Real(ly Long) Names, Short Nicknames, and the Consequences of Your Online Identities

I have a long name.

  1. Three first names: Adelaida Sophia Marie
  2. Three-syllable middle name: Figueras
  3. Three-syllable surname: Lucero

It is exactly the reason I have a very short nickname, Ia. Though some people have difficulty pronouncing or spelling it.

In elementary school, I grew up writing “A. Sophia Marie” as shorthand for my first names so it would be quicker. Plus I knew at least two classmates who also had three first names: Cathy Mae Margarette and Jacqueline Patricia Michelle.

When I stepped onto high school, the teachers did not understand what the “A.” was for, and thus I used only “Sophia”, since they never really cared and I would rather be called that than let them assume to use the first name as my default name. (I also found another classmate with three first names: Aimee Yvonne Criselle.) It was the same in college, since it was our student numbers that identified us.

The Early Years of the Internet

Things became different when the Internet kicked in. You wanted an email address that could identify you as you, but unfortunately you lived in the Philippines and a million other Americans had beaten you to it. And thus began the unsavory fad of attaching numbers to cutesy, meaningless code names like bluewhiskers28, or unpronounceable aliases altogether, like aoikoorikaze (aoi = blue, koori = ice, kaze = wind, all Japanese words that may or may not be grammatically correct when put side-by-side, but used anyway due to once-blind anime fandom and teenhood).

The BeautyWrath of IMAP

You tried using your two-letter nickname but you were told it was too short. It was by rare chance you actually find a free email service that allowed a two-letter username with a kickass domain name, ia@wrath.ro. Even better was how it had IMAP and not just POP mail, which meant you had the luxury of using non-crappy interface desktop email clients while synchronizing everything you did offline with the mail server.

The Beauty of GMail

Then GMail arrived. You definitely wanted to be on this bandwagon: it was viral, exclusive, and had a gigabyte of space, which was unheard of that time—imagine, this was just a few years ago. Unfortunately it was back to the “at least six characters” username limit. Almost everyone you knew chose a permutation of their real name, perhaps tired of being too fancy, or tempted for once to be non-anonymous on the Web.

You chose a name no one else used to call you—except your mom, among other endearing terms she used to call you. You wanted to change all your online idenities to sofimi, but the most important component, your Yahoo! ID, already registered it a long time ago. Foiled again.

University Webmail

In between the explosions of innovating webapps, school email, much like the school itself, remained technologically sucky. Because you had your mom’s name, and she happened to teach at the same school you went to, your school email address was barely different from hers, except that yours had a number 2 attached afterwards. Juan Dela Cruz and John Dela Cruz would have the same dilemma and end up with jdelacruz@up.edu.ph and jdelacruz2@up.edu.ph, but unlike them, the secondary email address the school provided tried to spell out your whole name, adelaida_sophia_m.lucero at up.edu.ph, but utterly failed. School email addresses were supposed to be flaunt-worthy, especially since you came from The Premier State University.

Plus some subjects required your school email, even if you exchanged messages via Yahoo!Groups or Google Groups.

Social Networking

Then came the age of social networks. You wouldn’t really care to put your real name on Friendster, mostly because “Ia” is probably how your friendsters knew you anyway. But LinkedIn and Facebook came to your consciousness just about the time you became conscious with career decisions, part-time jobs, and extra-curricular marketing, and you wanted to clean up your act (and yet your Facebook profile is almost as horrendous-looking as the ones you detest on MySpace). More and more the Web felt like it was telling you to be less anonymous and be more real, since the pundits and the moneymakers were all doing it.

Or maybe because “Ia” was essentially “la” in most of the fonts and you’d rather spell your nickname in lowercase to best identify yourself, otherwise you became annoyed.

You kept sofimi on superfluous sites like Twitter, Flickr, del.icio.us, and LiveJournal; you tried to enter your real(ly long) name on Facebook and LinkedIn.

But they didn’t let you.

Keeping It Real(ly Long)

On Facebook you got an error message saying “the name you entered is too long”, while on LinkedIn the input field just wasn’t long enough (who knew if their database field for one’s first name was longer than the maxsize attribute?). You emailed Facebook tech support asking to change your name to your real(ly long) one, but ended up with “Adelaida Lucero” on your profile—which isn’t you. (It’s your mom.)

You’ll have to live with “Ia” looking like “la” for now.


I’ve noticed that people with three names tend to be really smart! Hahaha! (No, really, it’s true: look at Cathy and Michelle and Aimee.)

I can now use two-letter usernames in Google Apps. One-letter usernames, even. But I still miss that @wrath.ro address.

It is surprising what you can write about when you try to merge the geeky and the personal.

21 replies

  1. what you don’t have, you desire…and that’s the case for me. i’m really, really tired of having such a short name. without the ‘junior’, it would’ve been much shorter! :P

    i just re-realized that all the parts of my name are bisyllabic — phillip, yerro, kimpo, junior. hay. sounds so bland. (though “multicultural” — greek, spanish, chinese/korean, english. ergh.)

    “It is surprising what you can write about when you try to merge the geeky and the personal.” — yes, even i am surprised. this post is one of the most interesting i’ve seen you concoct ;)

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  2. Nice name! Sounds sophisticated.

    What I don’t like about my name is the ‘Jr’. For years I had problems with inconsistent ID’s, bank accounts, school records, legal documents.

    I always try to use my nick/lastname in my online presence. It is easier to recall.

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  3. @Corsarius: I’m pretty happy with my name. Online, let’s just say it’s Facebook that’s gotten me ranty. Oh, and I wish to dedicate this to my CW 198 class. I wouldn’t have transitioned to writing in second person otherwise. :P

    @Baddie: everybody seems to be taking to “Sophia” these days. Rawr!

    @Greg: I can imagine. Especially online since “Jr.” is supposed to be a second name, not something after your last name. And as I’ve mentioned, I usually stick to my real nickname since everyone I know knows me that way. :)

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  4. My name doesn’t quite qualify to be as long as yours, and my nickname isn’t as short… but following your lead:

    1. Two-and-a-Half First Names: Federico Vicente III
    2. Four-Syllable Middle Name: Capistrano
    3. Three-Syllable Last Name: Sevilla

    And a nickname that doesn’t have anything to do with my real name: Jijo.

    In grade school I insisted: It was Federico III Vicente, not Federico Vicente III; neither my grandfather nor my father have Vicente with their Federico’s. By high school, having finally seen my birth certificate, I gave up: Federico Vicente III, it remained. But then in grade school and high school I was simply “Sevilla,” so who cared.

    It sucks to get greeted with “Hi, Federico Vicente III C. Sevilla” like many systems decide to greet me… and I’ve never liked using my nickname for anything “formal” or “serious”. So I guess my counterpart irritation to your really long name is the fact that it’s got a suffix, and many systems aren’t designed to gracefully deal with those.

    And early last year, for the first time… I got a corporate email account at an MNC where I now do consulting work that’s not my usual “jijo” or “jijo.sevilla”. I’m now regularly greeted “Hi Federico”, as they email me at federico.sevilla. Great. Now I’m my father… or my grandfather.

    ;)

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  5. “Great. Now I’m my father… or my grandfather.” Hahahaha! It is irritating, isn’t it? The systems try to personalize the experience but end up doing more harm than good. Humans, on the other hand, don’t care at all. :D

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  6. Pingback: Real(ly Long) Names, Short Nicknames, and the Consequences of Your Online Identities - PinoyBlogoSphere.com - Pinoy Bloggers Society (PBS)

  7. Well, my name has a two syllable first name, two syllable middle name, three syllable surname. :) Nickname has one syllable.

    As for email – having your own domain gives you flexibility. I can use 7@ as my email address. hehehe.

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  8. Actually my dad’s first name is “F”. Everybody assumes it stands for Francisco, my lolo, but on the birth certificate it only says “F. George P. Lucero” which neither confirms nor denies that. :P

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  9. I can feel your pain, sis. Mine’s Joseph Christian. Unbelievably holy and unbelievably long. (Add the middle name and a really long bad-ass surname.) That’s why in the future, I’d spare my kids and give em short names like X, Y, and Z, hehe.

    Your name sounds cool btw. I like it :-)

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  10. My name’s not as long as yours, but writing it down by hand repeatedly when filling up forms is a pain. And when I’m asked to write down the names of my four other siblings, my eyes begin to roll.

    My dad’s name begins with an “r”, and my mom’s with a “j”. They stuck with the “two first names, the first beginning with an “r” and the second with a “j” if a boy, and vice versa if a girl” rule with all their five children. Mom decided to shorten the polysyllabic names to just one when the youngest was born, to end the agony.

    My never-ending “problem” is that with my first first name (no typo there). Mother, by her own insurmountable power, changed the commonplace “Raymond” into “Remund”–different spellings but the same pronunciation. I would have to explain to other people time and again. But due to exhaustion, I’ve learned to respond to all these: “REH-moond”, “RAY-muhnd”, and “RAY-mohnd”. And it’s pretty annoying that even my siblings call me “REH-moond”, when mahal na ina’t ama call me “RAY-mohnd”, when they all know it’s supposed to be “RAY-muhnd”.

    Well, at least I have been gifted by my parents with a lifetime conversation-starter. Ahlabshyoo, mami & dadi.

    Thank you, too, for your post. ;-)

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  11. This is hilarious! Sorry, but I laughed SO, SO MUCH as I read up through the University etc.etc. part. Brilliant! This is so going into my favourites.

    I would love to have so many lovely first names like you (and an exotic surname) although I can imagine filling in official forms to be terribly tedious as well (no space left!) but pretty names FTW!

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  12. Hi, Ia

    I get you but just be glad that your three names have the added affect of having some sort
    of meaning, mine are simply the proof of my parents being bored with regular names.
    My brothers are (first name) Simon (middle name) Adam and (1st name) Adam (2nd) George.
    my father is ONLY Paul and my mother Mary. They all got nice christian names but I got stuck with:
    1. Three First-names: Storm Alyce Harper
    2. Four syllable middle-name: Theodora
    3. and a four syllable hyphenated surname: Cunningham-Johns.

    Thank god I only go by Aly Cunningham-Johns and can’t wait to get married and become a Door. I look forward to a life of not having to fill out form to that extent.

    I found your piece interesting and am thankful to know there are people out there with the same small but frustrating issues as I have.

    Aly. C-J

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  13. I stumbled across this in a search for “long names” because I am developing a database for a website and wanted to get a better idea of how many characters to reserve for the “first name” record. This was a treat, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it :)

    Humorous, well-written, and–though I cannot attest to having a long name–could really relate to your internet identity vexations!

    Thanks for sharing,
    Eric

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  14. Oh, I can somewhat relate, though my real and complete name is not as long as yours. The tricky part however is that my first given name is Maria, and you know how it is in the Philippines, people like shortening that to “Ma.” which annoyed me. So I endured elementary school being Ma. Corazon, with some not-so-smart teachers sometimes just shortening it to “Corazon” even in the yearbook and some certificates.
    In high school, I learned how this problem might cause me later to produce an affidavit stating that I and me are the same person, so I brought my birth certificate and demanded that my teacher change my records to my complete name – Maria, not Ma. It was changed, but there were still annoying people around who like to write it as Ma. Because of that annoyance, when internet came, I decided to get a “Mareeya” identity, as a way of being sarcastic because nobody would shorten that to ‘Ma’. Unfortunately, somebody had beaten me to it, so I added the “h”, thus, became the first ‘official’ “Mareeyah” online, though I have long forgotten the password to my ‘mareeyah@hotmail.com’ email ad.
    The dilemma wasn’t over. When I got to Australia with my sister, everyone uses your first given name and ignores all your other given names. Thus I’m stuck with being Maria, which confuses people because my sister is also Maria (you know, a Filipino thing). Therefore, we got forced to go by nicknames based on our second given names, me as ‘Heart’ and my sister as ‘Ces’ (for Cecilia).

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    • Wow people are still commenting on this! It’s a little weird that our “official” names are second names, no? And it’s also funny how in the States, second names are actually the “middle” names when here it’s our middle initial (or our mother’s maiden names).

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