I’ve tried to write this post before, but I always end up tossing it – so many other bloggers have covered the topic well enough, and I didn’t feel like I really had anything to add. Recent events, however, have left me pondering the subject of names. I missed the Blog Azeroth Shared Topic about names that occured earlier this month, but I’m going to spill out my thoughts on this out anyways.
WOW Character Names
Everyone has a different strategy for choosing names for their WOW characters. Many choose names from their favorite books or movies. Some people are inspired by nature, or mythology, others by manipulating real names, and still others just use the random name generator. Some people use foreign words based on their meaning, or try to mimic the style of NPC names of their chosen race. And of course, their are those that try to be funny with their names, or even crude. Naming is a deeply personal process, regardless of how much thought is put into it.
When you have a plethora of alts like most do in our guild, you see a lot of different “themes” that occur. The most common one is choosing names that start with the same syllable, or incorporate the same word. Other themes are more subtle – variations on popular names, or words that mean something relevant to the class of the character. It’s certainly easier to identify a guild member when the names are themed (although even that can cause confusion, such as when another member uses someone else’s syllable in their character name).
There are many opinons about names. Many decry the use of names that reference popular fantasy figures, claiming it is unoriginal. Others mock those that use non-standard characters in their names (I’ve been guilty of this, but only because they’re so dang hard to type). It’s amusing to realize that you can find elitests in every aspect of the game – people who think that their naming strategy is somehow better than everyone else’s.
My own strategy has evolved as time went on. At first, all my names were derived from my favorite fantasy novel series, usually obscure characters or creative spellings (I’ll let you guess which ones). Now, however, as I’ve saved names for future characters, I find myself going back to the “Kae” prefix that has become my online identity. One of the names that I’ve saved is actually derived from my real first name, although I haven’t quite settled on a class to give it to.
My husband’s strategy is a mix of the random name generator, and finding words that mean something about the class. Jardal came from the Blizzard random generator, which is amusing considering that is now what he’s known as in-game. Parzifal his paladin, I think is derived from Parzival, a poem about a knight on the Holy Grail quest, which was found by randomly searching on the internet.
Names and Identity
Often, a character name can be someone’s identity. Choosing your own name is an opportunity that very few people outside of the internet have experienced. It’s almost more meaningful than your real name. This personal investment in a name is why people get so upset when that name is compromised. Maybe they move a character to a new server, and that name is already taken. Perhaps their name is mistakenly marked as being inappropriate. It’s a deeply upsetting experience for those that identify with their character name. It’s easy to get attached to a name, and hard to imagine yourself as anything else. It’s uncomfortable, unfamiliar when you take a new name.
It often seems that the more unique a name is, the more it means to a person. In the real world there are hundreds of Matts and Mikes and Jennifers, and many choose a nickname to differentiate themselves. People pride themselves on having a unique (and often unpronounceable name). How often have you heard someone say, “I’m the only one with my name on Google”.
We often make assumptions or connotations based on a person’s name or nickname. Our personal experience, culture, and other environmental factors shape our perception of names. This probably why spouses argue endlessly about what to name their children.
Names and Context
I’ve been Kaelynn for about 1.5 years, which isn’t really that long compared to many people in WOW, but it’s become a part of me. I never really had a nickname before, and secretly always wanted one. I respond to it as readily as my real name – in the right context.
As I grew closer to my guildies, and with the advent of real ID, many have learned my real name. The first time someone used my real name on vent, I didn’t even recognize it. It’s strange how our brains work – context is key for our own recognition and retrieval. On the other side of things, hearing my internet name out in the real world makes me pause a bit.
Changing My Name
I changed my last name after I got married, and it is most certainly a strange process. There are so many places to change it, so many requests to fill out and people to inform. Beyond the tedium of changing it is the disconcerting feeling that the name you grew up with is gone. I introduced myself to someone new yesterday and I hesitated for an awkwardly long time before saying my name. I’ve spent 24 years known as one thing, and now it’s like I’m someone else. My identity is shaken a bit.
Another amusing thing is how other people deal with my name change at work. No one is able to find me in our internal company directory. People ignore my emails because they don’t recognize the name. I also received an angry note from the office mailperson who couldn’t figure out how to deliver mail to the mailbox that still was labeled with my old last name (never mind that I’m the only one with my first name on my floor ).
Have you ever read a book, and heard a name in your head one way, only to find out some time later that you were actually “saying” it wrong internally? It’s happened to me many times, and it really bothers me. I have to step back and view the character in a different way. The way names sound conveys some essence of a person that I can’t quite describe.
Have you chosen a WOW character name that looked good on paper, only to find that you disliked how other people pronounced it, or disliked how it sounded out loud in general? My rogue’s first name was Kairen – which I pronounced internally just like Karen. The first person who said it out loud though, pronounced it as Kai (rhymes with guy) – rin. It just didn’t sound that great to me, and yes, I could have tried to correct the person, but having an unpronounceable psuedonym wasn’t appealing to me when my real name is already so hard to pronounce.
My shaman’s name, Leane, is prounced like the popular name LeAnn. For some reason I’ve never been in love with this name, and the way it sounds just doesn’t click with me. As she’s going to be my main come Cataclysm, the name must be changed.