What’s in a Pseudonym?

A lot of my online friends don’t use their real names.

They do this for a number of reasons.

For those of the neopagan persuation, it’s a way to keep one foot in the closet, so to speak. We are, after all, not in a country that actually embraces freedom of religion. There is also a kind of authenticity in hosting a site on matters “non-mundane” if your gentle leader is named Willow, or Ratsfoot, or Harmony Broomfinder, or Silver Pom-Pom. Jack (or Susie) Smith’s “Book of Shadows” just doesn’t have the same punch, does it?

Another reason for adopting a nom de ‘net is to embrace a persona, a part of your everyday individuality that for some reason has been forced into second (or further down) place.

Then there’s the privacy issue. You don’t necessarily want every Internet-based crackpot hunting down your street address in order to “throw down” on you in person just because your worldview happens to disagree with theirs. I can understand that, particularly if you’re young, and particularly if you use your online forum as a place to “talk about things that nobody cares…” or that are impractical in your current geographic and cultural wasteland.

A big one is more than privacy. It’s anonymity. With a false name, one that is tied in no way to your social security number, work, address, family or school, it’s much easier to be a total and complete asshole, flinging electrons into space with relative impunity, safeguarding only your IP address and your right to talk via emoticons in a way that would never dare speak face-to-face.

For me, there’s always been the sound of the name issue. Some names, for example, WORK as names of musicians, or poets, or prizefighters. Others are more of a stretch, regardless of what Arnold Swartzenegger once said, that the harder a name is to remember, the more difficult it is to forget. Mick Jagger, for example, sounds like the name of a lead singer. Mick Ralphs, on the other hand, sounds like a guitarist. James Joyce (or James Jones, for that matter) sounds like a novelist name. I think it’s a sonic issue. Poets probably have a little more leeway here, but not much.

I have often considered adopting a nom de plume, in addition to my pagan-use name Greybeard Dances (which came about thanks to the combination of a physical feature and my mate’s Native American given name, which is “Starlight Dances in the Treetops”, or Starlight Dances). I suppose it would be an easy way out to adopt something that just SOUNDED cool, the way Zane Grey rolls off the tongue, or George Sands. Or Marilyn Monroe. But I would like to infuse it with a little of my own history, rather than influences, which is how Elton John came from Reginald Dwight.

So here are a few options:

John Roberts (first and middle names)
J. Robert Grebnezlit (pretty ridiculous, actually)
Sean Baldun (taking the Irish ancestry approach to my first name, John, and my mother’s maiden name, Baldwin)
Schrier Baldwin (often considered as a country singer pseudonym, the combination of the last names of my paternal grandmother and maternal grandfather)

and of course, my new all-time favorite:

Jack Rattelfinger (which would be John transformed in combination with my paternal great-grandmother’s maiden name)

of course, none of these touch upon the issue of my Use-Name versus my True-Name … and did anyone but me notice that in the made-for-television version of “Earthsea” that the two were switched. The True-Name was supposed to be “Geb” and the Use-Name was “Sparrowhawk”. So I’m confused.

Of course, in the world of blogging, where the point is to share YOUR opinion with the rest of the world, and to accumulate a bit of notoriety for actually being yourself, it’s more likely that you’ll use your own name. Because you’re a journalist, so to speak, and your name is your byline. It’s unlikely that you’d hear Walter Cronkite (for example), say, “I’m Dancing Firefly (or satanlovesme_666, or green_lily4), and that’s the way it was.”

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