In 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.