True Names

I recently read Julie Kagawa’s latest Iron Fey novella Summer’s Crossing (it’s a Puck story…much fun…read it).  It opens with Puck talking about names and a bunch of the different ones he’s had–none of which are his True Name.  In fairy lore (and other lores, now that I think about it), knowing the True Name of someone or something gives you power over it, so it is typical of characters to guard their True Name fiercely.

Names have always been kind of a thing with me.  My identity is very much caught up in names.  I spent the first eighteen years of my life feeling like I was living as someone else, called always by my first name, which I hated.  I was one of eight people in my class with that name, and it got really old hearing it called and not being the one addressed.  So when I got to college, where no one really knew me, I switched and began going by a shortened form of my middle name.

College is a great time to kind of re-define and discover who you really are anyway because, usually, you’re away from anybody who knows you, away from all their preconceived notions and expectations.  Going by a new name just seemed to go with that.  My mother hated it.  Refused to use the name I preferred.  Fine.  I didn’t make people who knew me before switch.

When I graduated, the diminutive form I’d been going by seemed a bit unprofessional, so I started going by my full middle name.  In the ten years since I graduated college, I’ve met only two others (ironically, one of them works in my office here).  It’s been so long that when people call me by my first name, it takes me a while to register that it’s me they are talking to.  That was never really me.

Of course all this name changing confused the heck out of everybody.  You can always tell at what stage in my life people know me from by what they call me.  I find it kind of amusing.

Then came time to choose a pen name since some other person out there has my real name and already laid claim to all the internet real estate related to it.  So I chose Kait, at last able to give myself the name I always wanted (short for Kaitlyn), and I went about snatching up internet real estate and building my brand for all things writing related.  And something funny happened.  My online life, my writing life, in many ways has become more real to me than my day to day life.  Kait represents the writer and that is fundamentally who I am in a way that no other name I’ve gone by ever has.  As I get closer and closer to my life long goal of making a living as a writer, Kait becomes who I am all the time.  It is, I think, my True Name.

And it’s a joy to have discovered it.


9 thoughts on “True Names

  1. Wow Kait!! This rang SOO true to me! I too have an over used name and had to go by nicknames or first name with last initial so people would know who they were talking to/about. I hated it! You could tell who met me when, by what they called me.

    I was actually thinking the other day that Angeline fits me more than anything I have ever been called before. It’s like I have slipped into this new name like a new skin and have finally found home. 😉

    1. I went to a writer’s retreat a couple summers back and went by Kait the whole long weekend. It was surreal and awesome. I even get mail as Kait now!

  2. They’re funny things, aren’t they? Those names. The ones we choose for ourselves, the ones chosen by our friends, the ones chosen for us before we’re even really people. I hated my name growing up, because I think all kids do at some point. It didn’t help having one of the stereotypical common names, although I was at least the only kid in my class with it. But it was my middle name that I hated, because it was weird. Who’d ever heard of “Givens” as a name? Then I started writing, and decided that I needed an initial to make the name sound a little better, more euphonious. So I looked back over my middle name, and found that I didn’t hate it any more. Now I kinda like it. Sets me apart from all those other Johns out there. But it’s been a long, and often strained relationship with all my names, one that I’m sure will morph at least a couple more times before we’re through with each other.

  3. Your story could be mine, only I grew up being called a middle name I detested. My mom chose this name specifically for its uniqueness. She is a Linda who hated being one of three Lindas in a graduating class of twenty. Mom did a good job. My middle name is unusual enough that I’ve never met anyone face-to-face who has this name.

    Predictably, I positively loathe Middlename. People never get Middlename right. Ever. To make matters worse, they say something like, “Middlename? That’s country, ain’t it?” and giggle to show how cute they are.

    When I moved away from my hometown, I started using my first name–or, actually, just quit telling people to call me Middlename. Firstname is what’s on my driver’s license and SSN anyway.

    By the time I started writing, the only people who still called me Middle name were people who had known me all my life. Catherine–my first name–is sort of formal and prissy, so I changed it to Catie.

    I just squee when people call me Catie. Maybe it’s because I picked it. Maybe it’s because it sounds less trailer-park than Middlename. Maybe it’s because I finally like who I’ve become. 😀

    Thanks for this wonderful post, Kait.

  4. Names hold so much power. My mother was born Violet Johanna — when she became a young woman she switched it (and shortened it) to Joan Violet, she had been a Violet as a young girl, now she was a Joan. Then she married my dad and became Joan Kennedy…funny how that works.

    My writing name is my given name — but it’s been a long time since I’ve gone by that. Two marriages tends to weigh you down with other people’s names. I like it that I’m my original self for writing. I have thought, though, if I need a new name I’ll just reverse it: Kennedy Ames.

    Cool post.

  5. True names are like a statue carved from carrara marble. it’s only as the marble is chipped away through time and circumstance that the truth is slowly revealed.

  6. I used to hate my last name growing up. Being called of what was equivalent of dirty dead skin cells with a change of a letter would do it in my language. Unfortunately, this was shared by EVERYONE who share my last name–my relatives. Growing up, I wish my name is more common. Having both a Tagalog first and last name is unusual for Pilipinos. Usually, it’s Spanish last name and either English or Spanish first name.

    Now, I love it. I don’t have anyone to compete with in the SEO unless a relative of mine decided to use my first name to follow the Tagalog name tradition.

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