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What's in a Name? Using a Preferred Name

Updated on October 19, 2017
social thoughts profile image

I have a B.A. in English with a minor in Gender and Sexuality Studies. I've been a Goth since age fourteen, and a Pagan since age fifteen.


I always hated my birth name.

Like Shakespeare wrote in Romeo and Juliet, "What's in a name?" For some of us, quite a lot, actually. I have gone by countless nicknames since elementary school, and continue to prefer to use nicknames online when making new friends since I get to be myself. Some accept it, and even do the same; unfortunately, others judge me, assuming this is a form of Catfish: The TV Show, but I’m not pretending to be someone else. I’m not using someone else’s photos, lying about my age, where I live, nor claiming it’s my birth name.

Do you like your birth name?

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I’m an artist.

Like Otep says in "Self Made" from their House of Secrets album, "I am my own creation." I don’t believe to be one’s true self means to go without makeup or staying entirely natural on the exterior. As long as we are still our personality and our beliefs, we are still us. I was born blonde. I wasn’t born Goth. I tried being a pink wearing blonde, but it felt wrong. Although there are aspects I still find enjoyable, I don’t think I need to force myself to follow these social norms to make others believe that I am being my true self.

How will you sign your name?
How will you sign your name? | Source

Pen Names

Aside from nick-names, I have always loved pen names. If you're not familiar with the term, they're pseudonyms some authors use for a variety of reasons. You may have noticed I don't use an actual name on this account. I simply use "social thoughts" since that's the theme of my articles. I'm not using this for marketing. It's a creative outlet.

I realize some writers are not fans of pen-names. One example is my good friend, Bill. That has more to do with branding one's self as a writer, though. Changing our name when we publish can be counterproductive if the goal is to promote our work. It's understandable. In terms of personal identity, however, it may be helpful to have the option to alter the name. Maybe, even multiple times, depending on the work. After all, we have an option on here to have more than one account if we wish to brand the types of articles/blogs we're writing.

Famous Names

My favorite author Anne Rice, best known for The Vampire Chronicles used "Anne Rampling" and "A. N. Roquelaure" for her erotic novels. Even the late David Bowie, born David Robert Jones, used a preferred name. His original stage name was Davy Jones. When he didn't want to be confused with the Davy Jones in The Monkees, he named himself after Jim Bowie and the bowie knife, instead. As you see, there are cases in which this makes sense.

Just Make it Legal

For years, I used to say I would make a legal name change. Now, I realize there are cons to this choice. I have changed my preferred name, many times. If I knew with certainty which name I felt most comfortable with this would be an easy choice; however, once it's done, it's done; unless, I changed it, again. Another problem is having to explain the decision, if I feel I need to. Sure, I could keep it simple, but do I want to deal with their judgments? Lastly, I have read over and over that there is a natural response to your given birth name, even when you loathe and change it. It's going to stay there.

Transgender Names

Since I do quite a bit of writing on LGBT topics, it makes sense to say a little bit on trans people in this article. When trans* people change their names, legally or socially, they typically just make it the feminine/masculine or gender-neutral version of their birth name; however, not always. YouTuber Princess Joules recently made a video on why she chose the name Julie. In the video, she speaks about how she debated between Jane or Julie for a while before settling. In the end, the name "Julie" felt right, and advises those struggling to decide to give it time. Even if readers aren't trans, but are having trouble deciding on a name, this advice is still applicable.

Religious Names

Many religions have a tradition of adopting a name to coincide with their dedication to their faith. Sometimes, parents simply name their child after a name that has to do with their religion. Although some of the common Christian names are already fairly conventional, such as Mark or Abby, others may be painfully obvious, such as Cain or Mary, inspiring them to change their names as adults. I know someone who was given the name "Mary," but goes by a different name. While they are still religious, it makes me wonder why at the end of the day they don't want to use the name.

Belle "Don't Call Me 'Beth'" Cooper

During research for this topic, I came across a blog by a woman who changed her name from Corina Mackay to Belle Beth Cooper: "Why I Changed My Name and What It Taught Me About Who I Am." She explains the pros and cons of the experience. She has found it to be liberating in many ways: She hated her name and taking control of something like that gave her power over one more aspect of her identity. On the other hand, she has found it difficult in others: People referred to her as "Beth" not "Belle" as she went through the legal process. She found herself signing her old signature, and feeling lost as to how to do her new one. Ultimately, while having her own chosen name is empowering, she still has days when she cannot see herself as having any other name than the one she was given, despite the fact she legally changed it.

© 2016 social thoughts


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  • social thoughts profile image

    social thoughts 5 months ago from New Jersey

    Thanks, Ann!

  • annart profile image

    Ann Carr 5 months ago from SW England

    Interesting article. I totally agree regarding other people's perceptions of someone, where a name can influence them.

    I happen to like my birth name (names, actually) so I suppose I'm lucky. However if, like me, someone has two to choose from then the second, or even third, name can be used. I know several people who go by their middle names, either because they don't like the first or, bizarrely, because others have used that name from birth!

    Names can be powerful and you've given plenty of food for thought here.


  • social thoughts profile image

    social thoughts 24 months ago from New Jersey

    Thanks, Bill. :)

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 24 months ago from Olympia, WA

    Well I don't know what your other talents are, so elaboration might be difficult. :) Are you artistic? Do you have other special interests that you are passionate about? I'm of the opinion that there is money to be made at home if one really concentrates their efforts. Take an inventory of the things you are passionate about...then inventory your talents...and see what you come up with. I'd be happy to chat more with you about know how to find me on Facebook. :)

  • social thoughts profile image

    social thoughts 24 months ago from New Jersey

    At first, I thought you meant you didn't like William Shakespeare. ;) I was going to say, "How dare you?!" The name is understandable. It's interesting how it impacts their perception of you. If by business you mean freelance, I am still working on my site. If you mean something else, I'm intrigued and would love for you to elaborate. :) Thank you, as always

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 24 months ago from Olympia, WA

    Interesting read but then I expect that from you. I've never liked William but I use it for my writing most of the time because it sounds more adult and serious than Bill. I think the internet has made name choice a pretty important decision for those in the Arts or business in general. Hey, I've been meaning to ask you, have you ever thought of going into business for yourself? Make your talents earn you some money? Just curious....anyway, I enjoyed this discussion about names.