Live Through This

A Name I Call Myself

Changing my name seemed like a good idea at the time.

Illustration by Cynthia

Illustration by Cynthia

My name is not Phoebe. Phoebe is what most of my closest friends, all of my employers, and a lot of my family members call me, but it isn’t my real name. I changed it—not legally, but for all intents and purposes, permanently—when I was 17. My real name is Tricia. It isn’t Patricia, which was a common mistake among neighbors, who unfortunately took the liberty of shortening it to Patty or Pat. Just Tricia, which struck me as profoundly uninspired. I hated it. It seemed too cute for the person I saw myself as at the time. It lacked the lovely simplicity of Kate, of whom I knew many, or the uniqueness of a name like Cecilia, my best friend at the time. Growing up, I signed birthday and holiday cards to my relatives with all sorts of pseudonyms—Laura Beth, Caitlin, Jessica, Desiree; I couldn’t decide which I liked best.

My name was wrong in the same ways I thought I was wrong. I wanted to see myself as the protagonist of a story, which meant, according to the books and TV shows I was consuming, pretty, like blond Carol Anne in Poltergeist, and able to ride a horse, like Laura in Little House on the Prairie. I didn’t feel like I had the distinguishing talent and beauty of a heroine or a celebrity, roles I mixed up to mean the same thing. I yearned for a good singing voice or green eyes or even nice penmanship—something that would make me stand out, whether in a crowd on the schoolyard or just to myself when I gazed at my homework, where I saw my messy, inconsistent handwriting wrecking the pristine beauty of the paper (I was kind of an anal kid). I felt I possessed nothing remarkable, nothing that I really appreciated, and my name seemed to announce how average I was. Nobody would write a song about a Tricia (but an Australian band called the Cat’s Miaow would later write one about a Phoebe). The only memory I have of a character with my given name was in Christopher Pike’s paranormal suspense book Remember Me, which I loved so much I read it five times, each time saddened by Tricia’s inconsequential status—a cheerleader at a party. (Shari, the late main character, became my preferred name in eighth grade; I used it to sign notes to Cecilia.)

I convinced myself that Tricia was holding me back from greatness, which in my mind wasn’t so much earned as it was granted: a cool name gave you confidence, which fostered your talent, which led to your fame, which guaranteed your name made history. Evander Holyfield was clearly born to be legendary. Ford Madox Ford and Rooney Mara chose wisely. (Rooney’s real name? Patricia.) Celebrities aggressively nurture the this idea, and thus Hershslag becomes Portman, Caryn becomes Whoopi, Myra becomes Tori, until, in the end, there is not only a purging of ethnicity, but a perfectly bite-size, mysterious, mellifluous, or otherwise iconic-sounding invention. And it makes some sense. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo starring Trish Mara? I’m not intrigued. What was my mother thinking?

She was thinking she wanted to name me Bridget, after her mother, but my grandmother forbade it because she hated her own name. It turns out I come from a long line of own-name-haters; my mother is equally unhappy with hers, so Eileen was ruled out as well. She liked Tricia because it complimented my generic middle name—Anne, after my aunt—and there wasn’t much more to it than that. I first came across the name Phoebe the summer after my freshman year of high school. I read The Catcher in the Rye, and I actually didn’t love the book as much as I thought I would. Maybe I didn’t understand phoniness or Holden Caulfield’s big problem with it yet. I only picked it up because Winona Ryder (née Horowitz) said it was her favorite. But in the course of reading it, Holden sounded pretty crush-worthy, not only because of his great name, but also because he held few people in as high esteem as his sister, “old Phoebe.” I was an only child who had always longed for an older brother, one I imagined would secretly care about me more than anyone else and be fiercely protective of me. (Oddly, I also pictured River Phoenix or other older boys I had a crush on in this role, so I might have been confused about what exactly I was pining for.) But after reading the book, I basically wanted to be Phoebe, this girl who was so admired by Holden. I had never heard the name before (Friends was on, but I wasn’t watching it at the time), and it was unlike anything my parents would have ever chosen. I loved the phonetics of it, that it was the name of one of Saturn’s moons (celestial symbolism!), that I had never met a single other Phoebe, as opposed to the two Tricias in my graduating class of 36.

Phoebe sounded far more special than Tricia did. Tricia wore roll-neck, cable-knit sweaters, like everybody else in her Catholic school. She went to a psychic on Halloween during her sophomore year only to be told she would not get a boyfriend that year. (Any psychic willing to give bad news like that had to be the real deal, and sure enough, her prediction came true for the remainder of high school.) Tricia was the nerd who went up to popular girls and asked them what was, by the looks they exchanged, lame questions like “What are you wearing to the dance on Friday, because I’m going shopping with my mom?” I saw my awkwardness and decided I wanted to be somebody different—but different in a way I could control as opposed to different because of complicated reasons like why I thought I was so unattractive and why I never had a date to any of those dances.

I tested out the name Phoebe in my junior year of high school, when I signed up for AOL. Scared into protecting my privacy by some alarmist stories of internet predators, but mostly just titillated by the idea of adopting a new identity, I introduced myself as Phoebe in chatrooms and in a profile to which I gave slavish consideration. I was forever learning, from other equally packed profiles, about bands that were not Dave Matthews or the Grateful Dead or other artists that everyone I knew listened to, and updating my own list of favorite things, trying to squeeze in every last name that would fit within the character limitations—who was more essential, Slant 6 or Tuscadero? I eventually met up with other teenagers, we went to Sleater-Kinney shows together, and as far as they knew, I had always been a fan of Parker Posey, and never Julia Roberts. This mythology was incredibly empowering. I felt symbolically reborn as the cool person that I wanted to be. I now didn’t care what anybody else was wearing to anything, because I probably wasn’t going to be caught dead in something like it anyway. I put a pink streak in my hair and got an eyebrow piercing—I felt like a rebel, even though I was terrified of any actual rebellion (I had college applications to consider) and I still went shopping with my mom (just to other stores). I wasn’t going by Phoebe full-time yet, but her existence online and on weekends at concerts made me feel like I was shedding the parts of myself that I disliked, and inventing a new, more interesting me.


1 2


  • lylsoy February 25th, 2013 7:19 PM

    This is so interesting! My boyfriend changed his name (legally) his last name is now Beck, like Beck his favorite artist :)
    I’ve always had a kinda unique name- Aurelia. But many people here can’t pronounce it :/ However, an extraoridinary name is nice. Although I sometimes wish I was called something a bit easier.

    • FlaG February 25th, 2013 10:50 PM

      I knew a girl named Aurelia. Her parents are American, but after they divorced she and her mother moved to Rome to be with the mother’s new partner, so the name helped her fit in there (it is a very Italian name. Meaning ‘golden’, if I’m not wrong). But when she was in the US she mostly went by Leah, which made it easier for her to get around I guess.

      But I always thought Aurelia was a beautiful name :) That and Octavia. I’m a sucker for old-fashioned Italian names (having one myself). When I was little I wanted to change my name to Hannah because I thought it was nicer and easier to pronounce than my name. I never acted on it, though, and my name remains unchanged!

      • all-art-is-quite-useless February 26th, 2013 12:02 PM

        I love old-fashioned names, like Sylvia or Sophia or Aurelia. I think the name Ophelia is really lovely, but the whole tragic suicide in Hamlet deal would make it difficult to ever call my future kid that…

  • S T February 25th, 2013 7:29 PM

    This article describes so many things I’ve been through. I’ve hated my name for as long as I can remember. The summer before college, I was determined to change it and get a fresh start, but due logistics, I wasn’t able to legally make the change before college started.

    So I thought I would simply tell people to call me by my new chosen name. However, having to answer their questions scared me out of this idea. So I stuck with the name I hate.

    Now, halfway through my college years, I still regret this decision. My name still causes me so many problems. Getting people to pronounce it correctly is a nightmare, but more importantly, I feel like it doesn’t fit with who I am. Or who I want to be.

    Phoebe, do you have any advice on what I should do? If I was worried about the questions two years ago, it will be so much worse now, since all my friends and professors know me by my real name. But everyday, I feel further and further away from it.

    • Phoebe February 25th, 2013 7:51 PM

      I think you can definitely change your name if you feel strongly about it–if it’s too much of a hassle during college, you can wait until afterwards, when you’ll meet tons of new people anyway who won’t have to know what you used to go by. (It’s sometimes hard but not impossible for people who know you as something else to make the switch.) I’m hesitant to say you “should” do that, because I regret the decision now, but obviously that’s just me. Before you change it legally, I would take a test drive with the name you’re thinking of and get used to it. Ask people to call you by it, get used to answering to it, and make sure it’s what you want. But also, my point in writing this was that now I don’t think of the name-change as being essential to real change, if that makes sense.

      • S T February 27th, 2013 9:48 AM

        Thank you Phoebe. You’ve given me a lot to think about. And thanks for sharing your story. I didn’t say this earlier, but this is a really great article!

    • Lauren Hartnett February 25th, 2013 9:33 PM

      I’d really think about the decision before if you decide to change your name, legally or otherwise. Have you ever read the novel The Namesake? In it the main character had a huge problem with his name- he hated it and everything it brought along, so he decided to change his name to sort of rebel against who he had grown up being. But over time he regrets this decision in some ways, because a name is part of you, it will always be a part of you, because it’s special- just like every individual.
      So, basically, you should consider reading the book before taking that leap.

      • S T February 27th, 2013 9:54 AM

        I saw the film adaptation when it came out a few years ago, and I’ve been meaning to read the book ever since. Thank you for reminding me about it! I’ll definitely read it now.

  • soviet_kitsch February 25th, 2013 7:31 PM

    “I’m very controlling, and any weirdness needed to be broadcast by me, not whispered about behind my back.”
    ohhhhh god that hit close to home. what a beautiful article <3

  • kati February 25th, 2013 7:32 PM

    i loved this! i’m going through something similar. I’m from southamerica, all of my family is from soutamerica. I am dark-skinned and incredibly proud of being chilena. The thing is that my mom named me Katherine because she thought english names were cooler. And my middle name is french!! i hate that i have international names even though my last names are clearly chilenos. I really want to translate them (Catalina) but its super expensive and i feel like i’m rejecting my mom’s choice

  • llamalina February 25th, 2013 7:35 PM

    i love this. i totally agree that a lot of the times, the name makes the person. i always have a habit of giving out fake names to people that i know i will probably never see again- my favorites are effy, lux, and charlotte. it’s almost like stepping into a different persona for a while. i like my name because it’s unique, but there are so many gorgeous names out there that i like testing them out. also, phoebe is an awesome name.

  • herdinthehalls February 25th, 2013 7:37 PM

    My name is Victoria.
    I like my name, it is my given name.
    However what I don’t understand is why everyone I meet feels the need to shorten it to “Tori” or “Vicky” (ugh).
    Since 6th grade the classmates I’ve had in my grade want to call me “Vicky B” and my Guitar teacher for a solid month called me “Veronica” even with my corrections.
    Is “Victoria” too formal for some people or is it just me?

    • Kate February 25th, 2013 11:14 PM

      No! Victoria is a lovely name! They probably are just more used to people who go by Tori/Vicky

    • jenaimarley February 26th, 2013 12:12 PM

      I would definitely say Victoria is a very regal name to me but if it was my name I think I wouldn’t want to go by any nickname either! It’s beautiful.

    • 3LL3NH February 27th, 2013 1:21 PM

      I’ve always loved the name Victoria… it’s annoying to have to remind people, but if you love it, I’d stick with it.

      I was in a dance class once with two Victorias, and the teacher took to calling one Eddie, after her last name, Edwards, which is what her friends call her now, and it fits, but it isn’t Victoria, you know?

  • Kimono Cat February 25th, 2013 7:53 PM

    I have the opposite problem to Phoebe/Tricia. My real, actual name is ridiculously extravagant. If you ever saw it written down you would swear that it was false. People always compliment my name, but to me it sounds like something that someone writing a satire of Hollywood would reject as the name a starlet, because it seemed too stereotypical and trite. When I google myself strippers and dogs are the main results (I don’t have facebook nor Twitter). I doubt I’ll ever change my name. My main concern is that l would like to write novels one day, but if people saw my full name on the cover they would dismiss my work as the ramblings a an astrologist. My solution to this is to use my initials instead.

  • Bliss February 25th, 2013 7:56 PM

    Everybody thinks I’ve changed mine and are really surprised when I tell them my real name is Bliss. I love my name, even if people do get it wrong ALL THE TIME. I’m not Fliss or Chris or Liz or Elis or Bliff (?!). I usually resort to going ‘Like ‘ignorance is bliss?” once spelling it out has failed.

  • fromanotherearth February 25th, 2013 8:15 PM

    Phoebe, I feel ya! As a kid I always hated my name. It was long and complicated, no one could pronounce it, everyone always spelled wrong, and it felt way too grown up for me. My first name is Luciana and I had (and still have) people call me Luci for short. Unfortunately that gets mixed up with Lucy (which it’s not!) and idk, I also have a very long hyphenated last name (I’ve got 23 letters total, minus my middle name) which is tricky too.
    However, I’ve definitely come to like it more. People have told me I have a beautiful name and I’ve always cringed, thinking ‘well at least you don’t have to spell it!’ but now more than ever since I’m learning italian I feel more in touch with it. In school teachers call me Luciana because it’s what they see on attendance. Last year I might have told them I prefer Luci, but there is something beautiful my name. (Even if I don’t always see it.)

    • Lucyana Randall February 27th, 2013 10:29 PM

      I’ve never encountered a Luciana past like, Matt Damon’s wife or whatever! My name is Lucyana and I just caaan’t bring myself to use it, you know? For a long time I was almost 100% certain that my parents made it up. It feels like, reaally formal, although I use it on all my papers and submissions to scholarship contests and stuff exactly because it’s a kind of legit, adult sounding name (and i am literally so far from being legit or an adult). I go almost exclusively by Lucy though, and it usually takes a long time to come out that my full name is Lucyana. Teachers usually default to Lucy anyway. People do tell me Lucyana is pretty, and I guess it is, but it feels like the name of some glamorous actress, not a goofy ass teenager trying to make people read her zines or whatever.
      I always worry about disappointing people when they see my name in advance of me meeting them, like on attendance sheets or dorm room doors. I did a precollege program at RISD this summer, and I walked into my dorm room and my roommate looked a little surprised. She had assumed I was like a foreign model or something, which I am decidedly not. We ended up being really close, but I was worried about her being freaked out by her foreign exchange student actually being a fuckin weirdo.
      However, I do appreciate having an ‘adjustable name’, which is to say that it’s nice having essentially two names. I can use the formal one when I’m like eighty or something, and I can use Lucy in my crazy youth. Very chill.

      (PS I think Luciana is literally the most beautiful way to spell it)

  • larvaa_ February 25th, 2013 8:16 PM

    I have a really difficult first name which is Saptieu (my sis actually sent me something describing a person named saptieu) and my middle name is adekemi but shortened I go by kemi, in school my name is saptieu and outside of school & online I go by kemi. I’ve always thought of just telling ppl at school to call me kemi but I’ve know since like elementary so that’s a pretty hard task. Maybe I’ll just begin to introduce myself by my middle name when I go to college I d kkkk

    • larvaa_ February 25th, 2013 8:19 PM

      I get so excited/ happy when new teachers or subs pronounce my first name correctly, its an awesome feeling. My chem teacher still fucks up my name AND ITS FEBRUARY!!! lol I really like this article :)

    • marineo February 25th, 2013 10:44 PM

      your name is the coolest!

  • casper February 25th, 2013 8:18 PM

    I want to change my name, but for different reasons (kind of). I just think it sounds ugly when people say it. Do you think I’ll have the same kind of problems? I feel like I need to change it soon or else it’ll be too late and everyone will just know me by my current name. Also I don’t want to choose a new name that sounds like I changed it.

  • goma February 25th, 2013 8:28 PM

    I love this story! I just have to say, I love the backround! I remember it from
    I love that picture, they are just too cool.

  • kikikaylen February 25th, 2013 8:31 PM

    My name is Kaylen. To be honest, I find it rather plain, and people frequently mistake me for a Kaitlin or Kayla. On the other hand, it’s interesting because my mom’s name is Kay and my dad’s name is Len, so they made it especially for me. I like it because it fits, since I’m obviously a combo of my parents. Otherwise, though, it’s not something I would have ever picked for myself since I like names that are more unique in different ways like Imogen or Ariadne. It’s a pretty hard name to just absolutely HATE though, and it gets complimented from time to time and isn’t overly popular, so I’m content. I’ve only met like three other Kaylen’s in my life, all spelled differently from my name. Mine has a good story behind it at least.

    • GlitterKitty February 26th, 2013 5:28 PM

      OMG Hi name twin!!! My name is Kaelan! The Kaitlin thing happens to me literally every time someone asks me what my name is. I think it’s a lovely name because its unique but not too crazy that people can’t pronounce it. I also think it fits my personality but not really sure why…. Anyways it nice to see some other people with my name!

  • dojo45 February 25th, 2013 8:32 PM

    This was a great article :) My real name is Phoebe, and I love it, but I’ve always wondered what it would be like to go by my middle name. I guess I felt it would always make me feel special, like I had a secret that everyone was involved in, but only I knew.

    • Sally Hand March 23rd, 2013 3:19 PM

      My sister’s name is Phoebe..such a great name :)

  • Elle February 25th, 2013 8:39 PM

    phoebe is also a moon goddess.

  • what February 25th, 2013 8:57 PM

    great piece!

    also, relatable: i was born elizabeth, but that always felt off. i played around with it as much as i could – i was “beth” for like a day, i was “liz” for like seven years – and those didn’t work, either. everything felt too plain/girly/inaccurate/pleasant/etc.

    senior year of high school, tho, a friend started calling me “fiz,” and now i’m a senior in college and i’ve never even considered looking back.

  • Zelda February 25th, 2013 9:17 PM

    I used to hate my name. When I was younger my class would line up alphabetically and due to the fact that my name is Zelda, I was at the end. I also got the old “Your parents named you after the video game right?” Which is awful when teachers say that. But now that I am older I love the name Zelda and wouldn’t change it but I do wish I could change my middle name. Frances, my parents were into the whole great literature thing…

    • FlorenceEyre February 26th, 2013 4:25 AM

      I love your name Zelda!!! It´s my best friend´s favorite name (she loves Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald) and sometimes I call her so.

  • Ariella95 February 25th, 2013 9:33 PM

    So many people mispronounce my name that I’ve often wished I could change it. But being called something completely different would be too weird for me, I think. (And Ariella isn’t my real name… at least I changed my name on Rookie! But Ariella would be hard to pronounce, too, I guess.)

  • jenaimarley February 25th, 2013 9:42 PM

    I love this article and your exploration of the external/internal identity!
    The first person I think of with the name Tricia is Tricia Helfer, the actress of Six in Battlestar Galactica and I must say she is ONE SEXY BADASS BABE in that show. But Phoebe is also an awesome name.
    I like my name, although if I was planning on becoming famous I may have to change my last name from “Longstaff” (luckily I haven’t gotten much teasing for it probably since I am a girl haha).
    It’s so strange to see all the changed names of famous actors/actresses! My question is why Miley would change her name from Destiny!?

  • umi February 25th, 2013 10:01 PM

    My name is Safiya.Literally no one can pronounce that,people always said Sophia.I used to get so annoyed by it….Sophia is a pretty name but it’s not my name y’know? I used to say my name was Sophia foor a while bc I knew people wouldnt be able to say it.I feel ashamed of that name is awesome srry u cant say it srry so srry

  • Blythe February 25th, 2013 10:28 PM

    I totally sympathize with all the people whose names are hard to pronounce! Blythe is my real name (since it’s unique, it’s usually not a taken username on the internet) and whenever someone pronounces it right the first time I practically start crying.

    • jenaimarley February 26th, 2013 12:16 PM

      My name is kinda hard to pronounce too but my little sister Xóchitl has it super hard, I think…

  • rhymeswithorange February 25th, 2013 10:48 PM

    This is so honest! Love it

  • eremiomania February 25th, 2013 11:12 PM

    When I was younger, I always really disliked my name (Pauline) because it was weird, never on the name plates, old-fashioned, hard to shorten into a nickname, etc. However, I am named after my grandparents Paul and Arline. Now that they have both died, I really appreciate my name and am proud of it!

    • Simone H. February 26th, 2013 4:39 PM

      Love Pauline !! It’s my best friend’s name. It’s a pretty common name here though, there are a few Paulines in my year at school.

  • Kate February 25th, 2013 11:20 PM

    I am in a bit of the opposite situation.. I’ve never gone by my real name, always my middle, but I’ve been wondering if I should go by my actual name for college or jobs and things. I wonder about not responding when someone is talking to me though… :)

  • gretagreta February 25th, 2013 11:59 PM

    WOW Phoebe this was amazing to read; so intriguing. Names have always been a big part of my life (my last name is quite peculiar) and a name really does seem to mean everything- it’s like the paper version of instantaneous prejudice. Bland name, it won’t stick in your head. “Boring” looks (which don’t actually exist) = the same thing. And YES thank you for mentioning “heroine” vs “celebrity.” Entirely different!

    Greta xoxo

  • pearl irene February 26th, 2013 12:55 AM

    I loved this article! I used to feel really out of place because I never knew anyone with my name. I also have two middle names and I used to hate it.

    But I found out a few years ago that my middle name, Irene, is because my mom wanted be to have a folk music name, so it’s from the song Goodnight Irene, and I have really come to love it.

  • kaylamb February 26th, 2013 1:11 AM

    “I’m very controlling, and any weirdness needed to be broadcast by me, not whispered about behind my back.”
    This is very much me.

    I’ve never really wanted to change my name. I have always wanted a nickname though. Something that everyone would know me by, but was obviously not my real name.

  • bonjourminou February 26th, 2013 2:41 AM

    The first thing I wanted to do when I became of legal age was to change my name! Although I’m now fond of my name (Elaine), I still think it sounds like I’m a little old lady who wears beige nylons year-round and grumbles about “inflation”.

    Ironically, I adore the name Eleanor, which makes me think of a more chic version of Elaine, dressed to the nines in a Chanel tweed suit.

    All this begs the question: what’s in a name?

  • Nessa Starfish February 26th, 2013 2:59 AM

    I can’t begin to express how much I loved reading this! Names have been a constant interest of mine, for at least 10 years? I still read baby name books, and make lists and lists of names that I like.

    I used to want to change my last name because I didn’t like my family, and I thought it would be a way to remove myself from them. However, I thought I wouldn’t because, good or bad, my family is my own, and so is the name. Recently I’ve considered adopting “Sadie” for real life(it comes from letters of my first and middle names, as well as Bette Midler’s character in Big Business, and that amazing Joanna Newsom song!) And not at all because I dislike my first name, but because I like the sound of it, and I like experimenting with my identity/appearance.

    I think there is power in names, but it’s what we give it – so if you want to go by Catlady Potatohead, I don’t see why that can’t be acceptable, more like RAD. I think it would be cool if everyone had unique names, but the idea of naming someone after another person makes me think that humans have known for a very long time that names are just magical decorations to dress us in for good luck. If your parents dressed you a certain way as a child, can’t that still be honoured regardless of how you dress now? So maybe the same can be said of our names?

  • itsaoifedahling February 26th, 2013 3:11 AM

    I love my name! I don’t think I’d ever change it (my name is Aoife) .Most people abroad can’t pronounce it though (its pronounced efa ) and I wish it was a little bit less common here in Ireland.
    Really interesting article, I really do think that your name affects how you present yourself and how you act.

  • chasen February 26th, 2013 3:19 AM

    My mother did the same thing as you, Phoebe, except the name she adopted really was her middle name. I think for her it was also a matter of shedding the control her parents had over her identity (they did not get along at all), though she never went the full way into choosing an entirely new name for herself.

    I feel exactly the opposite about my name. Even my middle name, despite how fashionable it was to pretend to hate your middle name when I was growing up. My first name is nothing out of the ordinary in Anglo circles, but there are only 406 people with my last name in my whole country and even though people mispronounce it CONSTANTLY, I adore it. It’s a link to my family and it’s also become an almost tangible encapsulation of my identity (a nickname that can be easily derived from it describes me PERFECTLY). I’m never changing it, even if I get married, and I’d fight hard to have my children take my name too.

    • Graciexx February 28th, 2013 12:11 AM

      So would I! I really want my children (if I have any) to get my last name, because in my culture their were no ‘last names’ until the western influence came in. I am part of the first generation to have a last name, and because I am an only child and a girl – no body will ever have my last name again if my children don’t.

  • avonnlea February 26th, 2013 3:40 AM

    Oooh, I absolutely love this! My name is Emily and it’s so common, I hate it! My middle name is Richmond and I like it but not for a first name so I just go by Em. I love it because it is also the name of Kristen Stewart’s(whom is a goddess and I love) badass character in Adventureland!!

  • rockslita February 26th, 2013 3:56 AM

    I adopted my name too. I made the name up when I was only ten yrs old. My friends & family use my ‘real’ name and I use my ‘adopted’ name on the internet and in other countries because my real name is weird in other languages.

    x Rosalie

  • Chrissie February 26th, 2013 4:02 AM

    I actually have a lot of friends who changed their names to things that are more magical or better suited to the identities they’ve come to develop. I think it’s a good way to take control of who you are in a simple way!

    I started going by Chrissie instead of Christina when I was around 13 years old (although it’s more of a nickname than a full name change) it was given to me by one of my internet friends back when gaia online was cool. Most people have no clue its not my real name and its nice being “Chrissie White” as not very many people named Chrissy seem to spell their name with an IE at the end and my last name is so common it helps me stand out on this vast internet universe :p

  • ruby February 26th, 2013 4:56 AM

    This is such an interesting article! I don’t have an issue with my name, but I’ve never felt that attached to it (I don’t know if that makes sense!)…I never think of myself as ‘Ruby’, just as ‘Me’. It’s also really strange how popular it has become – when I was a kid I didn’t know anyone else with my name, but now it’s one of the most commonly chosen girls’ names in the UK, apparently

  • Ruby A. February 26th, 2013 5:40 AM

    Loved this Phoebe! Thanks for sharing!

  • Paulatte February 26th, 2013 7:35 AM

    I wish nicknames were more common in France … If you are born a Elizabeth, people won’t call you Lizz, or lizzie or whatever, they will call you Elizabeth. It took me a long time to understand that people called Ed or Ben are in fact Edward or Benjamin. Nick for Nicholas?? Bob for Robert? Billy for William??! WHY? That doesn’t make any sense, but that’s really cool. Anyway, like a lot of you I go by a different name because mine is impossible to pronounce if you don’t speak french.

  • Elizabete February 26th, 2013 9:50 AM

    Phoebe Tricia, this is an amazing article! It’s weird how many rookies ( including me ) can relate to it.

    I have always felt uncomfortable with my first name, but was lucky to have a christian name I Love and use – Elizabete. It was also the name of my great-grandmother, so it feels very relevant. I officially put it on passport as middle name when I was 13, but used it before too. I didn’t change my first name but just added the middle name, I didn’t want to lose my cool initials – VEO which many people call me too as in “hey, VEO come here” haha. Besides my surname is the most popular one in whole country and Elizabete is a popular name too, so there are hundreds of girls named Elizabete + [my surname].
    I think that adding name as a middle one is a good thing to do if you are afraid of regretting in future.

    By the way, my first name is Vendija which is a “Latvianized” version of Wendy and it is rare name here, but still it reminds everyone of Peter and Wendy which is okay book, but idk I am nothing like that Wendy and why did I need an English name if I am not even 1/100 English nor do I live there?

  • Lillypod February 26th, 2013 9:59 AM

    NOBODY can pronounce my name right the first couple of weeks (its “Lara” – could it get much easier??) It’s always “Laura” or Laurie or Lauren..its probably because I’m English but mostly around Australians and Americans…they don’t get my accent! I saw LAHrah and they say LAYra…
    I like my name tho…

  • AnaRuiz February 26th, 2013 10:59 AM

    Oops. This is my chosen “fake” online name, and although I’ve always really liked it, this makes me think that maybe I didn’t think about it before choosing seriously enough.

  • allydoubleyou February 26th, 2013 11:28 AM

    This was a great article, and reminded me of Catch-22. There’s a character in it called Major Major Major Major (a joke of his father’s) and when he was a boy he didn’t know his first name was Major, and then when he finds out that that’s the name on his birth certificate, he feels like he’s lied to everyone and has this kind of existential crisis. Your story feels like a real-life version of that bit of fiction. Thanks for sharing! <3

  • thatchocoholic February 26th, 2013 11:41 AM

    For some reason, this article has convinced me to never change my name.
    No matter what.

    Also, it feels good to know that Dakota Fanning’s original (trying not to say ‘real’ here – who is to say that the name you prefer to be called isn’t real?) name is the same as mine.

    Beautiful article, Phoebe!

    -Hannah x

  • sugarmilz February 26th, 2013 12:08 PM

    I kinda like my name (Millie) but I kinda don’t at the same time. I really would have loved to be called Lily though. I love that name.

  • Gry Gosselink February 26th, 2013 2:07 PM

    I was like ‘WOW. MY FEELINGS EXACTLY.’ – I really want to change my name. For a long time, already. I got named after my grandmother, and I’ve got a really Dutch and corny name. A friend of mine, a rookie-reader too, said: ‘change your name!’. But I don’t know yet. I thought about names like Norah and Olivia, because I think they’re wonderful and more me-like. But I think my family won’t accept it. People already think I’m a ‘weird one’.

    Maybe I just have to accept it, but I don’t think I ever will. How did you tell people that you want to be called Phoebe instead of Tricia?

  • flocha February 26th, 2013 2:57 PM

    Amazing article, I always hated my name (Flora) when I was younger, largely because I got teased for having the same name as a brand of butter, but over the years I have gradually grown to like it, although it is annoying that people always assume I shorten it to ‘Flo’ or even ‘Flor’

  • Cecelia February 26th, 2013 3:21 PM

    This is exactly what I want for myself, to have everybody call me Cecelia. My birth name is Atlanta and I hate it to hell, all I think of is the butch and stupid Atalanta from Greek Mythology and the Real Housewives of Atlanta – I hate it.
    Cecelia is so much more me, quiet but loud at the same time, intriguing not blatantly different. Cecelia.

  • NotReallyChristian February 26th, 2013 4:43 PM

    Try being called Christian. Before they meet me everyone thinks I’m a guy. Then they think they misheard and try to call me Kristen/Christina/Kirsten/Christiane. THEN when they’ve finally worked out what my name is (I have to choose my audience, but I’ll usually either go with ‘like Dior, only not a man’ or ‘like Christian Bale, only not a man’ – and then there’s also ‘like the Kings of Denmark, only not a man’ or ‘like the character from Pilgrim’s Progress, only not a man’) they assume my parents must be super-religious or something. Which is totally weird, because honestly how many super-Christian people actually name their CHILD after their religion?
    I got off easy though: if I were a boy I’d have been named Mungo. And then I’d have to go with ‘like the Hospital of Magical Maladies?’.

    p.s. My brother actually has a lovely name: Finlay. Maybe my parents liked him better??

  • lipstickjunkie February 26th, 2013 6:44 PM

    I go by my middle name and role call at school is totally hell like embarrassing

  • Whatsername February 26th, 2013 9:05 PM

    My name is Emily and all throughout middle school I had my friends call me Bella because I hated my name so much. It was so common in my area that I was always “the other Emily” in the classroom.
    {Then Twilight came out and ruined the name Bella as well.}
    I’m at peace with it now though, since I guess I do look like an Emily, and I’m unique enough to stand out even with a common name.

    • Elizabete February 27th, 2013 8:36 AM

      I Love the name Emily, very pretty! It is not too popular here though and there are loads of girls who want to be Emilies, ha :’D
      I also used to have a super cool and definitely unique friend Emily, so for me it’s the name of cool girls.

  • Claire NO February 27th, 2013 1:41 AM

    I clicked on this article as soon as I saw the title. I’ve gone through so many names since I first asked to be called something other than my given name at the age of five. I think I’ve finally found a name that suits me (Sophie), and when I’m eighteen I’ll officially change it. After reading this article I think I have the courage to ask my friends to call me Sophie!

  • bluecircus February 27th, 2013 6:44 AM

    I am so intrigued by names, and how people perceive you because of your name.

    I found it really interesting that my ex’s name (Earl) is such a big part of him, it really is a part of his character. I guess that’s because it is such an uncommon and unusual name here in New Zealand and Australia. He has never met anyone else called Earl, and he always jokes that when he does they will be best friends for ever. My best friend’s name is Gamo (pronounced Namo) but she hates it and usually goes by her middle name, Olivia.

    On the other hand, I really have no connection to my name at all. I don’t even think of myself as Rachel, I’m “Me”. It’s kind of just habit that I respond to the name Rachel. I think that’s because my parents didn’t name me. My mum had severe post-natal depression and couldn’t decide on a name, and back in those days babies couldn’t leave the hospital without a name, so the nurse wrote Rachel Kate on the card on my cot, and that was my name. Mum says she originally wanted to call me Sophie Grace but Dad wouldn’t let her because that’s too girly. I agree; I sometimes wonder how much of a different person I would be if I was Sophie Grace.

    Even though I don’t think of myself a Rachel I do get kind of annoyed when people shorten my name to Rach, and when they spell it Rachael, which I totally don’t understand. But the worst is people blatantly and repeatedly calling me Rebecca… starts with R, must be the same thing!

    I can’t wait to have kids so I can name them Lily, Ruby, George and James. They will definitely be the coolest kids out.

    • Graciexx February 28th, 2013 12:20 AM

      I love the name Sophia Grace! But I admit that it is a bit girly… Sometimes I find my first name (Grace) a bit blunt and boring, but when I read it or hear it unexpectedly I love it! I also really like calling people by their first and middle names, so I find yours amazing! Rachel Kate, Rachel Kate, Rachel Kate, Rachel Kate, Rachel Kate, Rachel Kate, Rachel Kate, Rachel Kate, Rachel Kate, Rachel Kate, Rachel Kate, Rachel Kate, Rachel Kate, Rachel Kate, Rachel Kate, Rachel Kate, Rachel Kate, Rachel Kate, Rachel Kate, Rachel Kate, Rachel Kate, Rachel Kate, Rachel Kate, Rachel Kate, Rachel Kate…

      It’s so nice!

  • 3LL3NH February 27th, 2013 1:44 PM

    I grew up in Jamaica, where most everyone thought my name, Ellen, was Helen, and I stopped correcting it after a while because it seemed unnecessary- I didn’t really care.

    Recently I’ve realized that I don’t feel female, and I’m strongly against the gender binary, thinking of myself without any gender at all, with some days where I drift more to one or the other end. I don’t dislike my name, but it bothers me to have it for myself, because I don’t think of myself as female… although my appearance is more androgynous (I can look masculine enough when I try), my name is a dead giveaway, and I feel like it judges me before I can show a person who I am.

    Now when someone says “Hi, Ellen” in the hallway, or uses my name when talking to me, it makes me wince. I think of everyone including myself as a person rather than a name- the fact that I need one grates on me. I want to be a writer, and my dream would be to be nameless, and let what I have to say define me. (If anything, I’d want it to be something undefined by gender; Kell is technically male, but it’s my top choice).

  • andersine kleopatra February 27th, 2013 3:46 PM

    I have changed my name too. I love so many different names, it’s hard to stick to just one. Gwen, Wanda, Enid, Charlotte, Medusa, Wednesday, Demeter. All names for my future daughters. Please don’t steal ‘em.

    I’m called Cleopatra. But with a K. Or not? Some call me Cleo. Some call me Chloe (misunderstanding). Some call me my first name. Some my middle name. Some both.

    What happened what that I started in a new school and another girl was called my first name – and another girl was called my middle name. I just made up a third name.
    My family, my old school, my new school all know me by different names. I panic when I have to tell people my name. Black out. Two crosses in my eyes.

  • Cadrilla February 27th, 2013 10:21 PM

    My name is Cadrilla and I honestly like it but when it comes to name etymology projects well shoot I know nothing about my name. My parents don’t even know what Cadrilla means + so many people mispronounce my name, sigh.

  • Lesly Pamela Munoz Viesca February 27th, 2013 11:37 PM

    Growing up, I went by my middle name. I love it, never met any other girl who goes by that name and I really think it fits me. And then I moved to the United States, where everyone goes by their first names and are ashamed of their middle ones. The first few months it felt completely strange to be called by my first name by teachers and school mates and took a while to respond to it. Since I never corrected the teachers or made an effort to change it to my middle name (moving to another country is slightly traumatizing), I just went with it. I have now grown to like it, even the way it is spelled (just a y at the end, no -ie or -ey) but lately I’ve been wanting to go back to it. I always tell myself that I’ll correct my professors next semester but I can’t muster the courage in a classroom full of people. The only thing I have done is to use both my first and middle names on the internet, as one single name. No spaces. We’ll see how that goes.

  • indyea February 28th, 2013 2:47 AM

    My name’s India and when I was younger I hated hated hated it! I always got comments like “India from India!” or “Hey India, are you from India?”
    Seeing as I’m whiter than Cher Horowitz it was kinda obvious that I wasn’t. ALthough now, it’s more of a “Hey, were you concieved in India? Or were you born there?” and sometimes just “Have you been to India?”
    No, No and not yet.
    I used to swear that I’d never go to India, but now I’ve grown rather attached to my name and I kinda want to go there now. It’s not straight up from the country (even though my mum loves it there), it’s actually from Gone With the Wind (the novel, not the movie)! I’ve also had nicknames thrown at me from family (Inya – great for yelling down the hallway) and from friends (Indy/Indi/Indie). I don’t think I’d change my name now, because it’s MINE but I used to reeally want to change it to Scarlett (there’s a bit of me that still does… maybe for a year or something if I feel like it).
    My parents deliberately gave me an ordinary name (Emily) in case I hated my first name and so it’d be easier to change it.

    • NotReallyChristian February 28th, 2013 12:47 PM

      I used to know a girl called India who had the exact same problem! My parents’ second choice name for me was Affrica, which is a Celtic name not actually related to the name of the continent – except obviously I would have to have spent my entire life explaining that to people …

  • starsinyourheart February 28th, 2013 9:48 PM

    My full name is Kitty and I hated it when I hit 12, so I pretended to be Kate for 6 years! I thought I was the only one with name problems. I’m back to Kitty now, just because I get that it’s a really cool name hahaha.

  • Theo Darling March 1st, 2013 6:34 PM

    I chose to call myself Theo. My parents named me Talia, and I went through phases of hating/loving it, and then one day it didn’t fit me anymore and I had to find a new name to match me. I am nothing like my parents and visiting them in Ohio is outrageously stressful, and I guess I left the “me” they thought they knew behind.

  • Lolly March 4th, 2013 10:17 AM

    This article made me think how weird it is that parents get to decide the central part of your identity before they’ve even met you. I don’t like my name (it’s not Lolly), but I’ve never officially changed it because it seems like an insult to my parents. And you made a really good point; it does seem like a lie. Hiding from who you really are instead of being able to be who you really are.

    I always liked the idea of having a given name and a true name, and only telling the true one to people you trust. Maybe I do that, in a way.

  • Sally Hand March 23rd, 2013 3:24 PM

    I love my name, I am Sally. It is really uncommon! I’ve only met one or two people with my name & they were both really old!! I have never had pronunciation problems, but sometimes people spell it Sallie, and I don’t like it when people do that!!

  • tardis-sauce March 23rd, 2013 5:41 PM

    My name’s Julia, but I go by Julie at school. It feels too much like a name a china doll would have, not me at all. It actually takes me second to respond to my own name, because it just doesn’t seem like my name at all. I really like the name Jane, because its so plain (in a good practical way!) classic and versatile.

  • Wallis Kate April 2nd, 2013 12:49 PM

    Even though I sometimes get annoyed when people misspell my name, I’ll never ever change it because I love the story of how my parents chose it – it’s the name of an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and my mother lived on a boat for a while and loves the sea, so they looked for an island name for a long time and finally went with Wallis. I used to be so embarrassed when people at school wouldn’t understand that I actually had a girl’s name when I was a kid because to me it totally sounds like a girl’s name. However people keep calling me Alice or thinking I must be a boy, and I’ve decided to use my middle name as well on the Internet and go by Wallis Kate. I feel like it fits my personality / identity better because my mother’s name is Catherine and I’m glad I have a little bit of her in my name, if that makes sense. Changing my name would feel like losing a very unique part of who I am.

  • Cutesycreator aka Monica June 15th, 2013 11:06 AM

    This is so interesting! I used to hate my name (Monica) but I love it a lot now, I think it suits me really well. I’ve always lamented that I don’t have a middle name, though (my mom doesn’t have a middle name either, nor does my grandma, and my great grandma probably didn’t have one either haha). But my struggles with my lack of a middle name have helped to makes me who I am today so I guess it’s all okay ;)

    • Cutesycreator aka Monica June 15th, 2013 11:07 AM

      *make not makes, grrr whoops