Chad Perrin: SOB

24 April 2008

What’s in a name?

Filed under: Miscellaneous — apotheon @ 12:21

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.


  1. If you went by “Lee Perrin”, then everyone to whom you were introduced would think of Worcestershire sauce.

    Thanks for the link.

    Comment by SterlingCamden — 24 April 2008 @ 01:20

  2. I forgot to mention the Worcestershire and steak sauces from Lea & Perrin’s. Oops.

    Comment by apotheon — 24 April 2008 @ 03:18

  3. […] tagged absurdOwn a WordPress blog? Make monetization easier with the WP Affiliate Pro plugin. What’s in a name? saved by 4 others     silvercoffeesurfer bookmarked on 04/24/08 | […]

    Pingback by Pages tagged "absurd" — 24 April 2008 @ 04:02

  4. Freakin incredible. The only time anyone has ever called me anything other than my first name was a teacher in middle school who knew my grandfather, and got in the habit of calling me by his name (Caesar, which is also my last name, as per the particular naming convention my family uses). This does explain your aim handle though. Where’d the name Renfield come from?

    Comment by Mina — 24 April 2008 @ 11:15

  5. Renfield is a character from Dracula, by Bram Stoker. There were a few minor, largely forgettable reasons for associating me with that character at the time, one of which involved the fact that I had at one point been cast as Renfield in a community theater production of Dracula that never even made it to rehearsals, and another of which involved the fact that I did an entertaining impression of Renfield that is rather difficult to describe.

    Comment by apotheon — 25 April 2008 @ 01:38

  6. […] Chad Perrin: SOB » What’s in a name? What names have you assumed, and why? (tags: names nicknames aliases) […]

    Pingback by links for 2008-04-25 -- Chip’s Quips — 25 April 2008 @ 01:41

  7. For a while – back there in primary school – I was nicknamed Pid. Took me a while to work out it was because my first name is Stu ;-)

    Comment by Ole Phat Stu — 25 April 2008 @ 05:56

  8. Don’t take this the wrong way, Stu, but that’s hilarious.

    Welcome to SOB.

    Comment by apotheon — 25 April 2008 @ 10:33

  9. My eyeballs must be on the blink. What do you prefer?

    Comment by Troy Worman — 25 April 2008 @ 07:41

  10. I guess you must be asking what name I prefer. With that assumption in mind:

    I find “apotheon” kind of difficult to fit into meatspace, and “Chadwick” has always bothered me somehow. I’ve never really been fond of something like “Chuck”, either.

    I don’t really have a specific preference, though. I guess “Chad”, “Ren”, “Lightbulb”, “Lee”, or even something new would be equally good — as long as I know to answer to the name you choose. Insulting names might not be much appreciated.

    “Chad” and “Ren” get about equal play amongst the people I know these days, depending on factors like where I find myself in the country at any given moment. The left coast in particular tends more toward “Ren”, while other places tend more toward “Chad”.

    Overall, I guess I’m pretty easygoing about it — kinda like how Sterling intimates that he’ll accept both “Chip” and “Sterling” without complaint.

    By the way, welcome to your (apparent) first post here at SOB.

    Comment by apotheon — 26 April 2008 @ 01:01

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