I write about names a fair deal for several reasons. I have a truly odd name myself, I nicknamed myself at age 10, and I write and characters have to have names. I spend a fair amount of time thinking writing and using names. I have strong opinions on them based off my personal experience and preferences.
Recently, this article, The Top 7 Reasons to Give Your Child A “Weird” Name, popped up on my Facebook feed. Ironically, both the author and I go by the name Star. Even though hers is spelled differently. I found her list not quite grasping what it’s like to have a really weird name and on top of that, to have a weird name that’s not pretty. So here is my response to her list.
And just to be totally clear here; My birth name is not Star. I changed my name TO Star. I do not consider Star a weird name. It’s in English, first of all, it has four letters, it’s a common word, and most people know someone named Star. It’s not that freakishly difficult. I will compare my experiences as my birth name and also as Star and see how things pan out.
1. People tend to remember you.
With my original name, people did not remember me. You know when you see a word that you don’t know and you instantly forget it? That was my name. It’s not something that anyone remembered. If I had to tell them what it was I usually had to repeat it multiple times before they just gave up.
As Star, people do remember me better. It helps with Meetup and other things that I do. But yes, Star is not a super common name, but it’s not weird either.
2. I grew up feeling unique and special (and I still feel that way).
I grew up feeling singled out, mocked and annoyed because of my name. No one could spell it, no one could pronounce it, no one could remember it, everyone had to comment on it. Everyone else had nice names and got along so easy in class. I always always the person that had to put their hand up when the teacher got to their name on the role call and stopped, a look of utter confusion overcoming their face.
When I started going by Star a lot of things changed. I stopped receiving birthday party invitations with a million different wrong ways to butcher my name. I stopped having to tell people and again and again and again how to pronounce my name. I actually started to feel different in a good way.
3. You can find your work and mentions of you online easily.
Okay, so this is true. I can find myself by using my real first name only. But seriously? I can find myself just as easily with Star LaBranche. There’s no need for me to have my awful name just for this purpose.
4. You stand out when it comes to job-search time.
I’d like to see some statistics on this, honestly. I have to use my legal name when job hunting and I see no one going above and beyond to hire me all because of that. Mostly, when I get to an interview or a call from an HR person, I have to just tell them that I go by Star before they butcher my name and they just sound relieved. Although Freakonomics did a section on how names can effect how you’re hired or rejected from jobs, I doubt that my mega long, complicated name is really drawing people in and not other things on my resume.
5. We tend to embody our names.
This is why I changed my name. I didn’t embody my real name. Never. It always felt weird and foreign to me. I tried to shorten it to something that made sense and that didn’t fit either. I am not my real name and I never will be. I never grew into it, I never embodied it. I picked Star because that’s what I embody. Natural, bright, and lost in the sky. That’s me.
6. People tend to talk to you about your name.
For my old last name this would turn into a mandatory 10 minute discussion about how my mom came up with my ridiculous name and how they would tell me that it’s a great name and how I would have to tell them that they don’t need to lie to me. When someone talks about Star, there isn’t an implied history or something weird about it. It’s a name. It’s me. Let’s move on to more important things.
7. It’s more fun.
If I had to describe what it was like to tote around my old name in 100 adjectives, I would never come close to even using a synonym of “fun”. It was not fun. It was confusing, frustrating, annoying, and aggravating. It singled me out in a bad way, it made my life more difficult, and it stuck me with a name that didn’t fit. Changing my name was a key part of my life that only made it better.
I realize that I’ve now done an entire blog about my horrible real name and I’ve never once told you what it is. I’ve shared so much bullshit on this blog before, but not this. You can all continue thinking that the only name ever associated with me was Star.