Friday, June 1, 2012

What's in a Name?

"That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

Sorry, Shakespeare, but in reality, names do matter. A name is not just a jumble of meaningless letters. Names are important.

Why? Names have power: they identify us, not just on the outside, but in our whole being. Names are linked with whatever attributes others call us: "Jane, you're beautiful!" "Kirk, you're smart." "Lily, stop being so stupid." All these attributes link our name to a mass of emotions, both positive and negative.

Think about it: you've done something wrong, how does your mother call you? That's right. By your full name. Try saying your name out loud--your full name. Even just saying it should give you a sense of some of the emotions and connections you have with your name.

In legends old and new, knowing a person's true name gave you power over that person (you can see this idea in Christopher Paolini's Eragon, the Earthsea Cycle of Ursula K. Le Guin, and others). Even way back in the Odyssey, Odysseus hid his true name from the Cyclops and called himself "Nobody." Clearly, almost everyone recognizes the power that a name can hold.

I've been pondering the idea of a name for a while now. First, it was the question of my own name: to use a pen name or not to. Here are the reasons I had for choosing to use my pen name, "Sienna North."

1. My real last name is a negative term, something that I don't want associated with my writing. The name "North" is fairly neutral in association. Plus, I've always thought the north was my favorite direction geographically (it's a romantic notion, I know).

2. My real first name is difficult to pronounce or spell (it's unique, though, which is always special). I needed something that people could recognize, pronounce, and spell at first glance -- and there, as we know, "Sienna" does the job perfectly. What's more, it's a bit unusual, and I love the sound and shape of the name.

3. Finally, I used a pen name for privacy. It's not that I'm antisocial and want to live the life of a hermit writer, but, like many workers, I want to preserve the distinction between my private and public/work "appearance."

Next, with the change in focus of the blog, I've been thinking a lot about what to do for a blog name. When I polled you, here's what you said:
  • 14 said keep it "Of Faerie & Faith"
  • 7 said change it to "Of Fiction & Faith"
  • 3 said change it to "Sienna North ---"
  • 3 said change it to something else
  • 1 said change it to "Whispers of a Dreamer"/some related name
So, it looks like the general consensus is to keep the name as it is. Thus, for the time being at least, my blog will remain the dear old name "Of Faerie & Faith."

And that brings us to the end of this somewhat disjointed post on names. Now for you: what's the story behind your name or blog name? Any tips on choosing (or not using) pen names that you want to share?


  1. My blog's name is Chronicles of Escapism because it's mainly about art, which is an escape for me.
    My blogger name is Rune [Digital] because both are words I would consider changing my name to, and I like them together because there's an ironic mismatch there.

    1. I like that "Chronicles of Escapism" a lot. Definitely rich with possible meanings. Not too prosaic, for sure!

      You'd change your name to Digital? Really? Personally, Rune'd be a great name, but I don't know about digital... True, the irony is great :)

      Thanks for sharing!

  2. "A name is just a dress, and a dress is just a name," Irene, from the book Princess and Curdie.

    1. Ooh, I love that quote! And, I must say, I like the book even better :D

  3. I am using a pen name for my blog because my real last name is hard for people to pronounce; they end up pronouncing it slightly wrong. My first name I didn't like at first, but I loved the Christian meaning behind it; Coming into the courts of praise. My sister said that that meant I was a "Prayer Warrior". When I whispered the name, I felt a wonderful new meaning to the name.
    But when I looked the name up on the internet, I couldn't find the meaning my parents had said it meant. But I'll take their meaning for it since I don't like the meaning for the name that I found on the internet.
    But I chose Emilyn J Wood because I love woods, and Emilyn means Peaceful house, and J is for Joy, which is something that has been prayed over me for, and has filled me. So both my pen name and my real name have special meanings to me.

    1. That's a lovely meaning to your name, Emilyn! And I'm glad you like both that name and your real name. Believe me, I know all about unpronounceable names; they can be a pain but, to look at it in another light, they can be unique and lovely, too :)

      Thanks for sharing!

  4. I've used two pseudonyms in the past, but my favorite would have to be Fiona R. Douglass. I looked up the meanings of the names, and the middle initial R (for Renee)'s meaning means the most to me: "reborn," symbolizing being born again as a believer in Christ Jesus.

    1. That's a lovely name! I really like that you took the time and effort to come up with a meaningful name. It's certainly a worthwhile use of your time!


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