Name Game 

Monday, October 11, 2004

One of my new favourite blogs, LitBlitz (the blog of "Literary rants for starving writers and voracious readers"), featured a post on pseudonyms. LadyLitBlitzin asks what people think of the pros and cons of using a pseudonym.

I once counted all the variations of my name that I've used in my lifetime, as well as my pseudonyms (Maktaaq, the Wobbly Tarantula, and two I can't tell you for privacy's sake). My real name, which has been both a bane and a boon, is a slippery fish that has provides me with exactly ten personas so far. Besides the fact that I am heaven-made for conmanship, I find that all these names suit me and my varied interests as well as all the polarized aspects of my personality. The problem with putting anything down in writing is that you're then bound to your pronouncements. Anything you say will be used against you.

Thus, if I remember which persona speaks what, I can use that persona's name with little commitment to my core personality. The inner me that no one can ever entirely know - and who would want to know me in my entirety? - remains almost constant despite the outer shifting tides.

There are other cultures where this name-shifting happens. In Chinese history, for example, many artists had numerous pseudonyms, with the master of all pseudonyms being a painter of the Qing Dynasty with 21 names.

FongYee, whose name implies she is a phoenix rising victorious out of the ashes, is a strong believer in personalities and fates tied to one's name. She suggests I just take a new name and to hell with all the others.

While my real name comes from one of Vlad the Impaler's siblings, English effeminates it. In Japanese, my name means trap, making me deceitful and predatory. I tested out my name at an Ethiopian brothel and the prostitutes found its Amharic meaning, swimming, to be rather comical. In Mandarin, while it is certainly pretty (baby doll), it irked me during my teenage years for not being revolutionary enough. In Javanese it means forest. In Cantonese, it's snortingly nasal.

Maktaaq, on the other hand, is suitable for outsiders. It means whale blubber and I see myself as a kernel of me-ness buried in a vat of the stuff. Fat coagulates and fat can melt. The ever-changing nature of fat mirrors my own transformations (I've even gone from being a non-white threat to WASP to American-born Chinese to Pakistani: my favourite mistaken identity was as a Uighyur minority from China's central Asian Muslim provinces).

But I digress so far from what LadyLitBlitzin wanted to know. In a nutshell, my answer are the pros of pseudonyms: privacy and transformation while maintaining a central me-ness.

Once you've all answered her question, here's mine: what made you choose your pseudonyms?

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