and I always like to add the sub-restriction that I should use at least 1 character less than the max allowed by the system. Just to leave a space for Elijah...

Variants on Biblical, folklore, myth and Arthurian names are good. I agree with Marty, though... I've given up, even in casual chat in SL, trying to type some of the Welsh-looking stuff that people come up with. "Thyrgrrylhgorn" may have very special meaning to you based on your Norse family tree and your favorite nursery rhyme... but I'm calling you, "Mr. T."

When cross-gendering I almost always choose a name that begins with "A." I don't choose "A" names when playing males. No idea why that is, but I'm sure Freud would have a thing to say or two.

I wonder what his cross-gender avatar name would have been... "Simone?"

Posted Sep 25, 2006 6:37:17 PM | link

Hotsuma says:

Most names fall into one of these 4 catagories:

1) Normal names or dictonary words.

2) Someone takes a name from something they like book, movie, game etc that has some personal meaning to them.

3) Somtimes people try and make a new name that they like the sound of and may even relate to something.

4) then you get the sentance names like sweetwarlock or sexybabe etc.

Posted Sep 26, 2006 3:10:27 AM | link

Michael Chui says:

The last cross-gender name I used (for a literary RP work, not a MMORPG environ) was "Teagan". It is gender-neutral (and Celtic, I believe), and when I finally decided that I didn't have the skill to write a female, I didn't have to worry about changing the name.

Mostly, I just hit up Behind The Name for inspiration.

Posted Sep 26, 2006 3:35:42 AM | link

Xarxos says:

Hehe.. I find this topic very interesting. Whenever I come across an interesting name, I always stop to ask where it came from.

^I think that pretty much covers most names, Hotsuma, except for the 5th category which would be gibberish. eg. asdjjkl, 1437501, etc.

Mine is a modified form of the name of a world in a game, in a book. lol. Anyone follow all of that? =p I think the original name was Sarsos.

Posted Sep 26, 2006 10:49:10 AM | link

Nim says:

My handle came about when I "outgrew" my old handle that I used when I was younger.

I was playing Pharaoh at the time using the ancient Egyptian name Nimlot, and since my real name starts with an N, I adopted that. Since then usage by my friends has shortened it to Nim. Nim seems to be a pretty popular acronym though, and sometimes even Nimlot is registered, so keeping with the theme of historical names, I added the French surname Morel, making my official handle "Nimlot Morel". I still go by Nim wherever I can though.

Posted Sep 26, 2006 1:31:07 PM | link

Brian says:

My names come from my love of music. I've got an Alt named Muckymuckman after the song Tribute by Tenacious D (look for the movie next month).
But my favorite band is Ween. For those of you who are familiar with all things Ween, you will understand the names of my to mains. I've got one named Zestallion and one named Boognish. Zestallion comes from an older Ween song in which they sing "a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r zestallion, I am Ze Stallion, Mang!" I think it's called "The Stallion Pt. 1". The other name refers to the "cartoon" character that is the icon for Ween. They state that the Boognish is the entity that lives between God and Satan (see the Ween album "God Ween Satan" for a pic of the Boognish).

Posted Sep 26, 2006 2:30:50 PM | link

Jim Self says:

My first name was a creation of my own, as far as I knew, though I have heard that it was a native american name. I created it for uniqueness so that I could use it across all of my online activities, and the only place I haven't been able to use it so far is Maple Story (no surprise there).

After realizing that Guild Wars is about as far from a serious RP environment as possible, I started using names like "Cheap Sunglasses" and "Engine Coolant" there for the ridiculous humor factor. Previously I had been naming all of my characters with "serious" names followed by a common last name.

If I were planning to get seriously involved with a guild I probably would have chosen more serious names, but the silly ones are a lot of fun for when I am soloing or playing with my bro.

Posted Sep 26, 2006 3:30:54 PM | link

Bart Stewart says:


Fearless: most of Silver Hand had a healthy laugh at the expense of other realms' players and their names. How anyone expects to be taken seriously with a name like "Pwnyu" is beyond me.

Hmm. Yeah, I get the dumb joke of "Pwnyu", but to me it's actually pretty evocative of Welsh (Cymry) names and mythology. The names Pwyll, Arawn and Annwn might look similarly goofy, but they're all important names from the first book of the Mabinogion.

In fact, the name "Silver Hand" itself recollects the Welsh myth of Nuada Llaw Ereint, or Nudd of the Silver Hand. A name like Pwnyu actually sounds sort of appropriate for a group with Welsh overtones.

And now for "Flatfingers":

Some 25 years ago I was spending most of my waking hours either programming or playing piano. One night I got dragged away from my computer to a party where I wound up bashing merrily away on a synthesizer.

Suddenly someone yelled, "Hey, Bart's been spending so much time on keyboards that his fingers are flat!" And thus was born Flatfingers.

I've used that handle since then because it's relatively unique, but I've been surprised to discover that other people Out There have gone by it as well. (Very puzzling to see message board entries by Flatfingers that I never wrote.) It's also not the greatest online nick due to its length -- it gets hacked down to Flat, or Fingers, or even FF. Unappealing, but understandable. (On the other hand, it's gender-neutral.)

It's difficult to even imagine going by anything else.

Posted Sep 26, 2006 7:45:00 PM | link

Trin says:

When I first got online and needed names I would pull from famous dragon's names that sounded right for the circumstances. Then the first online game I tried (the MUD, Medievia), required a bit of originality. So I took a name from a book that I liked the general form of and changed some letters and added to it until I liked the sound, also caring for how easy it would be for others to pronounce and type and checking if I liked how it would be shortened. When I was happy with it, I searched online for it and found only an old obiturary entry. I've been using that name ever since for all my (primary character) online activity.

For my cross-gender characters if just among a few friends (for instance in a console game), I feminize my main name to Trinya. For online games though, I went through much the same process as my main name. Except I started with an idea for sound and not a name from a book.

So I have 2 primary names, masculine and feminine, and then a set way to create others: not with the intent to convey obvious meaning in the name, originality, fits decently into the destination virtual world, easily typed and easily pronounced, easily shortened to 4 characters or less to a name I could also live by, and for uniqueness (less than 5 results from google on the name).

Posted Sep 26, 2006 9:02:41 PM | link

Cyborg771 says:

I have always just used Cyborg771 with the exclusion of fantasy RPGs where I use Daruhn but I don't really have a reason behind either. I thought Cyborg sounded cool but it was taken so the system added 771 and Daruhn is just a play on the name Darunia, the Ocarina of Time character. There was never really a reason behind either of the names but I have kind of stuck myself with them. The extent to which I use the names has far surpassed a realm in which I can change it so, like a name given at birth, I am stuck with it unless I feel like uprooting my life. Which I don't by the way.

Posted Sep 27, 2006 12:00:20 AM | link

Polnareff says:

Not surprisingly, my screen name 'Polnareff' comes from an anime. As this tends to be very common, I decided upon choosing a name from an anime that was not the fansub type you'd find on American TV, and, as such, it has rarely ever been recognized before. This way, it is unique and not unique at the same time ^.^

Posted Sep 27, 2006 12:00:49 AM | link

PyrosNine says:

Hmm...my name's from being a Pyro (And a story I wrote about a living embodiment of fire), and I'm not quite sure where the nine came from, but it's stuck and I've never gotten rid of it. I think once there was another Pyro, and a Pyros on an online game I was trying to play and I just added '9' on a whim.

From there, I just decided to place the word "Nine" instead of the numeral and henceforth on the internet there is only one PyrosNine. And he burns things.

Posted Sep 27, 2006 1:27:15 AM | link

kromekoran says:

my first email address was burningchrome@xxxxxx.com, but that site's webmail had a tendancy to go down a lot, so I switched to a more major web portal for my mail. obviously, burningchrome was taken (along with countzero, wintermute, and any other geeky Gibson inspired usernames), so I changed it to burnedkrome. when I started hanging out on message boards I went by just krome, but this is such a common name that I eventually wanted something more unique. so I added koran to the end, sticking with the Gibson references (Chrome Koran is a fictitious band in Virtual Light). so far I haven't ran across anyone with the same name, nor to many people get where it's from other than devoted William Gibson fans. however, I have heard of a real-life band out of Chicago (if I remember correctly) called Krome Koran. don't know if they're still around though.

on another note, using my online name in games and message boards has brought many a bigot out into the light. I laugh it off, since I'm an atheist anyways, and the reference is over their heads, but it's amazing how many times I (a white boy from California) have been called a terrorist, dirty arab, sand n*****, etc. for killing someone in an online game.

Posted Sep 27, 2006 2:02:39 AM | link

Dark Jaguar says:

These days, I actually just construct a unique name out of whatever letters sound good to me. The name I'm using to post this is the exception. This one I came up with for a really old game as a child (flight simulator call sign originally), and later online I used it to be ironic (sort of making light of all the similar sounding "to the extreme" edgy names everyone was using back then. The irony is lost on most people, but oh well, it was a lame attempt anyway. Well, now I just stick with it.

Back to what I do in games today, I try all sorts of things. This traces back to playing Final Fantasy on the NES which had a grand total of 4 spaces to make a name for characters. Obviously I was very limited in picking real names, so I just starting punching in semi-random characters. The only real guideline is it has to be easily pronouncable, so if I just typed a p, a vowel (or maybe an h) is what'll happen next unless that's the end of the name.

Results of this have been "Kesh", a name I picked for a warrior type, "Dasho", a name for a nature loving character in some other game, and "Sapapath", a somewhat silly name for a somewhat silly clown character in yet another game.

Posted Sep 27, 2006 3:34:17 AM | link

Keith says:

I have 2 online handles: Godzilla128 and Azel. Godzilla128 comes from the 128-bit Godzilla games for the Dreamcast. I know they were shitty, but I can't help but love the big green lizard! As for Azel, I usually use it for more serious situations, such as in World of Warcraft. Azel was the name of the lead female antagonist in Panzer Dragoon Saga (AKA: best game ever).

Posted Sep 27, 2006 4:53:45 AM | link

Anon says:

Phinehas, just curious - are you a Bible believing Christian?

Posted Sep 27, 2006 7:59:31 AM | link

Kanchi says:

I ushualy take real words like "death", and change the spelling "daeth". It also works sometimes to use obsure references to anime or books. My alias Kanchi is taken from a robot in flcl, an anime. Its also the japenese spelling, ushualy its spelled Canti. Somtimes Ill use Kanchi_r0b0t to stir things up abit.

Posted Sep 27, 2006 8:49:52 AM | link

Chris Pearce says:


> Name already in use


> Name already in use


> Name already in use


> Name already in use


> Name already in use


> Entering game

/say "Hey guys, check out my leet new archer!"

Posted Sep 27, 2006 9:37:33 AM | link

Historian says:

I get asked about my nick all the time and used to have a templated response.

Today I expanded on it a little on my site...


Posted Sep 27, 2006 9:54:49 AM | link

Omega says:

Omega Merc was a largely used one... My first XBOX LIVE name, as I started on Ghost Recon and Counter Strike.

Now, I use Demon G Sides, and Guan Shao. The first is two Gorillaz albums mashed up, and Guan Shao is the cross-breeding name of two ancient Chinese warriors, Guan Yu, and Yuan Shao.

Posted Sep 27, 2006 9:59:25 AM | link

Cybermind says:

Well... AGES ago it seems... in 1996-1997 i was working for Wintronics in montreal (major distributor of RAM and CPU to retailers in montreal) and one of my clients who was NOT a reseller (they built their own multiprocessor tyan p166 boxes tho) was a gaming entertainment center called CYBERMIND on st-catherines in montreal (i think the head office was in vancouver?) that had some basic VR stuff and a cafe etc.

anyhow, long story short... one order they did not have time to pick up i decided one day to go down and visit them and bring their order in after work, since it was sort of on my way.

well they were pleased i had thought of them and gave me a baseball cap (a real nice one) with CYBERMIND written on it in big green letters (which i loved)

over time, working as a game developer i often wore it around the office and although i was not the type to be into what we then called "internet nicknames", people kept calling me that so i adopted it and it fit well, worked very well with the press and PR etc.

have a search for fun for any of the following combos in google :)

cybermind redman
cybermind abyss pandemonium
cybermind zen tao

so you know, even someone who thought it was REALLY dumb to call yourself something other than what you are, can learn and change with the times. i dont use that alias often now, except for nostalgic purposes (since i now work for microsoft research).

this was a great article, enjoyed reading it! thanks!

Posted Sep 27, 2006 12:19:49 PM | link

YourMessageHere says:

Hooray a names thing.

I used to use my middle name (Quillan) because it's fairly uncommon and the Q makes it stand out, but I was getting a bit bored with it. One day I was playing CS on an unfamiliar server which was running some admin mod that sprayed advertising all over the place: on the HUD, on the walls, in the chat...I thought, the only thing not basically exploited are the player names. So, as a slightly sarcastic comment on that and on the then-new idiot habit of ArRaNgInG cAPitAls LIkE ThiS, the name YourMessageHere was born. Because it's 15 characters long and many games only allow 14, I occasionally have to shorten it, in which case I use the "dutch variant", YoorMesidjHeer.

People generally shorten it to YMH. I can live with this. Occasionally it totally confuses people and/or provokes mysterious outrage. That I must confess I love.

The only time I've not used this name recently was in
Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, which I played through as Lieberkuhn. I cast around for a name that was somewhat gothic and vampirish yet still fun, and remembered my Biology course; the glands that secrete digestive enzymes in the small intestine at the root of each villus are called the Crypts of Lieberkuhn...crypts...digestion...interesting word...sold!

With regard to the gender-specific thing: I am male, and straight, but usually I play a female character or use a female model. This began with Quake II, in which I found it hard to tell which pain sounds were mine and which were not, and since few people used female models and hence female sounds, I switched over. Since then the tactic has served me well. Female characters surprise people, which can also give you an edge occasionally. It also occurred to me that female characters are nicer to look at than male ones, and easier for others to pick out. Furthermore, I have always liked the fact that my name imparts no gender, and as such, in combination with my female characters, I like the ability to render my gender (hey, a rhyme!) either uncertain or irrelevant. Making people wonder is always fun.

Posted Sep 27, 2006 1:21:42 PM | link

Bart Stewart says:

Speaking of names, a question related to some of the comments above: Does it mean anything that some players prefer (or are willing) to create a name with numbers in it?

I personally can't stand the idea. The only way I might even conceive of using a name with a number would be if I were playing some kind of robot in a game full of robot characters. That, at least, would be in keeping with the ethos of the game.

But it infuriates me to be forced to prepend or append some numbers to my preferred handle just to get some online social system to accept it. Unless there's a pressing reason why I need or want to join such a system, I won't. It's that important to me to not be numbered, to retain some unique identity in a mass culture.

But clearly there are a lot of people who don't feel this way. Either they like having numbers in their name, or they simply don't care.

So I wonder: is this a distinction of any value to those interested in how we name ourselves?

Posted Sep 27, 2006 2:05:16 PM | link

placeholder says:

I made my first webmail account with a name that combines the business of flesh (pimp) with a good-sounding latin name (alfonso): pimpanzo

when I play games online that require some sort of PvP I almost always go with the simple Culprit. The name implies culpability for nefarious deeds and looks great next to a weapon icon.

when making role-playing names, I usually start with a simply and short name. The last name is where you can have some fun. I have used the following in NwN numerous times online: Endo Redhair, Dhanc Endihkah

Posted Sep 27, 2006 3:50:32 PM | link

Nick says:

My first sense of web identity came 8-9 years ago with some fps games. I picked names from classic literature/history for the most part, things like Ajax or Lysander, but got frustrated by how often they were taken when I entered new systems. Casting about for something else to use I landed on Shutter (after the shutter in camera's of all things). It ended up being uncommon enough that it was rarely taken already and often remembered, neutral enough not to seem stupid or childish as I aged, and easy to say and type. I've lived with it so long now, both online and off, that I'll probably never shake it.

If I have to pick names for characters in semi-serious environments I pick from a stable of real, if unusual, names that I'm fond of, but none of them feel as permanent as Shutter still does.

Posted Sep 27, 2006 4:25:29 PM | link

foxywombat says:

FoxyWombat came to me in a dream when I was trying to figure out a good codename for a secret agent. After I came up with a fairly standard "Agent Ketchup," and saw someone else using it not long after, I realized how foxy I was, then how much a wombat is my spirit animal.

Posted Sep 27, 2006 6:04:08 PM | link

ZombieRex says:

Two of my favorite movies of all time are "Dawn of the Dead" and "Jurassic Park" So there you have it!

Posted Sep 27, 2006 8:08:03 PM | link

LunchBox says:

The first handle I ever used was Jelloboy. When I was growing up my family always called me Jason Jello (Jason is my real name and Jello rhymes with my last name). It was the only nick-name I ever had, so I went with it. Then people started to think it was a reference to some sexual fetish they thought I had (mmmm....Jello). I then started using Johnny Appleseed which I really liked at the time, but I ended up hating. I actually got it from a NoFX song, and not the folk hero (I didn't have any idea who the real Johnny Appleseed was). But, then people began thinking I must be a serious Christian, since that was Johnny Appleseed's thing and I just got tired of it. At the same time I had met this guy who insisted on calling me Lunchbox. He said I reminded him of a kid whose picture was on his lunchbox when he grew up (He would always say that with a ridiculous smile on his face, so who knows if that is true or not). Every where we went he would introduce me as Lunchbox, so it kind of stuck. To this day, anyone I met during that time still calls me Lunchbox. Since that also makes a pretty sweet reference to Kevin Smith movies, and its eight characters long, I decided to use it as my online name. There are other LunchBoxes out there, so I will use LunchBox55 sometimes since that is my son's birthday (5/5). I don't mind using numbers in my name since it is a significant number to me and I capitalized the B cause I just thought it looked better. And that is the story of LunchBox.

Posted Sep 27, 2006 11:42:35 PM | link

Qevlarr says:

1 (1987) Kevin - my name
2 (1998) Kevlar - bulletproof vest
3 (1998) Kevlarr - spelling variation
4 (2000) Qevlarr - Kevlarr@hotmail.com was taken

Posted Sep 28, 2006 7:58:57 AM | link

Robust McManlyPants says:

Several years ago, two friends and I were discussing the absurd names given to the manly men of videogames - names full of exaggerated virility and stereotypical masculinity - and we made up a few of our own (Beef McLargeHuge, etc.) in the course of the conversation, and one I made up was Robust McManlyPants. It stuck with me because I like the sound of it somehow and now it's my general online pseudonym. I have often found it useful to have such a silly name because it softens the bite when I sometimes get in an online scuffle; it's hard for me to tick anyone else off very much with such a ridiculous name, and I am always glad of that when I'm done being ticked off myself.

For games, however, I try to make something unique within a given set of standards: somewhat different from normal names, but still believable as an odd name, preferably with three syllables. I've no idea why I have that requirement, but my main and my primary alt in WoW are named Leeritan (called Lee on Teamspeak) and Setherax (or Seth); I think they're interesting, they sound good to my ear, they're easy to shorten into nicknames. For whatever reason, this has turned out to be true of almost everyone in my small guild: we all have names that can easily be shortened into a nickname consisting of the first syllable or two, and that's how we refer to one another, exclusively, in-game (Ent, Feud, Isa, Dal - all nicknames for longer, more "fantasy-y" names). The only WoW character whose name reflects some portion of the "real" me is Robusto, my bank/mule.

Posted Sep 28, 2006 9:22:13 PM | link

Robust McManlyPants says:

However, one of the best character names I've ever heard - Berol Musgrave - came from the brands of pencil and notebook a friend was using when he wrote up that character. So, sometimes names are nothing more than some inspiration and good luck.

Posted Sep 28, 2006 9:24:57 PM | link

kaioshin says:

My actual name is unique enough to use as a screenname in most cases -- however, I often pick names from the latest anime I'm watching if I just want a fun handle.

Since my name is Kai, one anime name that has stuck is Kaioshin, from Dragonball Z, so I tend to use that a lot.

If I'm playing a game where I want to be a thief, or an otherwise unsavoury character, lately I've been using the name 'LuckySlevin' -- from the movie.

Posted Sep 29, 2006 10:50:41 AM | link

Informis says:

I was researching a story once and I needed some interesting words to describe a monster.

Latin: "informis" -- formless, shapeless, deformed, hideous

I'm sort of embarrassed using it now. When I played Dark Age of Camelot a guild named "Cool Latin Word" popped up on my server one day and has left me feeling silly ever since.

Posted Sep 29, 2006 3:53:01 PM | link

CherryBomb says:

I get a kick out of Googling character names when I meet players in games. A lot of times, you can find out which obscure passions they have in real life.

"CherryBomb" was an accident ages ago, and I just stuck with it. It don't mean a dang thing, it it just me.

Posted Sep 30, 2006 6:31:09 PM | link

Brinstar says:

I picked mine because this area in Super Metroid plays one of my favourite pieces of music from the Metroid series. It's not a super common handle outside of Metroid fandom, and since I am not particularly involved in Metroid fandom, I figured I'd be able to get away with it without confusing people. I think.

Posted Oct 3, 2006 1:21:14 PM | link

Jeb says:

My first character in WoW was a female Tauren hunter. I named her Elyse after the Borden cow. On that theme, her first pet was Blossom, and keeping with the dairy theme, her second was Buttercup (although this created a drift into a Powerpuff girl theme).

My next character was Merojin, a troll shaman, with a name based on troll names in the game. The next character was Danif, a human warlock, with a name loosely based on Daenerys from A Song of Ice & Fire and altered for availability.

My next character was designed around the name. I thought of the name Bogomil, based on the Bogomil Heresey, and decided that it was perfect for an undead priest.

Another interesting naming convention that I have seen are the couples that build characters to play together that have similar names.

Posted Oct 3, 2006 5:04:01 PM | link

Alabaster Crippens says:

So I've been using Alabaster Crippens since I needed a suitably elaborate name for a column I wrote for a small and short lived student paper (of sorts) run by a housemate of mine and mostly consisting of contributions from people living in our house (we were open to other people contributing but few volunteered during our very brief run of about five issues). Anyhow, the character presented was a vitriolic and hate-filled guy (although I tried to make the gender assumed rather than explicit, more on that in a moment) who would lash out in obscenity strewn rants about whatever issue the current issue was dealing with. Initially the whole thing was little more than an attempt to make my column more offensive than my housemate's, but as it went on I seemed to be putting more of my heartfelt beliefs into the pieces, with obscenity and exaggeration added for (hopefully) humourous effect. I don't know if I succeeded (I hope people got the underlying message and didn't just laugh at the abusive/foul-mouthed nature of the whole thing) but I enjoyed the project. I particularly liked a hidden conceit that I imagined Alabaster as being female, without making it clear, this meant the abusive and unpleasant character seem both more amusing and less typical...I don't know if anyone ever picked up on it, I've never really told many people that was the idea and nobody's ever commented to me about it, so maybe I was too subtle.

Anyway, just briefly, the name was basically a cross between the 'Day today' (a UK news satire created by Chris Morris) American news reporter called Alabaster Codify (the show always used ridiculous reporter names, just to ramp up the surreal nature of it, one of my other favourites was Peter O'hanrahanrahan), and the infamous Dr Crippens, who at the time I had no idea of who he really was, and still don't really, I just liked the name, found it suitably silly. So that's the actual origin of the name dealt with.

Anyway, I still post on forums using this name, if only so that people who know me will recognise me. As for the playing cross gender, I tend to favour playing women in both on and offline games, all though I don't religiously do this, and in games where playing female is out of the question, it only bothers me because I find it ridiculous (examples include the few FPS games I play at work (I work in a gaming centre cyber cafe, and play games with the customers, most of whom play Counterstirke etc, alhtough these aren't the games I generally favour)) that, for example, CS assumes that there are no female terrorists or counter-terrorists in the world. I mean really, is it THAT assumed that women aren't violent to engage in these acts...just imagine 24 without any women as either baddies or goodies...I can't imagine it would have garnered any viewers at all.

Anyway, I keep on getting sidetracked and missing my point (apologies for the length of the post but I kind of have a lot to say). When I play games I play female. There are a variety of reasons, for example when I was young I found it pleasurable to have a female character to look at (irl I'm pretty much Straight male btw), and occasionally some 'amusing' things could happen in certain rpg's (I'm not particularly proud of the enjoyment I got from getting my Nikita character in Fallout 2 to pay for lesbian sex in the brothel, but I enjoyed it at the time) that wouldn't happen otherwise.

As I've grown up and started to formulate my ideas on sexuality and gender more wholly I've started to believe in attempting to break down gender stereotypes, assumptions and barriers in a number of ways. I attempt to wear dresses/skirts and typically female attire in a fairly masculine way (a short skirt and trousers for example). It always bothered me while growing up that it was perfectly acceptable for girls to wear trousers or a skirt at school, while boys had to wear trousers, and as growing older I have decided that it seems unfair to limit certain clothes to specific gender's, especially in the assumption that I must be a 'queer' or 'trannie' if I choose to wear a skirt (as should be clear I am in absolutely no way ashamed to be identified as these things, I merely consider them innaccurate terms that don't describe my character). I kind of tend towards an idea that gender should be wholly fluid, with more space in the middle ground for people who choose to be androgynous (both in the sense of presenting neither gender and in the sense of presenting both genders, for example my 'bearded lady' look at several costume parties where I've gone fully trans-dressed, apart from a distinct lack of shaving or make-up...to be honest it looks fairly horrific, but is an enjoyable way to spend the night nonetheless).

I enjoy the name Alabaster because it seems very ungendered (partly because it is not a commonly used name), and could be either male or female. I generally play female because in a way it seems like a more androgynous choice, if only beacuse my in-game and real-life persona's are opposite. Plus, if I play a character that is close to my own (which is very much in the middle, but leaning towards the masculine) then my character tends to be a little tomboyish. I would like to qualify these statements by saying that I'm not certain of this, as I've never played in a genuine MMO (I'm currently seeking one, but am worried about addiction setting in, as my personality is extremely addictive) but am absolutely fascinated by them. When I finally get in one I'll see how much this plays out, and you can be certain I'll at least start out as a female Alabaster Crippens. Also, when I do go fully online I expect myself to be very open about my 'true' gender so as to avoid accusations of dishonesty or building friendships upon a false premise, although I'm not sure how much of a problem this will be.

For posterity I'd like to record my other game personae, which have been both male and female, and generally named after historical or pop culture figures, or simply names I like/find amusing/would consider calling my children, in no particular order they are: Che, Stavros, Delmonte, Nikita, Thania and Beth. I think that's all.

Once again I apologise for the size of this post and its rambling nature. I may even have to add to it when I realise I've forgotten something. Sorry

Posted Oct 7, 2006 8:32:43 PM | link

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Posted Oct 10, 2006 5:21:25 PM | link

Scuttlebuster says:

Pardon me, people, but like many of us I've been waiting for someone to ask me this question for yonks. So here goes.
What's interesting is that, in all this, no one has yet brought up the idea of creating names through anagrams, or otherwise rearranging names and adding bits (as was the fad with "Jedi names" around about the time Phantom Menace came out).
My night elf main on WoW was the first character I rolled after eagerly ripping the disks out the box and going through the tiresome installation, and I haven't put as much effort into naming since.
I basically wrote out my whole name, and tried to arrange the letters into something elf-sounding. I guess I already had fragments in my head based on various (obvious) literary sources. I then just took the first part of that name, which is short, catchy, pretty RP, and just happens to sound rather like David Bowie's character in Labyrinth. That was an accident, but one that I'm fine with.

I've never used the anagram idea since. I normally just go for something that "feels right" and which I think I can live with, and I guess part of that process is patching together pieces from elsewhere and using your own glue and sandpaper.

Posted Oct 19, 2006 7:29:55 AM | link

Joe says:

"Historian says:

I get asked about my nick all the time and used to have a templated response.

Today I expanded on it a little on my site...


To "the historian"
you mother fucker, you know who I am and I know who you are. If I hear you ever talk to cynthia again, I will beat the living shit out of you. I know where you work. If you have any balls email me a time and place I want to meet up with you in person so bad.

Posted Apr 4, 2007 11:35:44 PM | link