What’s in a Name?

I have an unusual name. All my life I have been well known in whatever community I moved in. In school, everybody knew me but I didn’t seem to know anybody beyond my immediate circle. I wonder how my life might have been different if my parents had gifted me with a more ordinary name.

I thought about starting a blog for sometime. Being a computer geek I started to do something elaborate using Zope but I finally today decided that I should strangle off my perfectionist tendencies and just start writing. Like Woody Allen said, “Ninety percent of success is just showing up.” I thought it more important to just start writing and get something out there than to put up a site with a bunch of bells and whistles. Beside I worried my graphorrhic posts were bringing down the Reason Hit and Run blog and I needed another outlet.

So I wrote one little post and because Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit had been kind enough to mention me in the past I thought I would send him a note telling him I had started blogging as he had suggested. I thought he would see the mail in day or two and send me back a short little “good for you” message.

Fifteen minutes after I sent the mail Reynolds posted a link to my blog and..

…the gates of Instavalanche opened up on my one little post.

It took me an hour to get a sitemeter put on the blog but as of now the site has received 2,692 visits plus however, many hits I got in that first hour. Then I got an invite to join Chicago Boyz.


I learned two things:

First, the internet is about amplification. Tiny fluctuations, the mere flutter of an idea can be amplified into a torrent in a shockingly short period of tme. RatherGate began with one post on Free Republic, the now famous post 47. Within minutes the idea in post 47 spread to hundreds and then thousands of people and within hours to millions. Literally thousands of ideas get tossed out onto the internet every minute but only a few take hold and spread but when they do spread they do so explosively.

Second, I learned that names do matter. As a techno-geek I like to think that function always trumps style. Perhaps in the very long term it always does. But during the short term and at the margins the attention that style brings to a matter can be decisive.

I would like to think that my postings around different sites would have stayed in people’s minds had I not posted under my real name but chosen a pseudonym. Would Elenor Finklestien, Fred Mertz or Borge of the Bungle been invited to join Chicago Boyz? Would Glenn Reynolds have remembered me at all? Even if someone really liked all my posts would they have tied them altogether and linked them to one person without a unique name?

Could the combination of a unique name and internet amplification turn some otherwise trivial observation into a post 47 history altering event?

I think I will try to find out.

15 thoughts on “What’s in a Name?”

  1. The other thing I learned today is that it is hard to spot missing words in the little text box in movable type. Sorry for the missing words.

  2. The invite to join us was based upon the quality of your comments around the blogosphere. Sylvain and Ralf and James and Jay and Ken and Nito and TMLutas and Ginnie and the rest of our jolly crew were asked to join us for the exact same reason — we thought you were likely to make a good contribution to the ongoing conversation which this blog is all about.

    Moreover, I can say that Jonathan and I are always thinking about who else might be a good fit on the blog, and that your name had been one of those floated recently.

    So, if you were Edna Schmertz or Dink Shrinkman or Nadezhda Gallstones it would have been the same deal. No kidding.

  3. “…missing words in the little text box in movable type…” Anything longer than a few sentences, do in a Word document (or whatever you use) and read it over, spellcheck it, etc. Then plunk it into MT as a last step. Always do a preview to make sure it looks OK and any links you included aren’t fouled up. A few steps like this and your posts will always look pretty and your readers won’t be distracted and Jonathan, our QC disciplinarian, will be a happy camper.

  4. Shannon, welcome! Thanks for joining the conspiracy. I’m pretty sure I would have remembered your writing no matter what your name. It’s nice to see you posting, whether here or on your solo blog.

    P.S. Don’t sweat the missing words. Lex gives good advice.

  5. Welcome! I’m sure you’ll enjoy yourself – there is a both fun and, well, seriousness. Not only is this group wonderfully supportive, it also has your back (at least that’s necessary for me–it is nice to hear when my syntax is screwed up or a link doesn’t work). And meanwhile, the support and the remarkable civility is a pleasure.

  6. “Btw, is Shannon a male or a female name?

    The name can be either. It’s derived from the old Gaelic and means “Wise One” or “old wise man” depending on whom you ask. The “Love” is most likely and Anglicization of the German Luft meaning “air” or the French “loup” meaning wolf but it might just be the English “love”.

    I like to think that my name translates as “Wise One of Love” spoken in a sleazy lounge singer’s verbal lear. I always regretted not getting a PhD because I wanted to be able to sidle up to to people and say, “Hi! I’m Doctor Loooooovvvve!”

    Just to clarify the gender issues, my spouse’s name is Michaelynne and my children are named Ripleigh and Rylant.

    I’m sure that clears everything up.

  7. Don’t feel bad. Here are some names of real people I have met:

    Dawn Fox (another one that sounds made-up!)
    Boyd Rumple
    Modestino Tango

    That’s not counting the ones who share a name with actors, politicians, or athletes.

    And my late father-in-law was a lawyer named Judge, as is my wife’s cousin.

    Welcome to the neighborhood. Can anyone bring her a blogwarming present?

  8. Chicago Boyz is always an interesting read, and will be the more interesting for your contribution, Shannon.

    May I also add in all truth that I was once acquainted with somebody called Butch Cabintoy.


Comments are closed.