I hadn’t subscribed to comments on the Chip’s Quips post, links for 2008-04-16, so I didn’t notice the discussion there right away. Being out of town for the whole time with only very poor Internet access helped ensure I didn’t notice. Now that I’m getting caught up on all things Internetty, I found some back-and-forth over what Sterling prefers to be called — Sterling or Chip. What really caught my attention was this comment of Sterling’s:
Both “Sterling” and “Chip” are preferable to all the times I get “Skip”, “Chris”, or “Steven”.
It got me thinking about names and nicknames a bit.
I never had a nickname until I joined the US Army. Suddenly, in basic training, I got two of them almost simultaneously: Lightbulb and Tweety, each assigned by a different drill sergeant. The former had something to do with being too bright (smart) for my own good, the latter with the fact I came into the Army with a “bird chest” (I was very skinny in those days).
By the time I got out of the Army, those nicknames had faded into the background. Nobody used them any longer, and they probably wouldn’t have made the translation to the Real World anyway.
I reconnected with friends from high school — friends who had in the meantime also somehow gotten to be friends with someone I knew from sixth grade. When she entered the group of friends I’d left behind when I joined the Army, a year or so after I left, she brought with her a husband with the same first name as me: Chad.
After a while, I got a new nickname, in large part to help differentiate between Chad and Chad. Suddenly, I was being called Renfield (or “Ren” for short — a nickname for my nickname). Over the course of the next few years, literally hundreds of people came to know me by that name, and quite a few people still know me more by that name than my legal name.
Eventually, I moved out of California, and the name “Renfield” didn’t follow me much to new acquaintances. By then, I was using the name “apotheon” online, and had been for a couple years or so. A few people call me “apotheon” (or “Apotheon”) at least as often as they call me “Chad”, but most simply use my given name. I’ve also come to be known to a few people in the local Linux Users Group as “chaper” — a portmanteau of my first and last names.
I’m not as good at responding to verbal use of either “apotheon” or “chaper” as I am to both “Chad” and “Ren”. In some respects I occasionally miss “Lightbulb” and “Tweety” — my first nicknames — but I might not realize you were referring to me at all if you used those nicknames, unless I just happened to be thinking about them recently.
The SigO and I sometimes give “Lee” as the name to call when we put in an order at a fast-food joint or coffee shop that calls people by name when their orders are ready. The sound of “Lee” is sometimes used by her family as a shortened version of her name, and my middle name is Lee, so it works well enough.
Ever since I was about ten years old (give or take a few years), I’ve noticed that for some reason people sometimes have trouble figuring out what my name is. There’s the obvious “Chadwick”, of course — which, by the way, not only isn’t my name but sounds absurd to me. I also sometimes get things like Chuck or Chap, and have been called Jack a couple of times. For a couple of years, it was getting a bit out of hand; probably 80% of people to whom I told my name got it wrong. Eventually, after about the third or fourth person in a row (over the course of a couple weeks) called me Jack after hearing my name for the first time, I decided that if I can’t beat ’em I should join ’em. I decided to start introducing myself as Jack instead of Chad.
The next person I met, to whom I gave my name, I said it was Jack. Shortly thereafter, she said my name — and she got it wrong. She called me “Chad”, having misheard me. I muttered something like “I can’t win for losing,” and went back to introducing myself as Chad. There have been times I’ve considered just switching to my middle name, but I never really gave it a whirl.
Oddly enough, even an unusual nickname like Renfield, I only ever had problems with people getting it wrong and thinking they had it right on two occasions that I recall. Once, I said it was Renfield and got called Renfro, and another time I said Ren and was called Ben.
. . . and they lived happily ever after.
I guess that’s the saga of my name, so far.