My Many Names

SabiozIndentityIn my life, I have gone by many different names. I love experimenting with identity — see my posts on the subject.  Like many folks, I feel like I have lived several lives in one, so having different names has been fun to mark those periods.  But over the years, the majority of folks I meet look at name changes (first names, that is) with horror or disgust.  It seems only  a small percentage of people like to experiment with their labels.  How about you?

Here is a chronological listing of most of my names:

  • James: Birth Name – same as my father, his father, his father’s father (a Welsh immigrant) and perhaps further back.
  • Spider: Father’s toddler nickname for me. apparently I actively crawled all over the place.
  • Jimmy: Childhood name to differentiate me, my Dad and my grandfather.
  • Jim: Used by friends until I was 19
  • James: a girlfriend prefered my formal name so I stuck with it for several years.
  • Jaymuzu-ji: जेमुङुजि India (their version of “James” with the honorific “ji”). It was then that start to realize that names both do matter and don’t matter.  It how we hold them, and how we hold ourselves.
  • Seamus: Japan. A nickname used by my teaching colleagues — the Irish form of James. I started really enjoying the playful use of different names.
  • “J”: The name I gave myself on moving back to the USA. Used by everyone I knew in North Carolina while I was at Duke Medical School. I just wanted a change again.
  • “______”: My present name. Shhh, it is a secret to minimally shield my privacy. But it is a variant of Seamus which I chose upon moving to Seattle, Washington to honor my celtic roots. Since the city was new, I introduced myself by that name and then changed it legally to make everything simple. Ah, what great fun — and great surprise to family.
  • Zhàn Xiáng: 戰祥 “Propitious Battle” – the name I chose for myself in China where people receiving a green-card must choose a Chinese name. I was the medical officer for an American Chinese consulate and my staff wanted to make up a name for me, as they did for all other long-term American employees, but I would not let them. The names they made up were nauseatingly sweet, poetic or just bad choices to match the sounds of the person’s English name. I spent days choosing my name. Later, the Chinese would say it was a cool name — like pen name of a famous writer. I was proud.
  • Shaytan: Arabic for “Satan”. A name given to me by Peace Corp volunteers because they felt I was a little crazy and dangerous.
  • Sabio Lantz: my blogging name meaning “a paucity of wisdom” (which you can clearly see by reading my posts) + my mother’s maiden name (in her honor).
  • Shadrach: one of my present nicknames: an Akkadian Name used by many of my colleagues call me in my new Urgent Care medical job. More in another post.


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

8 responses to “My Many Names

  1. Sabio, you and I are opposite in this matter. I think it is cool that you feel free to change your name. I, on the other hand, protested nicknames as early as age 3. It didn’t stop them from being given, but they never have really stuck. As a three year old, I remember yelling to those who called me by anything but my given name, “THAT IS NOT MY NAME!!” Although both of my siblings are both called by their middle names, I would have none of it. All the matching with the same middle initial in the world could not convince me it was a good idea. Then, a few years ago, I wanted to update my name. I didn’t like having a name that screams BEACH BOYS at people. I tried on a few, but couldn’t seem to come up with something I would answer to. I like Savannah, but it seems like a character name as I have it engrained that ,’that is not my name.’

  2. @redsoprano,
    Or should I say (Help Me, I couldn’t resist) “@Rhonda”?
    Yes, I think most folks are very attached to their given name, I am not sure why I am not. Indeed, there are many things I am not attached to that most people are — I discovered this over the years. I use to think it a virtue, but now I wonder if it is just my natural temperament.

    Thanx for sharing your story, it was fun. BTW, I edited your link to your blogspot site. WordPress automatically fills in your wordpress site — the one you never stated, so I corrected it — you may want to watch that next time so visitors can visit your site.

  3. As usual, I will say something irrelevant, but motivated by your post. There is a tendency among certain Swedes to give children names which are nicknames of American/English ones. So, for instance, the name “Jimmy” is not uncommon in Sweden nowadays. (Not James, but Jimmy, that’s the actual name on the person’s birth certificate and ID.) The funny thing is that it is pronounced in the Swedish way which is, more or less, like “Yummmmu”. The reason for these choices is that several Swedes adore the “redneck culture” and aim at behaving and living in (what they think is) a redneck way. Poor imitation, of course 🙂

    Disclaimer: I have nothing against the name or its nickname version.

    P.S. Have you read The Nine Billion Names of God?

  4. That is hilarrious, Tak — love it !!
    I love Clarke’s stuff — I will get an e-version of that book and read it. Thank you.
    Read it — it was cute. Yep, it was about names too.

  5. Earnest

    Sadly, it is often dangerous to reveal our true selves online.

  6. Very true, Earnest. That is why we are so naturally compartmentalized. Our various inner selves don’t wish to know each other.

  7. @Sabio:
    There is also a book with the same title containing a collection of other short stories. James Randi (you know who he is, don’t you?) claims it’s his favorite A C Clarke story.

  8. @Tak,
    My favorite Clarke story is “Childhood’s End“.

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