Social Question

Shippy's avatar

Do you think if a person changes their name, it can change things in some way?

Asked by Shippy (9857 points ) October 28th, 2012

I have been thinking about it lately. I know it doesn’t change the past at all. I also know I am the same person. But, do you think changing your name, could signify a new life? or in some way influence the way you are?

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21 Answers

TheProfoundPorcupine's avatar

I think for some people it can signify a new life and represent new beginnings and I can see why some people are drawn to the idea of doing it. It can maybe be a way of saying that you have got over bad memories or through a bad spell and in a way you are reborn after having survived things. To some it can maybe then free up their mind as they start a new journey so in that respect it can influence a person, but I believe only in a positive way.

wundayatta's avatar

I know a number of people who have changed their names. In many cases, I don’t know what their prior name was. I can’t make any generalizations about it, but in one case, I do think it was meant to signify a new life. Whether it worked or not, I don’t know, but she is definitely living a very different life. From housewife, she has gone to lesbian farmer. She seems like a nice person either way, and I knew her both before and after.

I would not want to change my name. I like it. It’s the best name there is for a guy. But it’s mine, and I have no idea how I would feel if I had been given a different name. I might feel that was the best name.

I think we get used to our circumstances. I know I tend to like it wherever I am living, even though I thought it would be horrible before I got there. I’d probably learn to like a new name, if I had to. I know I’ve chosen some crazy names for myself online.

gailcalled's avatar

I can’t answer the question personally, but I know several people who, as adults, have legally changed their first names.

They say it was a good thing

My youngest step-son, Peter, became Max ten years ago. The problem is that those of us who knew him for his first 35 years continue to call him Peter.” He handles it with equanimity and is now known as Peter-Max, which has a better ring than Max-Peter.

Our names (like our hair) are freighted with importance.

flutherother's avatar

I wouldn’t like to change my name which is quite an unusual one. My grandfather and other more distant relatives had the same name and I wouldn’t like to break that connection. If you want a completely fresh start I suppose it might be a good idea. It might help psychologically to put a distance between you and your past. How do women feel when they change their name when they marry? I don’t really know. It must be odd learning a new signature.

marinelife's avatar

I never felt comfortable with the first name that I was born with. i legally changed it when I was in my 40s, and I so happy that I did.

I feel like the new name that I picked out suits me.

Jeruba's avatar

It can, yes. Especially if it changes the way a person feels about interacting with the world.

In so many contexts, your name precedes you, and if it creates an impression that you just feel is wrong or does you a disservice, it can feel like a great improvement to greet the world some other way.

I’ve known a couple of people who changed their names more than once, so I don’t think they accomplished what they wanted to, but several others have been very happy with their results.

Kardamom's avatar

I think for some people that had names that were unusual or odd sounding to the general population wherever that person found themselves, or who were bullied and made fun of because of their unusual sounding name, might find their lives made easier, or less fraught with drama if they changed their name.

I have an unusual sounding (only because it’s uncommon, even in its country of origin) last name, that is spelled exactly how it is pronounced, but I can’t have a phone conversation with a vendor without having to spell it, or say it multiple times. Mail comes to our house addressed to all sorts of people with the craziest misspellings of our name. It can become exhausting. For us, because it’s more of mistake rather than a blatant attempt to call us names, we just put up with it.

But I knew some kids, especially in Junior High, that were saddled with either horrible first names, last names or both who were made fun of on a daily basis. It was awful. If I had a name like Phuc or Poon or Dong or Dick or Doody I think I would seriously consider changing it to Smith. Those names were all real people that either went to my school, or are in the school currently where my sister in law teaches.

A cousin and a friend, both of whom divorced after many years of marriage, made up new last names. They didn’t want to revert back to their maiden names. My cousin said, “I am no longer married, and no longer a maiden.” She chose a name that was easy to spell, easy to pronounce and had some meaning for her. She made a great new start for herself. She waited until her kids were grown, so they wouldn’t have the problem that she did when she was a kid and her mother re-married several times and so her Mom, and siblings and she all had different last names. She said that some people, students and teachers alike didn’t believe her when she told them her name, as if it wasn’t possible that parents and their kids could have different last names. And that was in the early 70’s, when divorce was becoming more commonplace.

Another woman I knew had a very odd sounding first name. I think her parents made it up. It was along the lines of Oprah. She hated it and when she was 18, she had it legally changed to Katharine. On the other hand, a strong person like Oprah Winfrey was able to use her wonderful, unusual name and make it work for her, but it kind of depends upon the personality of the name holder. Katharine was very religious, very quiet and not someone to want to be thrust into the limelight.

The only thing to think about, is if the name change might hurt your family. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t change it, just think about how it might effect the person who gave you the name and what it means to them. You can always keep your real name and go by something else.

You can use your real name at home and be Shippy or anything else out in the marketplace.

Kardamom's avatar

I was just thinking that if Barack Obama was named Kenneth Smith, he would probably never would have had to deal with all the crap that he’s been accused of like being born in Kenya and being a Muslim.

And if Mitt Romney’s first name was Michael, maybe his detractors would take him a little more seriously.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

I think it has the potential to change things, yes. I’ve considered changing my name, but have never really felt like I had the right reasons or the right timing to do so.

hearkat's avatar

@Kardamom- So do you think that Mr. Romney uses his middle name, rather than his first name, Willard, because of the impression it would have?

chyna's avatar

I know a woman that adopted 3 children that were badly abused by their parents. She changed their names to give them a new start on life. She gave them the option to pick their names and they did.

jonsblond's avatar

I have a sister who was named after a dead relative who died at a young age. She never liked her name and felt it was connected to a bad memory and negativity. She changed her name when she was in her late 40s and she became more confident within the next year after changing her name. She always had a lot of insecurities and I think when she changed her name it gave her that confidence she needed. She had a new life with a new name. A new name without a sad history.

gailcalled's avatar

@jonsblond: Were you and the rest of her family able to make the switch? My brother announced, rightly so, that he no longer wanted to be called Donnie, but Don. My mother found it really difficult to do, or so she claimed. Eventually she capitulated but it was hard for her.

jonsblond's avatar

@gailcalled I call her by the name she chose when I speak to her, but I still call her by her birth name when speaking to my parents and siblings. Habits are hard to break.

hearkat's avatar

I am aquatinted with a woman who was born with, as she told me, “a name that one in four girls born at the time was given.” She changed it legally to a very unique name – she gave me the impression that she made it up about four decades ago. When I’ve been around her and her elderly mother, who is becoming forgetful, her mother addresses her by the first syllable of her chosen name, so I guess the old habits can be broken eventually.

ucme's avatar

I might change my name to Wayne Kerr or Jack Off, only when i’m old & grey though.

Kardamom's avatar

@hearkat About Mitt Romney, he probably does use Mitt, because it doesn’t sound as nerdy as Willard. It also conjers up the idea of rats for a lot of us who watched the movie Willard in the early 70’s so that’s not a good connotation either. I think just plain Will would be better. Except then some people would wrongly assume that his name is William.

_But then he went and named his own son Taggart__

downtide's avatar

I changed my name from a female one to a male one as the beginning of my transition process and it was a very significant moment for me. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to change my name to one of my own choosing (even though it’s an easy and inexpensive process in the UK – anyone can do it but so few people do, except in marriage and divorce).

Kardamom's avatar

@downtide Does your current name sound similar to your original name or did you choose your current name because it was one that you always liked, or was there a significant person associated with your new name?

Was/is it hard for your friends and relatives to remember to call you by your current name?

I was thinking about Chaz Bono and how he, even when he was still a female went by the nickname name of Chaz, so it was a little easier (maybe on him, but definitely for his loved ones) to deal with.

One of my co-workers who transitioned from male to female also didn’t have to change her name, it was Jaime. But I can see how it would be very transformative to choose a new name.

Did you keep your last name? I know you have a partner, do you share a last name with your partner?

I just thought of a fun game, we should pick some names for our fellow Jellies that we would call them if we were choosing their name for them, after knowing them on Fluther based upon their personalities and, interests.

Shippy's avatar

@downtide I hear you, although mine is more to let go of the past, (as was yours I guess). I am even thinking of having some sort of ritual where I burn things. Or something. Like maybe photo’s and paper I no longer want to see. I still have to sprinkles my parents ashes too.

downtide's avatar

@Kardamom My new name is nothing like my old first name, but it is close to my old middle name, which is why I chose it. Most people found it awkward at first and there were more than a few slip-ups but after about a month or so, pretty much everyone got used to it.

I didn’t keep my married last name either; I reverted back to my pre-marriage surname. Partly because it seems only fitting for a man to have the same surname he was born with, and partly because my partner and I now share the same first initial, so getting mail addressed to “Mr L. M….” would be too confusing; we’d never know whether it was mine or his.

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