random thoughts: names, nicknames & what's in a name

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This weekend, I was updating my 1000 faces project, adding some of the portraits I've taken over the last couple of weeks at the Erma Bombeck workshop and at Fort Benning.  Whenever I add faces to that project, I always:

a)  end up looking through all the other photographs I've included in the project (and marveling at how lucky I am to meet so many beautiful people); and

b) make sure that I add the first names of each person to the photo.  

I love names, don't you?  I suppose for this project, I could've just included their faces without their names, but it would've felt incomplete.  And I've been thinking a lot about names lately.    Because you know what?  

Names are personal

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For example:  recently, on two of my flights, I struck up lively conversation with two people.  One of them was a man who told me about his children, about the fact that he and his wife have a long-distance relationship, and that he misses his youngest daughter because he doesn't see her as often as he'd like.  The second person was an 80-year-old woman who shared with me that has been a widow for 2 years, that on a recent trip to Jamaica she was scandalized when two women walked past her topless, and that a few years ago her pastor was found dead in his home home, the victim of some sort of sexual sadist act.

(I really liked her.)

In both cases, I talked to them for the entirety of the flights, but it wasn't until the planes were touching downthat we ever finally exchanged names.  Isn't that interesting?   We had no problem sharing all kinds of personal details about our lives, but it was only after a few hours we were finally comfortable enough to share our names.    

Why is that?

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And then there are nicknames:  when I was younger, I always wanted a nickname, but one never really stuck.  I tried to get people to call me "Kari," but only one aunt ever used it, and then just for a short time.  I liked the idea of "Ren" (you know, like Ren McCormack, with all his dance moves, but more, you know, female), but no one seemed interested in that.  It seems that no matter what, I'm a Karen, and a Karen I shall remain.

But I love a good nickname:  Marcus' family calls him "Marz," and it totally works for him.  My friend Trish could never be "Patricia," even though that's her given name.  And my friend Victoria?  Well, she could never be a "Vicki," or even a "Tori" (although I think her family does call her that), but to me, she will forever and always be "Vic."  It just works.

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Some time ago, I ran across this quote from W.C. Fields:

It ain't what they call you, it's what you answer to.

Man, I love that quote.  

So -- what do you answer to?  Do you have a nickname?  Are you anonymous online, or do you have a different online name than you do offline?

Inquiring minds, and all that.

Song:  Call and answer by Barenaked Ladies (always loved that name)