Wednesday, December 27, 2006

What's in a (pseudo) Name?

Sweet smelling he might be, but my boyfriend needs a name for this thing. Yes, he has a name, and it's a delightful name, but if I use his real name, he can be Googled, and that would, in fairness, mean I should be clearing my posts with him, and that would add a LOT of effort to this thing, so no, he's got to have a pseudonym.

In fact, I've invited him to name himself -- seems fair, right? -- and he's not come through for me. First, he came in from chopping wood and announced his blogonym could be "AxMan." Right smack in serial killer territory, would you not agree? Next, he suggested "Poldark" because of a connection with his own name, and I ruled that out because I don't know the story. He's a big fan of Dickens, and Little Dorrit is his favorite novel, so I suggested the hero's name, Clennam, but that's not quite right, and anyway, Clennam is a bit of a prig (in my personal opinion). He's also a fan of Evelyn Waugh's works, and sees parallels between me as Mrs. Stitch, the fictional name Waugh gave his friend Diana Cooper in various works. In the novelization of Waugh's WWII experiences, Mrs. Stitch shows up at a key time and sparks the hero's emergence from a deep depression. That's a nice metaphor for my effect on my boyfriend's life, but in the book the hero's name is Crouchback -- and that obviously won't do!

I do care about this stuff. Names are powerful, in my experience. I have used my real name, Magdalen, because I know how powerful it can be. I had a series of really nasty nicknames as a child, starting with "Queen Chub" as a baby, "Ten Ton Twinkletoes" when I was in school (can you detect the delicate touch of older brothers here?), "Mags," "Baby," and "Maggie," before I finally insisted at age 26 that everyone had to use my given name. D'you know, my mother refused? On the grounds that she was (at 55) too old to change? She was as strong willed as I in some ways, so it was a stand-off: she wouldn't call me Magdalen, but she wouldn't introduce me to others as anything else.

Meanwhile, the boyfriend has put a lot of thought into this subject as well. He has a first name, John, that he doesn't use (just as well, there are three other John/Jacks in our familial sphere as it is), and he also talks about swapping his first and last names so that the longer name comes first. So, if his name was Todd Dickinson, he'd prefer it to be Dickinson Todd. (That's not it, by the way -- Q. Todd Dickinson was the Commissioner of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for a while; I actually went through telephone training with him at a large Philadelphia law firm about ten years ago, before his stint at the PTO. But the boyfriend's name is structurally the same.) I've told him this is stupid, but he sites Douglas Adams' theory that bestselling authors have longer first names so that when they design the dust cover art work, the last name can be in a larger point size. Stephen King; that kind of thing. I've countered with J.K. Rowling and Nora Roberts, but he's not interested in logic. Nor my observation that he's not an author, bestselling or otherwise.

However, he is published. Both Stobex and the boyfriend have compiled really hard cryptic crossword puzzles, and those traditionally call for pseudonymous attributions. The boyfriend has used astronomical names, but I think he's used all the cool ones already. I mean, really: Alkaid sounds like an over-the-counter antacid; Phecda is almost certainly a curse in Albanian; Rastaban listens to Bob Marley and has the munchies. So, his blogonym isn't in the stars.

There are all sorts of names that partially get it right. For example, I gave him "Spirited Away," the stunningly beautiful Japanese animation by Hiyao Miyazaki. In it, Chihiro has to survive an ordeal in a bathhouse controlled by a witch; she does so in part with the help of Haku, a boy who shares a psychic connection with her. That's so close to how I feel about the boyfriend that for a while I addressed my e-mails to him as Haku. But Chihiro and Haku aren't boyfriend/girlfriend, so that's not quite right. My cousin, Coffee Jones (, is great at naming things, and when she saw his photo for the first time last spring, she declared, "He's adorable!" so "Adorable" stuck for a while. From a literary/movie point of view, he's a little bit Mr. Darcy, a little bit Alec Harvey (Trevor Howard's character in "Brief Encounter"), looks a little like Rupert Everett, and really loves me like . . . well, pick your favorite romantic movie hero! It's all good, but I'm just not getting a name out of any of this.

And Lo! it's time for dinner. I'll keep working. I'll also ask Coffee J. for her thoughts -- she's really good with names!

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