Does Anyone Use “Real” Names Anymore (Or: Why I Am Called Jumbled Writer)?

writing-pen-nameDear Reader,

Ke$sha. Dr. Drake. Lady Gaga. Neon Hitch. Lil’ Kim. Eminem. Gotye. Macklemore. Pitbull. Icona Pop. A$AP Rocky. J. Cole. R. Kelly. Neo. This is the list of names I found after looking up potential new music on iTunes. Apparently, I know very few people in the music world anymore. Some of course, like Eminem and Lady Gaga, have gained such a high-status in pop culture (which has then bled into regular culture), that it is almost impossible not to have heard of them. Yet, when I see a lot of these names, the first thought that comes to my mind tends to be,  Is that a person or a sub-genre?

I do not mean for this to seem negative or critical or questioning of using alternative names. (Just look at my own name!) Personally, I find this trend hopeful. Or, maybe, it has the potential to offer hope. Names are a sacred thing, made less sacred by the fact that most are given to a human being before they have spent less than a week on this Earth. Sometimes, names are assigned while still developing in the womb. To me, there is something limiting about this. It’s all horribly predetermined. And it really does not make a lot of sense. When else do we name something without knowing its use, who it is, or where it is going? Do scientists name molecules and structures without first knowing how they function in the body? Do inventors name inventions before they have a chance to figure out what the invention will do? Do chefs name recipes without first knowing the ingredients? And isn’t it important that we are none of these things? Isn’t it important that we are not a liver, a Robot Mixer, or an Egg McMuffin (Eggless McMuffin if you are vegan)? We are fully-formed, fully-fleshed human beings, supposedly more complex than other animals in the kingdom (though that claim remains dubious at times), and fully capable of intelligent thought. So why is it that, though many of us will forever find ourselves writing and revising our answer to the question of “Who Am I?”, most of us are given an identity before we are even aware of ourselves as a self.

It seems that, as of recently, the music industry is taking notes from different cultures. It is almost like tribal names that people are adapting, names that come after experiencing the world and knowing more about yourself. And why shouldn’t these names be used? It would be completely wrong of me to criticize this movement (again, just look at my own name) and I have no intention to. Names are frequently used as a person’s attachment to themselves. Particularly in American cultures, there is a strong urge to link a person’s name with a person’s identity. Right away, when someone asks, “Who are you?”, we do not respond with, “I’m a housewife/chef/investment broker/lover of all animals”, but instead say, “I am Fred/Meredith/Bob/Tom/Wendy.” These two do not always mix well, as it is hard to know a person (perhaps impossible) solely by their name. However, it seems useless to try and change this. It is such a natural reaction to state our name, rather than our true identity, that I am not sure we can alter our immediate responses. However, If we cannot be in charge of our identities (or, rather, the identities that we give to the public, which may or may not correlate with our own true selves), why can’t we be in charge of the gateway to that identity?

Sure, we could try and fight the culture on this one. We could claim that we are more than our names. And we are. But our names still play a part in shaping us, whether we agree with the notion or not. But so long as we are not using new names as an act of competition (“My name is going to be the weirdest of all!”, some seem to proclaim), and if we have the chance to, why not let our names grow into ourselves rather than force ourselves to grow into our names?

Taking a look around the pop music scene, it seems this is what many artists have decided to do. After some thought, this was what I decided to do as well. Yes, I have a “real name”, but that is not what I chose to address myself as when dealing in artistic matters. For that, I am Jumbled Writer. When I feel within my soul, that is the name that seems to be right, that has a touch of truth to it. This is the name (for the moment) I will carry forward with.

What about you? What is your “true” name?


Jumbled Writer

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38 Responses to Does Anyone Use “Real” Names Anymore (Or: Why I Am Called Jumbled Writer)?

  1. I use my real name, but I can certainly understand why someone would want to maintain their privacy. Sometimes I wish I would have used a pen name, but too late for that now. I love the name “Jumbled Writer.” It’s creative and fun.

  2. Actually, for some diseases where the mechanism is not completely unclear, they still name it after the “discoverer” even before the mechanism is elucidated. MANY disease names just means a collection of symptoms, or are named after the discoverer. Case in point- Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease. Mechanisms for both are still not completely clear.

    Though saying that birth names do not represent anything is a bit extreme, but for me, I don’t think a birth name gives any insight of what type of person he/she is.

    I do have to say, in my mind, many names have certain personas loosely attached to them (e.g. Elizabeth sounds like royalty to me). However, most of the associations that first come to mind with these names more often than not, have been completely inaccurate in my case.

    I DO think that pen names, nick names, usernames, e-mail addresses, etc. OR if someone changed their given birth name- provide a little insight into the type of person he/she is.

    • This is true. I suppose I should not write that birth names have no merit at all, but they are harder to identify a person with due to their premature nature. Even a pen name cannot give the full picture of a person, but it can inch a little closer to the “true” person inside. Thanks for visiting!

  3. You may be onto something. Maybe we should do a ‘passage in adulthood’ giving someone their name? There were many native tribes who did this. A child had his/her ‘birth’ name – then that was changed. But I wouldn’t find that even a chosen name could describe ‘Who I Am?’ I don’t think someone’s name can do that.

    I do like Jumbled Writer – and it describes a person somewhat – but if that was all that was to you – you would be a very ‘shallow’ individual and you’re not. I think we need more than one or two words to describe who we are. But names like – Candy – might portray ‘sweet’ when she isn’t? So names are not a method of telling who a person is – even if they change it. It’s their perception of themselves only. And ‘hey you’ doesn’t seem to be the answer either – especially if we’re all ‘hey you’ until we reach our teens. Just an opinion. 🙂

    • I agree that names, even the ones that are picked at an older age, can never describe the true essence of a person. I like what you said about how changed names only show a person from their point of view. Someone might give themselves a name that sounds very hectic, because that is how they see themselves, but an outsider might view that person as very organized and calm.

  4. Interesting ideas, here. M’self, I’ve always found my “real” name to be quite annoying (and further, who decides what’s “really” my name, since my birth certificate says one thing, all my school-year documentation has another, and all my employment information has yet another), while the name I chose for myself is handy and suits my purposes. Still, I think it can kinda get out of hand (the music industry comes to mind, but the names people are giving their kids these days are shudder-inducing at times), and it all boils down to “Name, name, what’s in a name?” Just another label that doesn’t really say who a given person is but serves as a handy placeholder and mental tab to think of all the things that person is.

    But, for the record, I don’t think giving an occupation, dream, sexual or religious orientation or anything else that can be summed up in a word or two (or even a single sentence) really gives a whole image – or even a quick sketch – of an individual. We’re just too damn complicated. But that’s just my opinion.

    • True, humans are complex creatures and should not expect to be summarized in a single word. I guess I was thinking that, if we are to make a first impression with our name, we should at least have a say in it. Of course, some are happy with their birth names, and so it would not make sense to change it later on.

  5. Oh, I don’t know. There seems to be something missing in the discussion. While it’s very true we bring a person into this world without knowing what will happen, I tend to think this is why the phrase “make a name for yourself” comes about.

    In entertainment we use stage and pen names to differentiate ourselves from other Toms, Dicks, and Harrys. That’s why David Jones changed his name to David Bowie. The Monkees laid claim to Davy Jones or even earlier of seafaring lore. Look at Chevy Chase, or Meatloaf, or Bono. They all made name changes to be memorable. I think it’s merely a matter of being afraid to use a real name because it’s too common and people forget.

    • You bring in a good point. While we should want to make a good first impression with the names we introduce ourselves, the name that we are known for (“Carol the hard worker”) is probably going to be more memorable and meaningful. And once first impressions have been made, we are more likely to remember what the person does (Bono’s music) than the person’s name. That is, of course, if they do something with their life, such as Bono has done.

  6. A friend of mine hails from the Crow reservation. He has explained to me the tradition of naming someone after s/he has existed for a while, after personality and a display of character has had time to develop. I like this concept.

    • I like that idea as well. Even though, as some have pointed out, names are not everything, they are how people first introduce themselves. There is something nice about being able to pick a name that really suits you.

  7. I use my real name. I’m really me, although it was tempting to use a pseudonym, but in the end, I really just wanted to be me. I’m new here, but I liked your post. Very thought-inducing.

  8. I see nothing wrong with using a pen name. Names are tied to our identities, but our identities are always changing (I suppose that’s why so many women feel comfortable changing their surnames upon marriage; something I didn’t do). On my blog, I use my initials, and I’ve mentioned my real first name, but I doubt I’ll ever mention my surname. I’m trying to keep my hobbies separate from my professional life.

    • I don’t see anything wrong with using a pen name, either (clearly). It should be the content that counts, not what the person choses to name themselves. Yet, at the same time, I do feel that having a name that one feels comfortable with is important. Since our identities are always going through a transformation, as you point out, it only makes sense that our names should be allowed to change as well to reflect our personal transformations.

  9. I like your post and your train of thinking and it reminded me that it was revealed in the television series Doctor Who recently that, although the Doctor has a proper “name”, the title ‘Doctor’ is one he chose according to the Time Lord principle of choosing a name that states a personal promise (his promise preumably being to treat and to heal – in the broadest possible sense). A self-selected name as a promise of what you hope to achieve in life is an appealing idea. (And yes, I’m a complete Doctor Who geek). My own wordpress name is a long story and rather personal. I can’t imagine how other people perceive it.

    • Yes, that is a good idea, as long as you can live up to your name. I wouldn’t want to make a promise that I couldn’t keep. That eliminates a lot of names like “savior”, “king”, “ruler”, etc. I am interested in the origin of your name.

  10. I appreciate your “name” as it allows one to feel a connection with you in such a chaotic world where many thoughts can’t be expressed. I do not think that my given name is anywhere on my blog because I went through and deleted anything that could possibly make a connection for certain people. I believe I even deleted the 1 picture of myself. Maybe I will rebel today and post a photo because it is nice to know the face of the mind you are reading about. My reasoning sounds slightly paranoid but I assure you it is not. I am constantly harassed by my ex husbands girlfriend/wife and even him to some extent. I would not be free to express myself in the manner that I do if they could google me up, so I hide. It is stifling and occasionally I feel claustrophobic but I have to protect myself and my children. It was a sad day when I realized that I needed to delete my posts about having a story I wrote published. I am feeling empowered now that I admitted this. I think I am going to go post a photo of myself complete with my name!! May not stay up for more than a day though so hurry and come see. Thank you for allowing me to express this. Have a great day!

  11. This is a great article and I agree with you. Having an “unusual” name forced upon me has been something I have pondered and reflected on for most of my cognitive life. Over the last few years I have thought of changing my name officially and going through hoops that this change requires. I filled in the paperwork, gathered my documentation and then froze. I couldn’t do it. This shocked me as this was the last reaction I suspected. The uniqueness of my name is really a perfect fit for my true-self and even my ideal self. The question now is what came first, my name or my personality?
    On my blog my given name isn’t used. In real life, my friends call me a mixture of my online name and my given name. This depends on how we met. However, both my names elicit the same personality and attitudes. I’m not sure what that means, it probably means nothing, but it’s an interesting thought.

    This is a great article. YAY!

    • Did you plan on changing your name to Pinkelstien? If you were, I bet you would never have that problem of having other people in school/work with the same first name as you. I ran into a quote by Lionel Shriver (if you are unfamiliar with her work/background, she is an author who, as her untraditional name suggests, decided to switch Marry Ann for Lionel because it suited her personality more. In an interview, she said that “Naming is an act of creation, choosing your own [name] an act of self-creation.” She also said “The nice thing about choosing your own names is that it’s not an appellation that you’re simply resigned to; it’s one that you actively love.” This is very true. I can understand, though, not wanting to legally change your name. Plenty of people continue to have their birth name as their legal name, but have all of their friends and co-workers refer to them by their chosen name. Though you are certainly the first Pinkelstien I have come across! Thanks for checking this site out.

      • I was going to change my name from the bastardised version to the traditional version, I was also going to add a family name out of respect and love for my grandparents.
        Pinkelstien is a bastardised version of one of my original internet handles Pinky-Has-A-Brain. I couldn’t get that handle for twitter and so Pinkelstien was born and now it’s my handle on nearly all the places I visit etc; 😛
        I wish I could explain what happened because I was dead set on changing it. I had started the “new name roll out” and everything. I figured if I was going to change my name I may as well do it properly.
        While I agree whole heartedly with Shriver’s assertion ; in the end I felt connected to my given name. I also identify with Pinkelstien (Pinky for short, I am Australian after all) in the same way. I think I am over the idea of changing my given name now. Is this a sign that I have come to a point of self acceptance? Maybe? I guess it depends from which angle you look at it from.

        • As long as you are happy with the name that you have, I think it shouldn’t matter what name you actually use. And now you have two sets of identities. Well, everyone has more than one identity, but I hope you know what I mean!

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