Naming

Judy wrote a post today about identity and how we change ourselves to fit what we're doing at any particular moment. I've been thinking about something reasonably similar for a few days and I've meant to write about it more extensively and clearly here. So I'm going to now. At the moment my interest is pretty specifically focused on how the act of naming serves to concretize identity and meaning, basically "what's in a name," to be overly trite.

By giving something a name, we make it seem comprehensible as something unique, and there's an expectation that people can understand what something is going to be based on the name. If I give you the title of this blog (and your familiar with the site) you're probably going to know what the posts are going to be like--and mostly you'd be right. Just as, if I told you that a site is a "blog" you know (or think you know) something about it's organization and layout.

I think the theorists would say that "naming is performative," but I think the invocation of J.L. Austen is totally unnecessary, and probably pretty confusing in the long run. Basically this means that the act of attaching a name to something is as a result of its utterance, meaningful. At the same time, a little sign-posting doesn't seem uncalled for.

On some level, that's what the term "queer" is about (trying to establish a different way of thinking about sexual and gendered difference) and because of this and because of the importance of performativity to "queer" that I consider naming to be a queer issue.

So why am I writing this, you wonder? In part because I feel like this blog needs a new name, and in part because I'm considering my pen name more thoroughly as I embark more seriously upon a knitting career.

First, the blog: The current name "the life and opinions of tycho garen," is a bit stale, and I think provokes a style of blogging that's more like a journal, a style that I've been fully complicit in enacting. And while I do take pleasure in the allusion to Lawrence Stern's The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, I'm not sure that my karma needs that kind of spiritual connection at the moment. I'd also like to push this site back in the direction of the blog over the journal.

I used names for TealArt (r.i.p.) that were reminiscent of newspaper titles (e.g. "The Times of TealArt"), but I think I need something different. This blog/site will still be called tychoish, but I think some better title is much needed and I'm looking for suggestions.

Maybe I should see if I could cycle through a list of titles (for up at the top), there are a number that I think might work well. Maybe what I'm looking for is more of a tag line. Things that have been floating through my mind:

  • innovative bordering on the avante garde (from torchwood, Ianto's reference to Jack's sexual prowess.)
  • awkward, but endearingly colloquial (An actual comment a prof. wrote on a paper, a long running joke, and I used it on TealArt for a long time. perhaps too journal-ish)
  • tychoish from the past future (I like phrases that mash up "future" and "past" because they create a sense of history.)
  • work and live as if-- (the less famous first half of the Alisdar Gray quote that ends "--you live in the early days of a better nation," which Ken MacLeod has already used for a blog title)

That's all I have for right now, suggestions are welcome.

Now on to the more serious part: the name.

To which I guess I don't have a lot to say, except that I'm not sure. Here's some pro/con analysis, but I hope you give suggestions.

Pros to using pen name *tycho garen*:

  • The name is entirely my own. I chose it, I have shaped it myself, without connection or reliance on other people. There is no "garen family" tradition, nothing. Just me.
  • It's what this blog has always and will continue to be authored under (even if TealArt was originally authored by my given name). There's a marketing advantage here.
  • Pseudonyms paradoxically draw attention to the identity and role of the author, in a way that is rather cool.
  • It's more difficult to mispronounce than my given last name. The silent H is a bit of a blip, but I have an 8 letter last name that's typographically complex (-nm- letter pair,) and an english spelling anomaly (-ei- sequence.)
  • "garen," is a loose homage to my maternal grandfather (his first name began with G, and in the tradition of jewish naming, that and intention are enough), which feels nice.
  • I feel more comfortable being a non-capitalizer with a pseudonym
  • It allows me to isolate my professional (academic or otherwise) production from everything else, and offer some differentiation for the purpose of google.

Cons to using pen name *tycho garen*:

  • I think it would be difficult to change later if I had second thoughts.
  • Might be more difficult to use it to do business.
  • In this vein it might cause confusion, which is bad from a marketing perspective.
  • Many people know me by the given name, as they should, particularly in the context of knitting (knitting camp, various other things.)
  • It is hard to mix it up, to do some things with one name and some things with other names.
  • I debate weather it's the same or different as writing under a modified version of their given names: JMS goes by Joe but is credited J. Michael Strazinsky, J. C. "Chris" Hutchins and so forth.
  • tycho is less (potentially) ambiguously gendered than "Sam," and significantly less common, though Sam is a pretty uncommon for men in my generation.

I'm thinking I'm going to go with it for the publishing (to the fam, I don't want to change my name or anything, just a pen name, to be clear), but I don't know. I suspect I'll get it sorted out.

Any feedback you can offer with regards to either the name of the blog or the pen name debacle, I'd love to hear from you a lot.

Cheers, tycho

(ps. Onward and Upward!)

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