What’s in a name?

September 15, 2009


This may come as a shock, but my name is not Charlanna in my first life.  I think it is a pretty name and it has meaning for me, but I might have put a little more thought into it if I knew that I was making a final choice.  A few months back, I had someone named Charlanna in her first life follow me on Twitter which I thought was cool and a little fun.  Yet shortly afterward, she sent me a direct message asking me why I “stole” her name.   Her question surprised me and got a hearty guffaw, but got me thinking, too.   What if my name were Charlanna in the atomic world?  Would she still think I stole it?  Or just think it was cool that we shared a unique name?  I really think her questions of my great name caper came because I had the opportunity to choose it.

Does that which we call a rose smell so sweet by any other name?  Just how much do I share about my name? Does naming matter in Second Life?  Read on after the jump!

I’m happy to enjoy less common names in both lives.  Of course, I didn’t always appreciate having a slightly different name when I was little and wished I could change it.  Even then I knew it was better than having one of the regular names. I felt sorry for all of the Jennifers in my classes; having a slightly different name meant that people knew me by just my first name and I didn’t have to be known as Jennifer V. or something like that.  And just as an acorn grows into a majestic oak tree, I have no question that I grew into my name and my name grew into me.

But in Second Life we are given the opportunity to choose a name.  I’ve blogged a little before on pseudonymity and I think it is one of the things that helps create the culture of Second Life.  Just take a second to think about what the world might be like if we were required by the Lindens to go by our first life name; I suspect it would be pretty different.  After two years, however, I have to say that I feel a strange sense of ownership over my Second Life name.  If someone were to yell “Hey Lanna!” while I was walking down the street in my first life, I’m pretty sure I would respond (or at least look). So while Charlanna is a pseudonym, it has grown into something of my own.

I am one of those people who believes that names can have tremendous power and meaning.  Names matter, but we don’t get to name ourselves in our first life.   So what do we do when faced with the choice of naming ourselves in Second Life?  Of course, people take all sorts of approaches to naming themselves in Second Life.  Some use some part of their real name, some go for whimsical, some use long-standing Internet handles, and some go for, well, the inexplicable.

After hearing a guy share that he lost his digital virginity with an avatar (who has since left SL) named Fuxnow Somethingorother (I can’t recall the last name, but I hardly think that matters), I got stared chatting about Second Life names with a friend.  Not in an SL Name Watch way, which tracks all of the available last names and their release dates, but more of what people choose for their first name.  Being SL, you can imagine that this quickly devolved into giggling silliness as we went hopscotching through search to find progressively ridiculous names.  There are  39 people with the name Vagina and only two named Penis (but nine people named Peenis and 10 if you count PeenisFairy…go figure).  My counts might be off a little, but there are 82 who chose Idiot, 376 with Stupid, 476 Genius, and 138 Brilliants.  924 names with Slut (my favorite was Sluttygoodgirl Sorbet) and 500 some odd variations of Stud (not counting the name “student” and “studio”).  There are 42 Sleepings, five Supines, two Nappings and just one Bedded (I’m a little tired today, can you tell?).  1638 with the name Avatar and 208 named themselves Alt.

Then there are those who come up with fun first names that couple well with the last.  In no particular order, some of my favorites are:  Ridiculously Ordinary, My Beaver, Real Love. ColorBlind Rembrandt, My Ohmai, Hack Writer, Predictable Cliffhanger, AllenAllenAllenAllen Allen, Masturbate Dailey, Floofy Vixen and Creepy Janitor.  Then there is Really Gay who happens to be partnered with Nuts Sack. CanYouHearMe Snoring is also partnered with Denied Flatley.  I’m not sure, but they may well have met through the group “We Have Fu*cked Up Names.” (totally worth a look at the group to scan the fascinating names of the membership!)

I have to wonder if people with really curious names start to feel a sense of ownership over their names in Second Life.  Or if you’re using some part of your first life name, does it feel any different seeing it in SL?  So what about you, dear readers, what does your Second Life name mean to you?



  1. Well, my name is one I’ve used before in another place and I only picked it when the registration with my usual handle failed to generate an activation email.

    I know I made it up out of sounds I liked. And to me it is my own. apparently some asian girl has nicked it for herself… *shakes fist.* but hey I am that cool. I guess she loved me that much.. thank you little asian fan girl! *blows a kiss*

    Never met anyone else with my name nor anyone with my old handle. Except that my old handle showed up in a french story which oddly describes said person as looking just like my old avatar, who did spend a lot of time around french people.. hmmm.. Go figure…

  2. Well, my RL name is also Wendy. The Neverland part is more state of mind, and I’ve used WendyOfNeverland as a name in several places online. The SL last name of Fussbudget, if you ask most people who know me, is merely truth in advertising! =)

    I guess I chose to use a variation of my RL name for the same reason I chose to have a BBW shaped av. SL Wendy is very much an extension of RL Wendy. I used to say me in SL was a “greatest hits” version of RL me, but now it’s pretty much what you see is what you get. I’m as proud of some of the things I’ve accomplished in SL as I am some things in RL, and I think for me if my SL name were something like WiltedFern Stargazer it wouldn’t feel quite the same. =p

  3. The truth is that there really is only one Vovae. I’m glad that no one else picked your name. 🙂

    Somehow I don’t picture you as a WiltedFern Stargazer, Wendy! 😛 But I understand what you mean, there are some things that haven’t felt connected to my first life because I’ve done them under a pseudonym.

  4. I went with my real life name too, but when I picked the last name it was unavailable, sooo I started phonetic spelling and liked the way Lyndzay looked (there are 3 other Lyndzays out there but I’m the oldest 🙂 ) . I have always felt connected to the name, it being a family name and all, so bringing it in some form into SL was not a leap, it was almost a safety net.

    Though like many a marketing agency has shown us adding the “Z” makes all the difference it adds a bit of spice that pops out every now and then from Lyndz that I don’t know where it comes from, but when it does I like it.

    I think the only thing troublesome I have had from using my rl name as a base, is when I have to sign stuff and spell it with the “Y” & “Z” hahaha

  5. my all time fav is; limm burger

  6. I looked through all of the available last names when registering to find one that appealed to me. When I saw “Ivory” I immediately thought of an ivory tower, and a princess. Being a whimsical sort, I named myself Princess Ivory.

    Most of my friends know to call me Princess, but some people get confused and call me Ivory. My friends joking refer to me as “Your Royal Highness” sometimes, too 🙂

    I’m not one of those girls that would ever be called (or wear clothing that says) “Princess” in RL, so there is a bit of irony in using the name in SL. It has basically extended to become my online presence throughout the Internet, instead of using my real name. I have an unusual real name, and wanted to remain anonymous as much as possible to protect my privacy.

  7. Five Supines? Five for five! Smiles widely, what a great, fun and thought-provoking post, all. Well done, well done!! 🙂

  8. I hate boats.
    I REALLY hate boats.


  9. My SL first name, Kaseido, has been my handle since the first intertube was hollowed out. It’s a bunch of multilingual plays off my full RL name, former occupation and interests, and I use it everywhere.

    One advantage is that I’m often in groups with more than one person with my RL first name, so it’s easier to just call me Kas.

    My first av, when I first started grad school, was Kaseido Loon. A couple years on, my current one is Kaseido Quandry. Dunno if that’s progress or not… 😛

  10. I grew up on Chestnut Street. In college my apartment was on Chestnut Street. After I finished graduate school I moved in with a friend to a house on Chestnut Street. Its a factoid of my life that with no planning I have lived on a street with that name in three different cities. There are other odd and totally random ways chestnuts have shown up in my life too, which are far to complicated for a blog comment.

    The other thing is chestnuts are prickly on the outside and you have to do a bit of work to enjoy the soft, sweet inside. So, all in all it fits me. I have used Chestnut as an online name in various ways since about 1994.

  11. In RL my friends and coworkers all call me Sal, except for one friend who always called me Salvatore. It’s why I chose that name. The last name was the only one that had some kind of appeal to me because I’m of hispanic decent and wanted something akin to it. None of the others sounded as good to me as Otoro.

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