The embarssment of online handles
June 30, 2011 10:02 AM   Subscribe

The Eternal Shame of the Online Handle asks prominent digirati about the source of their original online name (and features mathowie). Aside from embarrassment, those who chose their handles or avatars lightly may ultimately suffer, since research suggests that you may become more like your avatar. With the decline of the pseudonym, including for those who might rather be anonymous, online handles may be turning into a thing of the past, (MeFi excepted). What's the story of your original handle? [My original screen name on Prodigy was nicodemus, cause magical rats were awesome in the 1990s]
posted by blahblahblah (236 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I think blahblahblah is entirely appropriate for any internet related activity.
posted by spicynuts at 10:06 AM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

My very first handle was Ouroboros. Given the conceivable alternatives, and the fact that I was twelve, I'm unabashedly proud of my adolescent self for picking it.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:09 AM on June 30, 2011 [5 favorites]

research suggests that you may become more like your avatar.

This story makes me angry.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:09 AM on June 30, 2011 [35 favorites]

I often wonder if the people who customize their names by sticking "69" to the end ever feel at least a LITTLE sheepish about it.

I also wonder if the people who stick any non-69 2-digit number to the end of their names realize that we all know how old they are, because everyone always chooses their birth year.
posted by ErikaB at 10:10 AM on June 30, 2011 [4 favorites]

If anyone things pseudonyms are dying, they need to hang out with more derby girls. I have entire groups of friends whose real names I'm not 100% certain on. One girl I only found out her full name recently because I wrote a letter of recommendation for her.

(There are some I've only seen a handful of times without face paint, so I'm not entirely certain what they look like.)
posted by 1f2frfbf at 10:11 AM on June 30, 2011 [7 favorites]

What are you talking about this is my first handle. (It's a mis-remembering of a name of a dinosaur toy)
posted by Cyclopsis Raptor at 10:11 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

After the sales from the monograph, I can go straight.
posted by clavdivs at 10:11 AM on June 30, 2011

'Neo from the Matrix is cool' - taken - zeo then - oh too few characters, i'll slap something on the end of it then - zeoslap it is then.
posted by zeoslap at 10:12 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

I got the first two series of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy for my birthday a couple of years ago, and have listened to it far too much in the intervening 21 months.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:12 AM on June 30, 2011

Way way back in the day, my handles included Snoopy (which is weird since I was never a huge Peanuts fan) and CyberJedi (which is just embarrassing on so many levels).
posted by kmz at 10:12 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I wish I had a do-over for most of my handles. Almost all of them are dumb and were selected at the last minute. That said, I am glad I use a different and unique name on each site.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:13 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

True names are best kept to oneself.
posted by ged at 10:13 AM on June 30, 2011 [26 favorites]

My first screenname was on AOL in '94, I guess? It was Slipsock. I was nine.
posted by defenestration at 10:13 AM on June 30, 2011

My first unix account was at a company that used First and Last initials, plus the last 4 digits of your SSN. When I created my first personal unix account, I just blindly used the same userid, and then proceeded to post to usenet. d'oh.

If I ever use 69 at the end of a username, it's because I was born in 1969. And I like oral sex.
posted by nomisxid at 10:14 AM on June 30, 2011 [5 favorites]

Research suggests that you may become more like your avatar.

The upshot is simple — your avatar can indeed impact how you interact and behave online.

Nah. The whale and I are mates. I was just trying to catch up with him for a drink and a chat..
posted by Ahab at 10:14 AM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

What's really funny about mine is that the person who gave it to me (then friend, now boyfriend of the past 8 years) is MUCH more bitter and cranky than I am...
posted by at 10:15 AM on June 30, 2011

There are still some extant teenage comments out there in the Usenet archives under my very first and surprisingly long lasting nome de internet so that information will die. with. me.
posted by The Whelk at 10:15 AM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

"otter" -was- my first online handle, at UCSC.
posted by The otter lady at 10:15 AM on June 30, 2011

posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:15 AM on June 30, 2011 [9 favorites]

My first on-line handle was "octothorpe", I've seldom used anything else. The comments about "oh my first handle was when I was 12" make me feel very old seeing as I was twelve in 1976 and we didn't have no darn on-line nothin' then.
posted by octothorpe at 10:15 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

I am fabulous. Deal with it.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 10:15 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

I don't see how the shame is eternal if it was just their first handle, and they have since moved on to other services and now use other names. Anyway, things we did as kids or teens doesn't really brand us forever (except when you apply to jobs with your old AOL email of SexxxGod2158 or PassTheDubie155).

I've used a number of handles over the years, and can't remember my first one. For a while I was "sullen" because I was a moody teen who liked the way it sounded.

It wasn't until signing up for a Gmail account that I actually branded something with my real name, and it still feels weird online. I like hiding behind masks.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:15 AM on June 30, 2011

Digidude. I liked Digimon, and I was male.

Now you all know how late I was to this whole internet party.
posted by mccarty.tim at 10:15 AM on June 30, 2011

Until I found "griphus" in 2003, I don't think I kept the same handle for two websites, and changed my AIM screenname every few months. I can actually recall almost every AIM screenname I've ever had: LAH0009, WoodyFloyd, ResusMunky, CrushKillDestroy, MarquisCarabras [sic], AgentBobHobbes, Jack of Iron and bells of mercy (which is the current.)
posted by griphus at 10:16 AM on June 30, 2011

Damn, I didn't even get a screen name on prodigy. In the really old days I just had a weird letter-number combo: CWSH23C. Never forget.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 10:16 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I notice that at least one of the other people profiled is also a mefite.
posted by TedW at 10:16 AM on June 30, 2011

My very first handle was "applicance." I honestly don't remember why I picked it. I remember thinking that it sounded cool.

Many times, in the awfulness of '90s chatrooms people would ask me: "What kind of appliance are you?" My 14 year old self, thinking I was quite witty, would typically reply with: "The kind that vibrates."

What can I say? I hadn't yet realized that there was more to the Internet than Yahoo chatrooms and naked pictures of Pamela Anderson.

I also wonder if the people who stick any non-69 2-digit number to the end of their names realize that we all know how old they are, because everyone always chooses their birth year.

Not so! One of my earliest "real name" email addresses was I picked 17 because it was my favourite number, not because I was born in 1917.
posted by asnider at 10:17 AM on June 30, 2011

My first online handle was my last name.

Now it's a nickname derived from my last name.
posted by grubi at 10:17 AM on June 30, 2011

Anyway, things we did as kids or teens doesn't really brand us forever (except when you apply to jobs with your old AOL email of SexxxGod2158 or PassTheDubie155).

I worked at an employment agency and I can tell you that plenty of people who were already grown adults when AOL hit the scene still do that. And the sex/drugs stuff is one thing, but the people who throw "Crip" and "Blood" in the email addresses they gave to us confounded me the most.
posted by griphus at 10:17 AM on June 30, 2011

Mine comes from "Out of Africa," the farm manager that says "I'm working to get home." It always seemed like such a poignant thing to say for lots of personal reasons, and at the time I signed up with Metafilter, we were trying to sell my honey's old house and buy our new one. Finally did work my way home! :)
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 10:18 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

In college, my finger slipped and I accidentally typed "dfan" instead of "dan". I figured it would be good for disambiguating me from all the other Dans in the world, so I started using it.
posted by dfan at 10:18 AM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

I also wonder if the people who stick any non-69 2-digit number to the end of their names realize that we all know how old they are, because everyone always chooses their birth year.

Pity the poor soul who was born in 1969 but who everyone thinks is a sophomoric pervert.
posted by grubi at 10:18 AM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

Way back when cable internet was first rolling out, we were serviced by @home internet. All of our e-mail addresses were *** Naturally, being about 14 at the time, I picked "" to be my e-mail address.

It was hilarious until I figured out that people usually only saw the "isanyone" part in the sender field on their e-mail clients. I had to explain my e-mail address to every single person that was ever in communication with me.

And then @home was bought by Comcast, and they just rolled over our old handles to the new domain, which totally killed the joke.
posted by backseatpilot at 10:18 AM on June 30, 2011 [4 favorites]

My first online (AOL) handle (1991) was "King Crow," which I took from a vintage produce company label on the wall at my desk when I registered. The odd thing about using that name was that almost everyone I talked to or met IRL for some reason had assumed I was a black man.
posted by Pants McCracky at 10:20 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

When I first went online, back in the 90s, I went through a series of very bad, very embarrassing online names. The only one I can remember was an old AOL account where I went by "CohibaJoe". (It was the mid-nineties. People smoked cigars. Google it.) I also had a feminine persona called "Beaux-Head", that I never really found a use for except tricking this one guy we knew into having cyber-sex with a room full of his "friends."

When I joined MetaFilter, I was looking for something unusual, where I didn't have to use numbers. I had read a book of old-west jargon and slang where they referred to mortuaries in the old west as "cold-cookerys" and morticians as "cold-cooks". (BTW, I've never read this anywhere else, though I've looked for independent verification for years. I've begun to believe that it was a fabrication on the part of the author.)

Long story short, I mis-remembered the phrase "cold-cook" when I signed up and registered instead as "ColdChef" (gotta love those intercaps. That's what the 90s were all about...smoking cigars and intercaps). I never expected to stay around here so long, otherwise I think I'd have chosen a different name.

It's weird to have folks call me "ColdChef" or "Chef" in real life, but there's a certain charm to it, which I'm growing to like.
posted by ColdChef at 10:20 AM on June 30, 2011 [12 favorites]

oh god you can totally find my high school blog oh god oh god oh god
posted by The Whelk at 10:20 AM on June 30, 2011 [11 favorites]

I used to always just use my full real name, which is only six letters long. My user name here at MetaFilter, which I see I chose in 2006, was actually my first half-hearted attempt to be anonymous on the internet, for fear of all the stuff I'd left around under my real name getting me in trouble.
posted by not that girl at 10:21 AM on June 30, 2011

My cousin added 36 to his handle, not because he was 36 or born in 1936, but because it was his favourite cow's number (he grew up on a dairy farm).
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 10:21 AM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

Mine was meant to sound like a disease, as in "the condition of being a hermit." Didn't occur to me until later that people would associate it with halitosis (which I think may indirectly lead to hermitosis) or with mitosis.
posted by hermitosis at 10:21 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Thanatos". I blame Piers Anthony. I blame the fact that I was 13 for being into Piers Anthony. Wait, that's not enough; I need something else to blame for that. My parents! I blame them, somehow.
posted by gurple at 10:22 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

In the 70's I took Kozad Nebraska as an nom de plume for various types of art I was involved with. It came from a brief encounter with giant leeches in the town fountain, by the railroad track, across from the Dairy Queen. I was a Surrealist. I still am, and I still use the name, now on the Internet. (The town is spelled "Cozad," but we all know a K is cooler than a C.)
posted by kozad at 10:23 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

I had an AOL handle long ago, but this handle I picked more or less at random when I signed up for MetaFilter ten years ago, and, well, it stuck. Now it's my primary internet identity. Oh well.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:23 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I just amalgamate my real name so it looks/sounds like a handle, best of both worlds.
posted by stbalbach at 10:24 AM on June 30, 2011

I also wonder if the people who stick any non-69 2-digit number to the end of their names realize that we all know how old they are, because everyone always chooses their birth year.

I have often used "42" at the end, because I'm a big Douglas Adams fan and it IS the answer to the question of life and all. That would make me almost 70 by your theory then? That sort of makes me feel weird about some of the propositions I'd get online...

That said, one of my first usernames was Sable42, which I thought long and hard about back in college, when we were all told to pick gender neutral names if we didn't want constantly approached for cybersex. I mentioned it to my husband a bit ago that I didn't understand why I still got approached a lot, and he said "clearly Sable is a girls' handle." (FWIW, I took it from Famine's pseudonym in Good Omens, so I argue otherwise.)
posted by librarianamy at 10:24 AM on June 30, 2011

So now you're a ResignedOlderPunk?
posted by filthy light thief at 10:24 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

Rinku is the the Legend of Zelda's protagonist Link, transliterated from the Japanese. I virtually never comment, and Link is a silent character. So that kind of works.

My other common handle is "vaguelyreptilian," which is hard to embody without seeming crazy.

(Licks eye.)
posted by Rinku at 10:24 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

Chatfilter!! I'm just going to steal from my profile because it's the "Rheal Storee" and while the car isn't in production anymore, My level 8? 9? cav still is baby!!! Roll 2d6 for memory check:
My nickname comes from about, gosh, 16 23 years ago, when I had a 1200 baud modem and I attempted to sign on to an "Electronic Bulletin Board". Wildcat, wow. I couldn't wrap my head around the idea of a "handle" it was asking for, and the SysOp gently chided me that I should enter something other than my name. I was playing AD&D at the time, and Unearthed Arcana was my book du jour, and I really dug the new character class -- you guessed it -- 'Cavalier'. I had a pretty healthy character and thus said, what the hey... it has stuck ever since. Especially in college, where my arrogant attitude lended a perfect definition for the more rude meaning of 'cavalier'.

Yes, people sometimes make cracks about me being a car. I ignore them.
With all the conferences I used to be part of, I easily answer to callings of "cav", which makes attending sports bars a little interesting these days. Fnord.
posted by cavalier at 10:25 AM on June 30, 2011

I *think* my Prodigy number was HHFV69C, but I am not certain. The 69 was random - the C meant I was the third member of the household to have an account. I signed everything Ami, though, because I was a big Sailormoon fan.
posted by maryr at 10:26 AM on June 30, 2011

Mine was - WAITWAITno. Keeping the identities unconnected on purpose. Phew!

Actually I've been jinjo for almost the entire time. I was starting to be embarrassed by my previous name but couldn't think of a good one to replace it with. Then, as my profile page states, the N64 game Banjo-Kazooie came along, containing fictional creatures called Jinjos. I thought it was the most adorable-sounding thing I'd ever heard. In my hopeful mind, the game was just another ridiculous collectathon platformer full of fart jokes, soon to be forgotten, and only the unique cuteness of Jinjo would remain.

13 years later, it's considered a minor gaming classic, of which everyone alive everywhere has many fond and detailed memories. Oh, well.
posted by jinjo at 10:26 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've had my handle for around 15 years now, and although burning recordable media is a lot less popular, the MP3 format is still going strong. Take that, technological progress!
posted by burnmp3s at 10:27 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

I also wonder if the people who stick any non-69 2-digit number to the end of their names realize that we all know how old they are, because everyone always chooses their birth year.

A friend who is a Space:1999 enthusiast chose or something of the sort and now people assume he is twelve.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:27 AM on June 30, 2011

I'm puzzled by the link to the article about Facebook making political dissidents use their real names. Why can't they create Facebook accounts with real-sounding pseudonyms?
posted by Pants McCracky at 10:27 AM on June 30, 2011

Years later, on AIM I was scaryr, 'cause maryr was taken.
posted by maryr at 10:27 AM on June 30, 2011

The best part about working any kind of HR/hiring job is seeing what email addresses people put on their resumes.

On FetLife and in the "scene" people rename themselves all the time. I personally go for something more gender neutral and a bit less common than my actual name. Some people go for Goddess Doom or SissyXBottoms and I'm sure it helps them get into that identity,
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:27 AM on June 30, 2011

Also: I don't have a lot of enemies on the internet, but I'm willing to bet that these people hate me. (I was online first, though.)
posted by ColdChef at 10:27 AM on June 30, 2011

Actually, no, I tell a lie. My first "online handle" was "Bo Jangles". That was in high school, a boarding school up in the mountains in SoCal. We weren't really "online" as such, but one of the students had, back at home, recently got into this thing called a "BBS" and was very hip, tech-speaking. Not tech enough to "hack" a phone line for BBS access (our only phones in the school were pay phones, one in each dorm building), but he turned his computer (I don't recall the type but it was about on a par with a Tandy box) into a BBS, of sorts. You "logged on" by going around to his dorm room window, popping it open, leaning in, and pulling the screen and keyboard around to face you (when he was out, of course). We posted on message boards, played a silly RPG-type game, and played a variant of Nettrek. Sometimes there was a short queue; me or my roommate lolling on the steps in the afternoon sunshine, waiting while one or the other of us leaned in the window to frantically tap and then quick ducking out going "Look what I wrote! Look what I wrote!". Hurrying down in the rain after classes to see who else had been there while we were gone, and what they had written. There were only about six of us posting and we were all friends who spent plenty of time together in the real world, in class or the lunchroom or bothering the horses in the meadow, but something about the words on the glowy screen was fascinating, even then, and I could pretend to play a bohemian hippy-bard type instead of the mousy shy girl I was (and still am)
posted by The otter lady at 10:27 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

handle? not brave enough to personally stand behind your words?
posted by jkaczor at 10:28 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Thanatos". I blame Piers Anthony. I blame the fact that I was 13 for being into Piers Anthony. Wait, that's not enough; I need something else to blame for that. My parents! I blame them, somehow.

You certainly didn't ask to be born!
posted by grubi at 10:29 AM on June 30, 2011

I was playing Faceball 2000 on the Super Nintendo in the early 90s, and when it prompted me to enter a name I had a whim to put something in that would be overly complicated and unpronounceable, so "ANAZGNOS 9" it was. I don't know why the name kept kicking around in my head, but when it came time to sign up for Hotmail years later, anazgnos it was, and so on into the future it became an all-purpose pseudonym both off and online. I like that it's not a reference to anything or stuck to any particular place or time, it's just a different name I have in addition to my regular one.
posted by anazgnos at 10:29 AM on June 30, 2011

handle? not brave enough to personally stand behind your words?

Sooo.. yours is Trollin, then? Come on now, why you gotta hate like that?
posted by cavalier at 10:31 AM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

Add mine to the somewhat embarrassing list - ashirys was the name of my Everquest druid that I played the most. I don't know why I started using it on the internet, but I did.

I used to go by Windsong on The Sierra Network, way back when, mostly because I was completely enamored with Mercedes Lackey's Hawkbrother people. I would roleplay in one of the Red Dragon Inn channels as a sentient magical hawk. Kinda lame, but that's just the kind of kid I was.
posted by ashirys at 10:31 AM on June 30, 2011

If I ever use 69 at the end of a username, it's because I was born in 1969. And I like oral sex.

"Yeah, was already taken, so I had to add the 69."
posted by stroke_count at 10:31 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

So how many people, before commenting in here, just Googled their own first screen name to see whether anything embarrassing was still around?

This isn't my first online handle, but it's a derivation of it that I've used for many, many years now. When I made my first AOL name, I was looking at a book of Poe short stories.
posted by penduluum at 10:32 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I got my first online handle from my 3rd grade gym teacher, before moving onto FinishHim and then FinishHimX on AOL, which still show up in searches. It was based on my last name, and now my mom uses a variation of it. How embarrassing!
posted by mkb at 10:32 AM on June 30, 2011

The question now is if you've been using the same handle for 17+ years, how do you start over with a name you prefer? And still link it to the old one?
posted by grubi at 10:33 AM on June 30, 2011

Heh. Afroblanco was an appropriate handle for me ... back when I had an afro ... in 2004 ...

posted by Afroblanco at 10:33 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

So how many people, before commenting in here, just Googled their own first screen name to see whether anything embarrassing was still around?

Yep! Found an 8-year old journal. It was somehow heartening to be able to go "Oh thank god I've advanced as a human being in some way cause daaaaaang this is dumb."
posted by The Whelk at 10:34 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Animal Mother" is also my favorite handle for when I play first person shooters.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 10:34 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

I loved going over resumes when I worked at an employment agency.

Why yes, I would like to turn over my company's financial well-being to someone who identifies as bad, wild, or crazy! Fuck those uptight accountant types! I demand someone who likes to party!
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:34 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

"Animal Mother" is also my favorite handle for when I play first person shooters.

My response to that is don't get between a dog and his meat.
posted by grubi at 10:35 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

The best part about working any kind of HR/hiring job is seeing what email addresses people put on their resumes.

When my wife and I were shopping for houses one (male) real estate agent handed me his business card, which had an email address something along the liines of "", which is fine, I suppose, but on your goddamn real estate business card?

Most of my early handles were just first initial + last name until the day I realized this stuff lasts forever and will come back to haunt me. I pray nobody ever digs up the posts I made to rec.pets.cats that were written from my cat's point of view.

There should be some sort of ritual performed in our early twenties, like first communion or a bar mitzvah, when everything we've done on-line up until then gets purged. Maybe this ritual should happen every ten years or so.
posted by bondcliff at 10:35 AM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

My first online handle, such as it was, was what I chose for my first hotmail account -- jacquitequila.

The year before I started University, I did a student exchange in Brasil, where everyone called me "Jek" because that's the approximate Portuguese pronunciation of "Jacqui". When I'd been there for a few months, Skank came out with a single "Jackie Tequila" and finally, I was able to get people to pronounce my name right. I'd just tell them that it was "Jacqui, like Jackie Tequila!"

Since then, however, I've grown to own "Jacquilynne" in all its weirdly spelled glory, and to insist on people who meet me now calling me that. I also use it as a username on every internet site from here to timbuktu, and if I try to sign into a site where it's already taken, I just request a password reset, because most of the time, it turns out to have been taken by me some time in the past.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:35 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

I pick my nose more, now.

(but that's just because I can close my office door and really dig for those motherfuckers.)
posted by notsnot at 10:35 AM on June 30, 2011

Mine was Red5, back in 1996. I thought it was super nifty until the owner of a fan fiction discussion forum got annoyed with me accidentally treble-posting something and made some sneery comment about creating work that 'us REAL people have to clear up'. I was sixteen and new to the Internet, but even then it struck me as unlikely that her real name was Symphony Belle.

After that I switched to using my real name for arguing in atheism and creation-vs-evolution debates, which lasted about six months until one supposedly enlightened rationalist too many made a joke about me sitting on their knee, and I realised why women tend to use pseudonyms.
posted by Catseye at 10:36 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh god, I was going to share my first handle when I realized that the first thing it takes you to is my oh-so insightful blog from late high school early college. I thought my writing was SO AWESOME. Now I sort of just shudder.

(To be fair, there are a couple decent short stories in there....)
posted by chatongriffes at 10:37 AM on June 30, 2011

I'm puzzled by the link to the article about Facebook making political dissidents use their real names. Why can't they create Facebook accounts with real-sounding pseudonyms?

What if a person with that actual name gets arrested and tortured? Real-sounding names come attached to real people.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:37 AM on June 30, 2011

I wanted a "cool" email when I signed up for my email account in college. I must have been reading Slaughterhouse 5 at the time and mis-spelled Dresden. There was no way I could change it, so I've owned it as my internet identity.

So far as I know, there are no other drezdns on the net.

Other possible interpretations:

I'm Dr. EZ Den
or Andre Zaden
posted by drezdn at 10:38 AM on June 30, 2011

It was 1995 on a local MajorBBS; I was 18 and the handle JediChick.

I'm still not sure why...
posted by elsietheeel at 10:39 AM on June 30, 2011

My waist has expanded considerably since taking this username.
posted by dirigibleman at 10:41 AM on June 30, 2011

My first user name I just flat out stole from a real life friend. Later, when we wound up in the same Star Wars related gaming league, he was pretty pissed. Man, there's literally nothing in those sentences I wouldn't take back.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:41 AM on June 30, 2011 [4 favorites]

I went through a period of looking up anagrams of my own and friends' names using the Internet Anagram Server. It was always interesting to see where the possible groups of words made from the letters in one's name had meaning (usually silly, sometimes embarrassing or bizarre). For my name "filmgoerjuan" made sense to me as I was an avid cinephile -- although I often get asked if I'm Latino as people tend to focus on the "juan" part.

Also, the other results like "majorfueling" and "frogmanjulie" just didn't seem to fit.
posted by filmgoerjuan at 10:43 AM on June 30, 2011

I stole R. Mutt. Seemed like a good idea at the time.
posted by R. Mutt at 10:43 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

A kind person told me in 1995 that young girls shouldn't use their real names on these new Internet thingers because Bad Men will find you and rape you.

So I used Cyberpixie instead. It was a confusing, yet oddly enlightening few weeks.

Then I used Eris for a while, but I spelled it er|s cause that's more chaotic. I hadn't found out about discordians.

Then I used Pyrella (like Vampirella, only sneaky, yeah!) but most folk assumed I burned things for fun.

Jilder is a chopped up version of my given name. It's a mid ranking surname in Sweden, apparently. I've used it for oh, twelve years now? I've thought about changing it, but in my scene there are people who only know me as Jilder, so it would be a well sharp moment of disassociation.

But I don't mind who Jilder has become. I worked damn hard on her.
posted by Jilder at 10:44 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

So how many people, before commenting in here, just Googled their own first screen name to see whether anything embarrassing was still around?

Oh man. My old AOL screen name leads directly back to my high-school punk band. Would you look at that.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:44 AM on June 30, 2011

I would love too, link?
posted by The Whelk at 10:45 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am thankful that I spent most of my time on irc. No records, baby, can't prove nothing.
posted by Jilder at 10:45 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by Ardiril at 10:47 AM on June 30, 2011

Ah, wait. No. My first handle was Gern Blansden, itself taken from a Steve Martin routine. And I gave myself a full title: Gern Blansden the Magic Love Cube. Oh, IRC, such memories.
posted by grubi at 10:47 AM on June 30, 2011

In case you were wondering like I was.

Heh. Let's see if nomisixid shows up in this thread. He has a pic of me from that era, standing atop of the Space Needle. It's pretty epic.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:47 AM on June 30, 2011

It's a long story, but what the heck.

Way back when Delphi was teh hotness, I was.... mikelieman

Then Rupert-Fucking-Murdoch got involved and fucked everything up. So I started looking into alternatives...

700123,3256 ?


Calling around, I found a local ISP ( remember them? ) called and after a 2 minute discussion with their engineer, he had created me a 'mikelieman' email alias for the actual shell account ( remember them? ) and we were rocking and rolling.

By the time the rest of the world caught up, going over 8 characters wasn't a showstopper anymore.

Oh, yeah... Get off my lawn!
posted by mikelieman at 10:48 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

My first online handle was chosen for me by the Greater New Orleans Freenet*, and was "seh01"... my initials followed by 01, as I was the first account with those initials. My dad had an "02".

Later on, I joined up with a BBS that was popular at my high school, and called myself "The Gimpchild" or something like that. A friend of mine had a toy "Eeyore" that was broken and made a sad, creepy groan when you squeezed it, which she described as "gimpy". We made up a fake religion called "Gimpitarianism" around this toy. Oh, yes. We were quite clever.

For a while there, I didn't display much creativity in my usernames: just variations on my real name.

I think I first chose brundlefly when I signed up for GMail, and it's quickly become my default. I think I'll stick with it. For the record, it's from here.

* Free, text-only internet access.
posted by brundlefly at 10:52 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

When people ask for my email address, my fiancée butts in and gives hers instead out of secondhand shame. (My address is just like my MeFi handle.)
posted by spamguy at 10:52 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have always thought the idea that certain numbers have a special significance to be ridiculous, like, you're are cheating fate by not labelling the 13th floor of a building as 13. My parents bought a piece of land in northern Ontario to build a cottage on - it's a great spot for a cottage because there is this big piece of rock rising out of the lake that the cottage is perched on. The people in the cottage next door wanted to buy that piece of land, but were afraid to because it was lot 13! However, the career I ended up in is all about numbers - all the variables I enter into the program I use are expressed in digits and graphs. I found that I could work a lot faster if instead of thinking about each value I would enter and deciding on the perfect amount, I just use whatever is closest in a set list of digits. Say I want something to be about 2/3 transparent - I'll type in 69, and move on to the next variable. So now, despite the fact that I never wanted to find particular numbers important, I have this list of numbers that are hugely important to me because they speed up my work so much. I can't imagine what people think when they open up my setups though, and find them peppered with 69's.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 10:53 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I opted for this guy as a handle. For a while, I also went by William-Henry Ireland, but quickly abandoned him in favor of TJW.
posted by thomas j wise at 10:55 AM on June 30, 2011

I was always too dumb for a handle.
posted by dominik at 10:56 AM on June 30, 2011

Mine was EdwinBooth, after a great uncle (several times over) of mine. I figured it was better than appropriating the name of his brother.
posted by jscalzi at 10:56 AM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

I actually started out using my real name, I guess because I'm kind of a narcissist, posting back in the 90s on what was then a very active and entertaining climbing bulletin board. Then, one day, I wrote something, that turned out to be completely, utterly untrue, about a fairly well-known climber (now climbing media mogul) with whom I'd worked briefly. He got wind of this (what I'd said was just so stupid) and responded in kind, and that's when I decided I'd better hide behind a pseudonym. 'Flashman' because in climbing to 'flash' a route means to climb it first go, with no falls, and also because the character is sort of a hero of mine and it seemed to go with my boorish online(?) persona (I also used 'Tom Brown' as a sock puppet foil).
Anyway, for lack of imagination I guess I've always stuck with the name, and was sort of surprised to learn that there were other people out there also familiar with the work of G MacDonald Fraser. So I kind of wish I could have come up with something original, but I guess I'm stuck with this now, at least for as long as the interent is still a thing.
posted by Flashman at 10:58 AM on June 30, 2011

This is my first screenname. I've had it since I was eleven.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:58 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Heh, amusing, I was just writing in a letter (yes, paper) to a penfriend (yes, postal service) last weekend that if I'd known the name I chose to pick up guys in German chatrooms in the mid 90es would still be with me 15 years later, I might have given it more thought.

But geez I'm relieved now to be Clarissa and not Carmilla or Lilith or whatever else 19-year old me would've gone for.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 10:59 AM on June 30, 2011

Was reading "Foucault's Pendulum" when I signed up for 'The Transom' back in the very early 90's: kind of a text-browser, proto-aol super-bbs. Used my name for a while after that, but re-used Umberto when I got heavily into OMM/quake late nineties. (Yo Ryvar!) Been using it ever since.
posted by umberto at 10:59 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

The very first BBS I used to hang out on I went with "cyrano" for no real reason other than I kinda liked the sound of it.

One guy on there had a numerical (mostly numerical?) handle. I asked him once what it was. In a private message, he disclosed that he really shouldn't be using it as a handle, because it was his FBI field agent number.

These days I'm happy I went with something else when signing up here, but to be honest if I had to do it all over again I'd go with "fornix".
posted by caution live frogs at 10:59 AM on June 30, 2011

This used to be on my profile to explain that I wasn't as rude as it seemed, but I gave up on it as a "You had to be there" sort of thing and when I realized I didn't care. Anyways, "yerfatma" is the intersection of two things from college:

2. I was in school from '93-'97, so we got on the web fairly early and I was used to being able to reserve any username I felt like. Back then it was usually "Clash" or some variation on the band name. Until I tried to sign up for The New York Times to play the then-free crosswords. Nothing I used worked. Everything was taken, even obscure crap. Which led me to shout an expletive . . .

1. Well, not an expletive exactly. My roommate was a wonderful human being, but if he had one flaw, it was that he could not tell a story. Not to save his life, your mom's and some random dude who wandered in. Think of people hanging themselves during Airplane!. Like that. To make things worse, he knew it and tried to compensate with rhetorical questions to keep you involved. "Then guess who I saw?" Et cetera . . .

Our friend Brad, who was not a wonderful human being, but if he had one quality, it's that we got on well used to answer/ puncture every single rhetorical question with "Your fat mom?" (adding a generation for every succeeding rhetorical question, e.g., "Your fat ma's ma's ma's ma?") but with his accent (and the need for an online handle to not have spaces), it got corrupted a bit. It never seems to be used anywhere I go.
posted by yerfatma at 11:00 AM on June 30, 2011

The first few years I was online I created a unique name for every single group I joined or site I commented on. I wasn't hiding anything, so I'm not sure why I did that, other the enjoyment of creating new names. Almost all of the names were references to song lyrics. I finally realized the benefit of a single name and wanted something original that wouldn't get confused with other people (there were way too many other ThisIsPop's and Strych9's out there). Slack-a-gogo means nothing other than being two words I like that sounded good together.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 11:00 AM on June 30, 2011

Current handle explanation in profile.

I was [realname] until 1996, when my bunch of pathetic losers* got together in the PC and Mac lab at the Summer Residential Governor's School for Mathematics, Science and Technology. We played Duke Nukem 3D nearly non-stop for four weeks. My handle for a short while after that was Nuttcock. Oh, the shame.

*I say pathetic losers because even at a Governor's School for complete math and science geeks there was mad crazy getting it on... even the completely Asperger's girl hooked up with the super-chess guy... but we just had Dukematch after Dukematch. Christ, I think even the anime guy hooked up.
posted by infinitewindow at 11:01 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

When I first signed up for whatever online service, Aol probably, I had been writing 'Eat Dirt' on bathroom walls and stuff (ahh, youth) but someone had taken EatDirt. So, for whatever reason, I typed dirtdirt and that was that. This was 1997.

I like it OK, but had I know then how much identity I'd eventually have wrapped up in that name (long-standing domain name, email addresses, accounts on every site imaginable, the Meef, etc) I might have given it a second thought.

Now, though, I am growing a little wary because I am seeing hints that the term 'dirtdirt' is growing in certain communities to mean something like 'scumbag' or 'grub' about a woman, usually also indicating promiscuity. Nice. I guess I'll keep monitoring the situation.
posted by dirtdirt at 11:04 AM on June 30, 2011

I've had this for way too long and was going to ask someone if I could change it to lllxlxlxlll. my real name is bob
posted by lslelel at 11:05 AM on June 30, 2011

My handle backwards is somewhat related to my profession.
posted by Renoroc at 11:05 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

My firs handle was "Chickenmilk". When I signed up here, I decided to change it, and as it says in my profile:

MetaUser: Why the nickname?
BBB: Well, I saw nicknames like "Faint of Butt" and "If I Had An Anus" and "It's Raining Florence Henderson"....
MetaUser: So all the good ones were already taken?
BBB: Right
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 11:05 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

I dunno who nomisixid is, but I have this pic of afro, tagged with a snippet of his old BBS name. Annoying that I can't find the full-size version, only the thumbnail.
posted by nomisxid at 11:05 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

I went by Rydia in the 90s, when I was young and innocent and still knew how to use white magic.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:07 AM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

My first email name was "kinch," because I was majorly into James Joyce at the time. I eventually dropped it because most people who know me do not also read James Joyce, and thus they could never remember my email address.

And I'm still stuck with an AOL Instant Messenger screen name that involves my age at the time I signed up for it (28). I'd change it but I'm too lazy to go to the effort of informing my entire Buddy List.
posted by dnash at 11:08 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

My handle backwards is somewhat related to my profession.

You work as an eldnah ym?
posted by grubi at 11:09 AM on June 30, 2011

This is my first screename, with numbers dropped. (Which, I should point out, were not the year I was born, but the year my mother was born, as she made the original family AOL account.) I quite like it, aside from the fact people tend to misread it as 'holy land'.
posted by hoyland at 11:11 AM on June 30, 2011

My original online handle was "doormat".

Lets see: depressed, lonely, boring... yup!
posted by SirOmega at 11:11 AM on June 30, 2011

One of Douglas Rushkoff's tenets in his new book Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age is that the internet is biased towards anonymity. He therefore suggests to counter this by always being yourself.

This is counter to the main tenet I always used while forming an online identity, best illustrated in the New Yorker: on the internet, no one knows you're a dog. I have noticed that younger people don't value privacy online as much as my cohort does, and I wonder when there will be a backlash.

My first online handle on the local college BBS was taken from the Samurai Cat books by Mark Rogers. I am neither a feline nor Japanese. My most common user name is based on an MST3K episode, and this one is a mis-remembered quote from Blazing Saddles. Perhaps I should reregister as "Baby, please! I am not from Havana!"
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 11:11 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was a 12-year-old Elfquest fan when I first came up with my user name ... (it predated my Internet life but I was 14 when I was first online and I still liked it).

And then I just got stuck with it. I've slowly moved away from it over the years (although I never made much secret of my real name, even when I was younger and probably should have).

To me, it's just a name at this point and while if I could go back about 16-17 years and tell myself "yeah, maybe you should rethink that ..." I respect that it's a part of my history.

Or something.

Part of me likes the move away from anonymity but it also makes me think twice about what I say (more so than I used to -- oh, I know all those Usenet posts are still there. Thank you, Google Groups). I hope it doesn't make people less honest.
posted by darksong at 11:13 AM on June 30, 2011

Infini came from the 6 character limit on some stupid bar trivia game that first started in Pittsburgh at the Buffalo Bill's in Monroeville

a long time ago i was net-i-zen (or the zen of the net), this was in 1996, and no I was not 12, I was actually 30

*god I'm old*
posted by infini at 11:14 AM on June 30, 2011

Devils Rancher is my real name. I don't believe in pseudonyms at all.

-Todd Lokken
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:16 AM on June 30, 2011 [5 favorites]

When I first got an Internet account, it was through university and therefore it was tied to my real name. So that means there are old Usenet posts from me on some hobby and pop culture groups. From the start I hated be so identifiable, but there was nothing I could do about it.

My next next account assigned a name to you (combination of letters and numbers) but it also tied the handle directly to your real user name. So again, there are old Usenet posts that can still be found with my real name attached to them. I still keep and use this account, but primarily only for listserv traffic. While I'm not a frequent poster, anybody doing a deep search of my name can find listserv posts that have been archived to the Internet proper. I'm still not really keen about this. I'm not thrilled my posts are up, but I can live with it, especially as my comments are pretty innocuous.

When various webmail applications finally came around, I was thrilled to be able to create a gender-neutral identity that wasn't tied directly to me. I prefer a non-female handle as I tend to hang around lots of male-dominated sites where women typically don't get much respect. I usually used that as a base (submit your e-mail address) when signing up for message boards and forums. Of course, I don't actually use that identity as my user name in those groups. I try to pick a name that is suitable for the forum and somehow reflects my position or interest in the community.

Mefi is slightly different. I wanted a simple user name. I liked the idea of sardonyx sounding something like sardonic. I actually really surprised myself that I tied my real first name to the account. That's a much deeper tie than I typically make when establishing a visible, public, online identity. I was really comfortable with that decision -- MeFi seems to promote a fairly respectful culture. At least that's what I believed until I got into my first MeFi tiff with another user, because the first thing he did was to go to my profile, I'm guessing try to dig up dirt about me and fling it in the thread. He did end up using my real name in the thread, I guess in some sort of attempt to intimidate or belittle me (not that he was successful). Very classy.

Mind you, I still feel MeFi overall is fairly respectful of its members. I just wish my view of the site hadn't been dampened at the first possible encounter.
posted by sardonyx at 11:17 AM on June 30, 2011

Yeah, and I'm whatsisname, Dilbert somebody Scott
posted by infini at 11:17 AM on June 30, 2011

army of kittens was my first real screen name; I joined mefi only about a year after I started using the internet for the first time. Fortunately for me, various other people have used the name since I stopped using it everywhere but here, so there's a nice buffer zone of random people between me and all the embarrassing old shit I used to put out.

When I joined chatrooms and the like I usually switched it round so it was kittenarmy, and because I was usually idling in at least one tranny chatroom it would get me a good twenty seconds of befuddled, "so, you're in the army then?" before Random Chaser Guy started sending me pictures of his cock.

The screen name I use now isn't much better. It's a rubbish half-joke no-one gets but I've got everything (except here) under that name now so I can't be bothered changing it.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 11:17 AM on June 30, 2011

I often wish I'd used a cool pseudonym instead of my last name (or at least capitalized it) when I joined MetaFilter because I'm sure a lot of people think my user name is some kind of statement about sexuality or drug use or something. That was back when I came up on the first page of a Google search for Michael Straight.

I should have used one of the great anagrams for my name like Magic Hitler Hats, Ethical Mirth Gas, Chili Hamster Tag, or "I'm chaste, alright."
posted by straight at 11:21 AM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

I've always liked my birthstone. This is the same handle I used in 6th grade for some game we were allowed to play on the computer. I didn't have a flair for pseudonyms at age 11 and I still don't have one. It worked well for usenet and my first non-college email account too. The perk? All those Russian bride sites make it hard to find me.

As for numbers, I occasionally use 2000 or 2K as part of my handle. Given the places I use that handle, I hope no one thinks that's my birth year as it'd be rather illegal for me to be there...
posted by bluesapphires at 11:22 AM on June 30, 2011

My first alias, back on the BBSes, was 'Scarecrow', because I was tall and skinny and, actually, that was my dad's CB handle in the seventies for the same reason. Eventually, I met my first wife, not through the BBSes, but her BBS name was 'Fire'. The Great and Powerful Oz was trying to give us clues about how well anything goes when you mix 'fire' with 'scarecrow'. I stopped using 'Scarecrow' when I got on the internet, because there was already a scarecrow everywhere else.

Also: my daughter came up with the awesomest online alias ever: Dizzy Dogsled. That's what her real name sounds like when she's mumbling. It's like she's a UPA cartoon character.
posted by AzraelBrown at 11:22 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

True story: this morning I received an email in reply to a house we are trying to rent out. The email handle? "foxybrown69"

To be fair, I still have an email address that proclaims my teenage love for They Might Be Giants and all things cephalopodlian.
posted by jillithd at 11:22 AM on June 30, 2011

My name comes from a comment the wife made when she and I were sharing a bath.

In retrospect, she probably meant "luge" or "skeleton", but I'm just going to leave the sordid specifics to your imagination.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 11:26 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I joined MeFi while still riding the high from getting this published. I've definitely learned to hate my username since then...
posted by COBRA! at 11:26 AM on June 30, 2011

I'm a baritone. Is my handle going to make my voice higher?
posted by madcaptenor at 11:30 AM on June 30, 2011

I don't remember my original "handles" but I didn't really get online until the mid 90s and I picked up immlass (explanation in my profile) not long afterwards. So I've been immlass almost everywhere for more than 10 years. It's also associated with my real name, under which I've been involved in several blogging ventures. So I'm pseudonymous, but the veil is pretty thin.

I was in my late 20s when I got online, so I was past the flush of really embarrassing possible nicknames. I shudder to think what I would have called myself if I'd picked my first handle at 14.
posted by immlass at 11:31 AM on June 30, 2011

I don't understand what the f is going on.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:32 AM on June 30, 2011

Do BBSes count? I was Loki. Then on AOL I was Luminatus, which got shortened to Lumin when I went to college.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:33 AM on June 30, 2011

My first screenname on Eworld was dominatrix. Man, that was a bad idea...

See, I really was pretty ignorant of the BDSM community then. A sub looking for a new mistress started pestering me. For fun (and because I honestly didn't think he would do it), I told the guy I'd accept him as a new client if he faxed me a photo of himself with a curling iron shoved up his... um.

Did I happen to mention I'd also just started my first hardcore, post-college corporate job at the same time? A place where women weren't allowed to wear pants, and I was expected to have on a suit and pantyhose

THANK GOD I sat right next to the fax machine. I disabled my account shortly thereafter, because man, Sub Dude's friends came a-calling, too.

I stand by my reasoning that a common noun is a great thing to have for a screen name if you can get it. It makes it pretty hard for people to know they've definitively found "you" without photos attached to that screen name as proof.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 11:34 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

I've done some terrifically embarrassing shit in my life, blessedly little of which is still extant online, but it all pales in comparison to the handle I picked for the GeoCities chat rooms in 1996, when I'd just turned 12 years old:



(As for Zozo, it's not a Led Zeppelin reference, but an offline nickname a friend coined based off the kind of in-joke that's as tedious to tell as it is to hear. I like it. The Z adds mystery.)
posted by Zozo at 11:35 AM on June 30, 2011

My handle has always been "marssaxman", except when it's "MarsSaxman" or "Mars Saxman".

I started out with a different name, then my BBS persona took over the rest of my life, and now I'm all Mars all the time.

on preview: eworld!? I thought I was the only person left who remembered that. I was "MarsSaxman" there too, of course.
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:35 AM on June 30, 2011

On my profile, it says, "Why 'Peach?' It's a tag to remind me that nobody needs to know everything about me, especially online." The name comes from a poem I read once, that I can't find again, and its connotations are really filthy. Or maybe not. Maybe it's because I'm not from Georgia. Or maybe it's a nickname I had as a child. I'm not telling.

My first handle, on CompuServe, was a nonsense word I made up. People kept asking me for definitions, and I provided a different one every time. When someone else on the forum started calling herself by that name, I knew it was time to get out.

Yes, I have noticed lately that many of the places where I hang out seem to treat handles with suspicion, as if you are hiding something by not using your full name. I dunno, to me, it seems like waltzing into a train station and giving everyone in sight your Social Security Number.
posted by Peach at 11:39 AM on June 30, 2011

Mars, yes, I had to look it up myself just to make sure I remembered correctly. It was a real HAWTALTA moment.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 11:39 AM on June 30, 2011

eWorld! That's where my handle started. Right after AppleLink. And before IRC.

I'm dating myself. Please don't stare.
posted by hal9k at 11:39 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Okay, this is a long story, but I don't have anything else I WANT to do today...

"Wendell" predated the Internet by more than a decade. When I was growing up in the '60s, I wasn't happy with my given name "Craig" (back then, there was no Craigslist, the Late Late Show was showing old movies and Sean Connery was James Bond... the only thing close to it in the media was a puppet vulture on Walker Edmiston's kid show named R. Crag Ravenswood) and when I told my parents, my father replied that if he'd had a couple more gin and tonics the night I was born, he'd have named me Wendell (embellishing with a tacky German accent "little Vendell Vittler"). He didn't realize I'd actually like the name.

When I was in college in the 70s, I was trying to break into radio. The cool college radio kids thought Wendell Wittler was an even worse radio name than Craig Wittler, but there were several talk shows on L.A. radio that didn't do politics or sports, they were just kind of fun, chatty shows and some of them even attracted younger listeners and participants. So I thought Wendell was a more fun and more memorable name, so I started calling the shows as Wendell. One in particular, Dick Whittington, really encouraged my participation, but after I had called almost every day for over a month, I got cocky and asked if I could have my calls prioritized so I wouldn't have to wait on Hold for so long. His evil-genius response was to make a joke of interrupting me mid-call to put me "back on hold" and come back to me later - repeatedly. (He even called ME back to continue the joke.) At the end of the show he apologized I hadn't gotten to finish and asked me to stay on hold until tomorrow's show. I was game - I agreed. A few hours later, another talk show host referred to "Wendell's still on hold for Dick's show" and a running joke was born that led to a "KEEP AMERICA BEAUTIFUL, KEEP WENDELL ON HOLD" t-shirt and my first professional radio job... screening the phones for a weekend show on the same station. Then when Whittington changed stations and couldn't bring his Assistant/Sidekick with him, guess who got that gig? Not Craig, Wendell.

My radio career was short-lived and ended at a Fresno-area automated station where I went back to Craig (because it didn't deserve Wendell), but I continued writing jokes for disc jockeys (including Laugh-In's Gary Owens) using a newsletter format titled "Wendell's Weakly". But any other writing work I did was as Craig L. Wittler, until the Internet gave me an opportunity to do some stuff I considered comparable to calling those wacky radio shows in college. So, whenever possible, I'd grab Wendell if it was available (like at the early days of MeFi), WendellWit (for Wittler, not because I consider myself so witty) if not.

But when this blogging thing started, I wanted to register a site name that wasn't my name. One of my annoying catchphrases had become saying "one swell foop" instead of "one fell swoop" (which I was already saying much too often) and, after asking my wife if it sounded too 'gay', I got in 1999 on which I blogged as Wendell Wittler. At one point, I spent some time penniless and internet-less, during which I failed to renew the domain (and haven't gotten it back since), but when I had some money (and domain reg prices dropped from $40 to $10) I got instead, as well as, and When MeFi opened up the $5 registrations, I got the 'second account' oneswellfoop, to throw a few bucks Matt's way and ensure that nobody else used it. When MeFi's Own GaelFC started as an editor for's entertainment section, I sold her some articles and insisted I use my 'online alias' as my byline (which wasn't easy, thanks, Gael). When the .me domains opened up, I got (surprised nobody beat me to it) and started blogging there.

But in the fall of 2009, I realized that Craig was now cooler than Wendell and closed my blog and disabled my wendell account in favor of this one. I'm considering blogging again using the domain (tagline: No List, No Late Late Show, No License to Kill) but then, Wendell has always been a glutton for punishment.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:49 AM on June 30, 2011 [5 favorites]

Umm... because dances with sneetches is the name the tribal elders gave me?
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 11:49 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yes, I have noticed lately that many of the places where I hang out seem to treat handles with suspicion, as if you are hiding something by not using your full name.

Yeah, today's newbies don't seem to separate online-life from offline-life like we used to do back in the BBS days. Back then I remember it felt like we weren't wiring up the world so much as we were building a whole new "virtual world"... all that pop-culture stuff about virtual reality and cyberspace and whatnot came out of that attitude. So of course you wouldn't drag an offline identity into the new world - what good could that do?
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:52 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

SPrintF: I output formatted strings. For all you know, I'm Watson.
posted by SPrintF at 11:52 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

My first internet handle was Harlequin (after the demon), and eventually that got shortened to 'quin and even more so to just quin.

I've been using it for so long (more than 15 years now!) it's just an extension of who I am; a sort of dirtier, more clever version of the me in the real world.

Sadly, it makes vanity searches virtually impossible, but in a way, that's probably a good thing, because the last thing I need is some kind of ego feeding.
posted by quin at 11:53 AM on June 30, 2011

So how many people, before commenting in here, just Googled their own first screen name to see whether anything embarrassing was still around?


My first handle was jessikins (a real life nickname given to me by a high school friend), but pretty quickly as I moved to new platforms I amended it to jessikins4774 since usually some other Jessica had got there before me. The 4774 came from when I was signing up for my first Geocities page. Remember when you had a "neighborhood" and then a number? Mine was 4774.
posted by marginaliana at 11:55 AM on June 30, 2011

I was Rumpleforeskin for many years. Obviously not because I had a tiny head or anything, but in homage to a Toronto punk band.
posted by Rumple at 11:56 AM on June 30, 2011

My wife and I have gotten email from literally hundreds of strangers in the last year and a half. It's hilarious when someone gives me her life story, full of personal details about her love and commitment and passion and all that, then signs it "bigsexi69" or something.

no, I don't particularly like Moon Pies
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:56 AM on June 30, 2011

My first online community was, of all things, the Xena, Warrior Princess netforum.

I know, I know, but it was actually a pretty good introduction to the online world, all things considered. Full of intelligent, strong-minded women, and a good lesson in how to deal with religion- and sexuality- based trolls.

A lot of permutations of Athena were already taken, of course, but not this one. She's always been my favourite goddess. Becoming more like her would be excellent! Olives, owls and hacked-off Gorgon heads for everyone.
posted by Pallas Athena at 11:59 AM on June 30, 2011

I once got an email inquiring about Graduate School from an email address "crackwhoresister@___"

Which I was cool with until it occurred to me she might be using her sister's email.
posted by Rumple at 12:02 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Well, shit... I think my first username was schoolbus.

That came about because I was falling asleep taking a nap one day around noon. And PBS was on in the background. I liked to watch sesame street at the ripe old age of 18 or 19, ya see... And Mr Rogers came on next, and as I was drifting off, the kindly old St. Rogers said something about a friend coming to visit and I misheard the name as "Schoolbus" I don't know why. But it triggered a bemused thought in my head and as I pondered the sound of the phrase "Schoolbus Elliot" I decided that I was going to name my child Schoolbus (mind you, this was before all the celebrities started doing stupid names for their kids and people weren't naming their children after Champagne and Rolex). This would have been around 1995 or so.

So I chose that. If you know the right email addresses you can find my old posts (*cough*anime, xian music, pot, reggae, libertarianism, programming*cough* LOLOLOL)

My second name after moving was kingalfor, named after the King of Planet Arus on Voltron. I believe that was the last address I was updating my geocities page with. It was also the last bit of dialup for me.

Then I got cable internet :) And eventually after getting into pantheism and trying to merge my growing appreciation of nature and away from my technophiliac/transhuman/extropian ideology, I wanted a name that signified a unity of tech and bio, so ... symbioid it was. It was unique (the only thing I found was in some Quake 2 mod)... Ultimately in the late 00s some death metal band from like spain or portugal came out with that name, which sucks. But I still have the history online of it :)

When I first started to make music I went with the name ShivaCorp, but then ended up going w/symbioid as well... Shivacorp may have been an in between name, and when I saw there was a corporation with that name might have been why I switched...

That said, one of the purposes of the name Symbioid was for music and now that there's another group using it, I have to find another. So one tentative name I've used now is Syzygote.

That's the latest most unique name I can think of - currently it's only used in my reddit account, but I think that may be the name I release any music under if I ever do.

And that's the story of my online identities.
posted by symbioid at 12:06 PM on June 30, 2011

When I was around 12 or 13, I was really into TMNT, so my handle on St. Louis BBSes was simply TURTLE. After a few months in that world, I became a pretty good ANSI artist using TheDraw, and made a 4 or 5 line ANSI sig that parodied the TMNT logo, of which I was very proud, though in hindsight, it was probably a bit large.

And I don't find that handle embarrassing in the least, because TMNT are awesome.
posted by mysterpigg at 12:10 PM on June 30, 2011

My first handle was "Redhall." I was 13, and a super creative/daydreamy type of kid, with half-baked ideas that became obsessions for about five minutes before I moved onto something else. I had at one point had a dream about creating a big music and film festival, which in my dream was called the Redhall Festival for some reason. That just happened to be in my head when I got AOL, and so that was what I was known as until I was, like, 21. And of course I had to explain it every damn time I gave my email to someone, this strange, tedious, non-relatable story that still didn't do a damn thing to explain where that random collection of letters came from. I learned from a young age, I guess, that "weird" does not necessarily lead to "interesting."

Then, for a while, I was Sickboy, a Trainspotting reference which also required explanation more often than not. But at least at that time the full email was "" so at least I was also pissing people off with that.

When I got into blogs I was Pascal's Bookie, which is a pretty obvious reference that I thought I was so damn clever for coming up with, but thankfully I wasn't nearly as original as I thought so a google search brings up a lot of other people before me.

But it's been Navelgazer for a long time now. That's the only identity I've really cared about maintaining in any real way. At the time I liked the sound of the word and thought it'd be appropriately self-effacing for the internet. Nowadays it seems more sophomoric than I'd like. I have a dusty old sockpuppet languishing in a drawer somewhere whose name I greatly prefer, but if people know me online at all it's via this name, so I guess I'm keeping it.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:16 PM on June 30, 2011

I'm Mister Moofoo online and off.
Anonymity, schmanonymity.
I use a few other names, here and there; I had GunzaBlazn as an AOL sockpuppet for a while, for when I didn't want to use mistermoofoo, or permutations thereof. Gunz was from a comic book idea my at-the-time roommate and I had.
That was, like, '97ish.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 12:16 PM on June 30, 2011

mccarty.tim: "Digidude. I liked Digimon, and I was male.

Now you all know how late I was to this whole internet party.

Digimon is sooooooooo much better than that shite pokemon!
posted by symbioid at 12:18 PM on June 30, 2011

You have no idea at how many laughs you can get from spiking peoples' drinks with 1-molar citric acid solution.

Oh, who am I kidding? This is MeFi. OF COURSE you know how hilarious that is! :)
posted by Citrus at 12:19 PM on June 30, 2011

I just googled my old AOL name, which apparently I used web-wide. Makeoutclub still exists?!
posted by juniper at 12:22 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm so glad my original, lame BBS handle from the 80s is too common to Google. I think I've been Joan Arkham since at least 199...2? It just sort of came to me during a Subgenius Devival.
posted by JoanArkham at 12:23 PM on June 30, 2011

I've had a few different handles in the past. IRC was a grand place to be... some corners still are. There was a time I would have emigrated to Australia. Good times... good times.

Some I remember, some I chose to forget. One or two are still active. Most especially this one. I think it describes me best.

Just another program, cycling for CPU.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 12:24 PM on June 30, 2011

thegreatbigmulp was the AOL handle I came up with one day at work. I was also the only one in the office that day, and I'd dropped a few tabs of LSD before heading into work that day. If I recall correctly, I also brought a few instruments with me and a four-track, spending most of the workday making short songs, most (if not all) of which are now lost.

Years later, someone told me that a "mulp" sounds like something orange and fuzzy -- it was only then that I realized it's "plum" spelled backwards.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 12:27 PM on June 30, 2011

It replaced my previous screenname "vorticon". It took several years for me to realize that Vorticons were among the enemies in the Commander Keen series.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 12:32 PM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

jkaczor: handle? not brave enough to personally stand behind your words?

On the internet, nobody knows you('re a dog)
posted by filthy light thief at 12:32 PM on June 30, 2011

i picked my name because im a big dumb idiot. look at me, look at the idiot.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 12:40 PM on June 30, 2011

clvrmnky == Clever Monkey, which is sort of what I am: a person with a long history of general hackery (I not only remember 300 baud, I understand what baud really means) usually, but not limited to, based on interest in computers, electronics, radio and code; a code monkey.

Code Monkey was too specific, so Clever Monkey was more appropriate.

clvrmnky is the same thing, only made to fit a standard Unix login character limit.

Now you know.
posted by clvrmnky at 12:41 PM on June 30, 2011

My first internet handle (from like, fifteen years ago) was x_13 (because "x" is a cool letter, and "13" is a cool number). I've done some Google and Yahoo! searches to see if there's any record of me having used this handle, and there is none. Probably because I just hung out in chat rooms at that time. Does anyone remember TalkCity? They don't even have a Wikipedia article! Anyway, I didn't use it for very long. Up until 2008 or so, I cycled through internet handles fairly regularly. Now, I usually just use my first or last name because I'm lazy. It's usually pretty hard getting my last name on websites, though, because of a certain video game franchise. Kind of infuriates me when some teenage girl takes it because the protagonist has the "buff spikes chllin' on top of his melon" or whatever it is teenage girls say.
posted by Redfield at 12:41 PM on June 30, 2011

I think I need a sockpuppet.
posted by Sk4n at 12:42 PM on June 30, 2011

Because I'm twisted.

Not really, I just like that poem.
posted by Eyebeams at 12:42 PM on June 30, 2011

I created an entirely new handle for Metafilter. I have a parakeet and a dog, so I just put the words together.

I still use my original handle I picked when I was 14 for my first account on AOL and then used for years on a BBS. Now, it's intrinsically connected with my real name, so when I want to remain anonymous, I make up new handles. My last name is so rare, that I rarely give out my long-used handle anymore.
posted by parakeetdog at 12:54 PM on June 30, 2011

Does anyone remember TalkCity? They don't even have a Wikipedia article!

whoa. another take-me-back. Yeah, I remember Talk City - it was founded by eWorld refugees. I made a (thin) living policing chat rooms there for a while. In fact I designed their first logo - the crappy one, with the big microphone.

I was "MarsSaxman" there too, of course, except when I was "MarsCCC" aka boring chat cop.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:57 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

The question now is if you've been using the same handle for 17+ years, how do you start over with a name you prefer? And still link it to the old one?

Well, now the first question is answered. (I'm grubi on a new account.)

The second question's a little tougher.
posted by eoden at 1:03 PM on June 30, 2011

I had a conversation a while back with a bunch of late-teens/early 20s people (so we would have been kids getting on AOL in the late 90s) and we all basically agreed that if someone doesn't have an embarassing handle or email address from when they were little you can't trust them.
posted by vogon_poet at 1:05 PM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

"Killdevil" got picked by preadolescent me at some point after a visit to Killdevil Hills, where the Wright Bros. got their plane off the ground (oh-so-briefly) for the first time. I first used it on Netcom to make many, many stupid Usenet posts about bicycles.
posted by killdevil at 1:19 PM on June 30, 2011

Named by my oldest friend Phil - with whom I share a love of 70s roots reggae - in a satirical / punning allusion to the mighty Prince Far I, the Voice of Thunder. I am not worthy, except by virtue of laziness.
posted by Prince Lazy I at 1:21 PM on June 30, 2011

Mitheral is my first internet handle. I'd previously used Mongoose as a CB handle and some of my early activity on BBSes used that but name collisions were common so the first time I signed up for a pirate BBS I used this as it sounded hackerish and was only eight character and have been using it pretty well exclusively ever since.

I prefer to use my handle on line because y real name is unfortunately stereotypical geek/nerd like Urkel or Eugene (no offence intended to Urkels and Eugenes of the world). In fact my real name may be the definitive nerd name. So even when sites require a "Real Name" I just make something up unless the site someway involves real life meet ups. Never a problem as long as the name only contains characters and is pronounceable. Though I got called once on using the name Robert Bobby despite that being the actual name of numerous people.
posted by Mitheral at 1:24 PM on June 30, 2011

My first on-line name was Greye; I was feeling bleak because I was going through a divorce (and I've always preferred the British spelling of grey.) My future husband met me as Greye and later he told me he always assumed I had chosen that name because I have green eyes. Needless to say I stopped being Greye at some point...

I don't see how I am going to become more secretive or gravy-like.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 1:26 PM on June 30, 2011

My first online handle was TentativeOtters, on a Scott Thompson fan site. It was supposed to be VicariousOtters as some kind of riff on the phrase "various others", which I thought was BLINDINGLY clever for some reason, but I couldn't think of the word "vicarious" when I was signing up.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:30 PM on June 30, 2011

My first user name was ronoxQ, which stood for Ronox Quinnet, who was a D&D character I made but never played as but was awful fond of but who really was modeled after Kiros from Final Fantasy 8 because having swords on your hands was and is the coolest thing I can think of. A Google search for that name turns up about 4,000 results because I used the name for a good 5 years and I, unlike The Whelk, am not scared to show what my 13-through-17-year-old self was like. Though my old Tumblr blog got deleted and that's where all the really good stuff would've been, I'm sure.

Also back then I decided that my "real name" was going to be Ray Quincy so technically I was going by two pseudonyms at once.
posted by Rory Marinich at 1:41 PM on June 30, 2011

I'd like to offer a public "thank you" to MetaFilter user D.C. who found validation for my somewhat poor choice of names.
posted by ColdChef at 1:44 PM on June 30, 2011

(Googles old handle)

So yeah, I was BoiseNBerry. Intercaps and random word blending ahoy. emjaybee is boring, but less embarrassing. This thread is making me want to build a new handle, because ya'll have much more interesting stories. I suck at names.
posted by emjaybee at 1:46 PM on June 30, 2011

those who chose their handles or avatars lightly may ultimately suffer, since research suggests that you may become more like your avatar.

True in my case. The "throwaway joke" nature of my handle hasn't improved my snark-to-content ratio, despite choosing it as a reminder to ease up on the pretense. Or it could just be that names are chosen somewhat subconsciously.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 1:52 PM on June 30, 2011

I first got online in 1991 or so with PC Link, the PC version of Quantum Link I picked the nickname AUNTMARGE for some reason. I just thought the name was funny for some reason, because I was an 11 year old boy and "Aunt Marge" seemed like the total opposite of that.

Then I signed up for Delphi, where i used the nickname STARTREKKER. Because, uh, I liked Star Trek. I used the internet a little bit through Delphi but I don't think there's any record of it as I don't think I got to Usenet.

Meanwhile, I started calling up BBSes. I first used the name Corn Chip because it was funny or something. Then I settled on Bag of Flour. I thought it was absolutely hilarious, because bags of flour were the most boring thing I could come up with. I ran a BBS for a little bit but nobody called it because it wasn't up 24/7.

Then I started using the internet in earnest, borrowing my brother's girlfriend (now wife)'s university account. In January 1995, I had just gotten a Gravis Ultrasound for Christmas and I really wanted to get on IRC to discuss .MOD files, and BagOfFlour was too long for the 9-character nickname limit that IRC had at the time. So I had to think of a name. I had just finished reading a book about the Trinity Site nuclear explosion by a guy named Ferenc Morton Szasz. I though Szasz was a really awesome name, so I used that. But then I started getting messages for someone else using the same name, so I reversed the name to zsazS. Eventually I just made it zsazs.

One day I was signing up for a slashdot account and was about to make it zsazs. Then I thought it'd be funny if I added an a and made it zsazsa! I only have used that name on slashdot and MetaFilter, for some reason.

I also use the name polpo on most things, because it makes the same pattern on the keyboard when you type it as zsazs (try it!), and it's also an Italian word for octopus. This leads to hilarity as there's a restaurant in London named Polpo and people are always saying "OMG HAD A GREAT TIME @POLPO" on Twitter.
posted by zsazsa at 2:00 PM on June 30, 2011

Holy crap, I can't believe Makeoutclub still exists either! I went back and looked, sure that it was just hanging in the air, keeping folk's embarrassing pics available for all eternity. No one could still be contributing though! But, no! That dude is totally holding up a Four Loko! That's at least somewhat recent! Oh dear kiddos, you will live to regret this.

My first handle was fairiecat. Because faeriecat was already taken. And because I loved faeries and cats so much that any other name would have been unacceptable.
posted by troublewithwolves at 2:06 PM on June 30, 2011

I used the go by Harlock or The Pernod Kid, but I needed a quick name for a Quake deathmatch against a bunch of way, way better players, and kafkaes
posted by Kafkaesque at 2:09 PM on June 30, 2011

que seemed appropriate.
posted by Kafkaesque at 2:10 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Someone gave me this unused account with this name around April 2004 - I'm Tom Swirly everywhere else, and what's really sort of fun is that a lot of people in the real world only know me as Tom Swirly and not by my real time.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:13 PM on June 30, 2011

Way back in the days of BBSes, I was Major Havoc, after my favorite arcade game of all time. That was around '94, so I would've been almost 30.

After my first son was born, I wanted a new alias in his honor. His name starts with "Q" and I was his dad, so I was going to go with "theQdad". But, I thought that lacked something, so I decided to go with the Spanish article and went with "elquedad". That was in 2000. Right after 911, I decided it wouldn't be such a good idea to have a handle that close to "al-queda" (as it was being spelled by some of the press back then). I wonder how many watch lists I got onto.
posted by qldaddy at 2:19 PM on June 30, 2011

My first online name was workerant. I picked it because at the time I was an undergrad at a land-grant university and felt, well, like a worker ant. I kept it while working a string of interchangeable-parts jobs and continued feeling like a worker ant. Then I went on to higher-paid corporate consulting gigs and still felt like a worker ant. Now I own my own business and am not in any sense a worker ant, but by now it's stuck.
posted by workerant at 2:30 PM on June 30, 2011

I was young and impressionable and had fairly recently seen the movie Sleepers, in which a mysterious mob boss known only as King Benny is obliquely referred to a few times but never actually shown (as I recall). I'm very unproud of it now, because come on. King of what, the d-bags maybe.
posted by kingbenny at 2:40 PM on June 30, 2011

This pretty much is my first online name--I started using it in 1992, when I first discovered dial-up BBSs (and yes, you kids can all get the hell off my lawn). I was very much into Warren Zevon at the time, and his album of the same name had come out recently. The title track was about a devious and smooth con man, the kind of cool bad-boy character 21-year-old me desperately wanted to here we are.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 2:44 PM on June 30, 2011

Someday, by all that's holy, I will live on top of Manhattan Chase.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:53 PM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

I use "Anonymous" as a username some places online. People get weirdly enraged about it sometimes, even when it's functionally just a pseudonym like any other one, with a trackable history. I'd never have predicted it, but it definitely triggers a very different reaction from other pseudonyms.
posted by RogerB at 2:54 PM on June 30, 2011

Good one Jack! I never put it together until now.

I used my real name everywhere until 2005, when I ticked off a very troubled and dangerous Vietnam Vet.

I re-registered everywhere as Mr. Yuck because it makes people laugh and was available everywhere I wanted to be.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 2:54 PM on June 30, 2011

My AOL handle was NinjYoda64, because I was 13 and like Star Wars, ninjas, and the N64. When we moved to CompuServe I became Macrosin7 - the Macrosin was a character I made as a kid and 7 was an important number. When I joined the Neil Gaiman boards I was The Lord Of Nothings, a shortened form of The Last Lord Of Nothings, which is what I sometimes called myself in my head. I fleshed him out into a character in the Fantasy Powers League, a sort of sewer-dwelling champion of the underclass. That got shortened to Tlon, which is also a tribute to a Borges story. Somewhere along the line I turned the mythological origin of my real name and my first name into 'Chris Brimstone', which I use for online gaming and poetry. In my head he's a Mage For Hire, and a few people call me 'Brimstone' IRL.

Before the AV Club had registration, I'd use 'Lovecraft In [place appropriate to article]', like 'Lovecraft in the Overlook' for a Shining retrospective. When registration came in I locked it into Lovecraft In Brooklyn, the name of a Mountain Goats song that sums up my anxiety, my expatriate status, love of pulp & indie, etc. When I joined here I figured it fit.

It's probably the first online handle that I don't call myself in my head sometimes, since I'm not even the most Lovecraft-obsessed person in my family. Or MeFi.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:41 PM on June 30, 2011

Despite endlessly explaining that no, my name really is Gecko, I'm sort of glad I'm not DayGloGoth anymore.
posted by geckoinpdx at 3:57 PM on June 30, 2011

"Killdevil" got picked by preadolescent me at some point after a visit to Killdevil Hills, where the Wright Bros. got their plane off the ground (oh-so-briefly) for the first time. I first used it on Netcom to make many, many stupid Usenet posts about bicycles.

Kill Devil Hills are also a decent Aussie alt-country band, fyi
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:08 PM on June 30, 2011

My first handle was F.R.E.D. III, which stood for "Freely Roving Electronic Dude, Mark 3". He was the player character in a game a friend and I never wrote a single line of code for.

But that's not the interesting alias. Let me tell you the story of how I became more like my avatar.

Peganthyrus was my second character on Furrymuck. She was a slinky anthropomorphic black dragon. She started as a joke but it turned out she was a hell of a lot more fun to play than a character that mirrored the snarky guy I was at the time. The name came from me deciding that I liked the name "Peggy", so I started with that and just played with adding more syllables until it sounded appropriately draconic to my twentysomething ears. It's pronounced "PEG-an-thy-rus", not "pe-GAN-thy-rus", if you were wondering.

Over the years that became the name I was known as in the furry fandom; if you google you'll find some art lingering on the older furry archives under that name. (It's still the one I use on Deviantart because they've got no way to change names.)

After a few years I figured out that the reason she was so much easier to play was that I was transsexual. I played with a few other names but in the end it was "Margaret" that I settled on - because that, inexplicably, shortens to "Peggy".

Eventually there came a time when I was done spending all my time on Furrymuck, and just needed to move away from some of the baggage tied to the character's history. So, inspired by all of Edward Gorey's anagramonikers, I hit up the Rearrangement Servant and found "Egypt Urnash" lurking in that set of letters. That became the name I used for "serious" work; it's the name I've been published under so I'll probably be using it as my professional name for quite some time. There's another alias derived from the same set of letters that I use for drawing outrageous furry cartoon porn; I won't give it here because I try to keep it out of Google's sight. Canonically that alias is ALWAYS DRUNK.

I would say that spending time as Peganthyrus was an important part of figuring out what the heck was going on with me. If not for the option of using a different identity than the one I was born with, I might have taken a lot longer to decide that transition was a good idea; I might never have done it, and been a bitchy, self-hating guy for the rest of my life. So I am firmly against anyone trying to legislate REAL NAMES ONLY on the Internet.

I really don't think that "online handles are becoming a thing of the past". There are some spaces that require "real names", or at least names that sound like normal ones, sure, and there are places that outsource their identity management to Facebook, which is a "sounds like real names" place. But there are tons and tons of message boards and game spaces where you take another name. How many people have their real name as their XBox/PSN handle? Who plays Warcraft as their real name? You might play with people who know you iRL and thusly know the name you go by in daily life, but what do your real friends call you?

(One of my friends recently made a second Twitter account: the public one is clearly derived from her legal name, but the new one is in the form "(obscenity)(the animal she's associated with)". She uses it to say stuff she doesn't want to have her co-workers hear.)

I'll respect people's desire to have a real-name space if they want, that's fine - but playing with identity is an important part of being human. I really think that choosing your own name is one of those innate urges that industrialized society has little to no formal room for; there's a certain something to the idea of a ceremony where society says "You are no longer a child; you are an adult. What name suits who you became better than the name your parents bestowed upon you?"
posted by egypturnash at 4:18 PM on June 30, 2011 [6 favorites]

I used psiclone (I thought it sounded cool) and HardKopy (I was working in a bookstore), but for most of my online life I've been jonmc which is simply a contraction of my real name, so ther is no fucking shame involved, fuckers.
posted by jonmc at 4:57 PM on June 30, 2011

When I first got on the internet (as opposed to BITNET or BBSes) I remember my top two candidates were Zippy and Odie. Glad I went with the former.
posted by zippy at 5:01 PM on June 30, 2011

No shame in that. :)
posted by joshjs at 5:18 PM on June 30, 2011

I was trying to pick a name for when I played counterstrike online in college. The first computer I ever used was one of these my dad built, which I would play Frogger on. So I went with "heathkit". That year I made a few friends hanging out and playing games in the honors lounge at school. Since we knew each other by handle first, that's how we refer to each other most of the time, 10 years later.

I like the name "heathkit", partially because it makes me feel connected to who I was at the time. It's also always nice when old ham radio people recognize it.
posted by heathkit at 7:13 PM on June 30, 2011

My first handle was quatresgal90. I was in grade school and completely in love with the anime Gundam Wing, and of course had the biggest crush on Quatre Rabarbra Winner. Instead of pictures of celebrities on my wall, I had print outs of him. And yes, born in year 1990.
posted by biochemist at 7:16 PM on June 30, 2011

As you can tell, my first name is about as specific as going by Jane Doe. I will sign it on various webpages if they're not particular, but anyone who wants it to be tagged as a regular handle, well, it's always long gone.

In college, we had the 8-character limit thing going on when we set up e-mail. The "tradition" that they had just relaxed was to have your e-mail be first initial, middle initial, last name, but now you could theoretically do something else. But given the 8 letters and the part where my last name is longer than that, well, it just looked funny. So I thought, "hey, fullmoon is 8 letters, I like full moons, let's go with that."

At this point the handle is a combination of old e-mail addresses, which like Jacquilynne, isn't taken anywhere else unless it's me.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:17 PM on June 30, 2011

I've used roughly the same two noms du internet my entire life. There's this one (X-Himy), and a second one (Thawhidol), which I use at sites that don't allow for the use of a hyphen in the username (a lot of them).

X-Himy came about when I achieved a particularly high score on the Gameboy version of Tetris. Being a bit pattern minded, I picked out letters that all had at least one line of symmetry (when capitalized), and came up with X-HIMY. I rather liked it, and I've used it mostly since.

Thawhidol, my secondary, came about because I was only a lot of communities and BBSs as a lurker, and Thawhidol comes from THAt WHIch DOes Lurk. I know, I know, it's incredibly stupid, but I was 13 at the time. Thawhidol is also linked (oh Google) to a community of video game messageboards that I was sort of a part of around when I was 14 and 15. There was trolling, there was drama, and while I will still stand here and say that I got accused of a lot of things that didn't happen. But I left and history is written by the winners. I'm older, hopefully wiser, and a lot less likely to get into flamewars over religion and Earthbound.

I recently googled those names, and found that 12 years after I last had contact with anyone on those boards, 12 years after the last of it ended, Thawhidol is still used as a byword for some sort of internet troll bogeyman. They still invoke my name in fear and hate. Maybe the old me would get a kick out of it, but I guess I find it a little sad that something that lasted a few months for me (and I was mostly just wanting to talk about how much I liked Final Fantasy 6) kept going for them.

I of course have a number of throwaway names and logins for places that I want anonymity.
posted by X-Himy at 7:36 PM on June 30, 2011

I was Velvet Elvis on a local BBS board back in the early 90s. Has it really been 20 years? The sysop had a single phone line and you'd dial over and over until you got in, at which point you'd go through each of the rooms to one at a time reading the messages that were left and leaving your own reply for the next set of people. Sort of a precursor to MeFi, only much slower. And if you were extremely lucky, the sysop would pick up the phone at you'd have a real conversation with him. I had that happen a few times.

I do remember getting into an argument with some of the other members at one point (over religion, I believe) and pulled the "I'm leaving for good" drama bullshit, only to turn around and make another account with a different name almost immediately. It didn't take very long for some of them to put two and two together. I never did switch back to Velvet Elvis after I was called out. :(
posted by narwhal bacon at 7:37 PM on June 30, 2011

I, as a sassy 13 or 14 year old in the early '90s, chose "Child of the Media" which was promptly abbreviated to CoTM on my local BBSes.

Ironically, I now study media.
posted by k8t at 7:37 PM on June 30, 2011

Wow, my thing came out a lot more defensive than I meant it to be. I like the sound of both X-Himy and Thawhidol. At this point, they are two of the things I've "owned" the longest.

As a young teen, I also used to use the name "Jester" when you got to choose your name during a JRPG. Partly because I liked the look of a fool in motley (and this was before I read Lear) , and partly because I just liked the word. But I don't think I ever used that on the internet.
posted by X-Himy at 8:08 PM on June 30, 2011

Oh my, I don't even remember my first handle. Plural handles, actually. I know I was X43 for an old e-mail address (hotmail or some such), and there was never a reason for those characters apart from the fact that I liked them together. But, while I remember some older ones, the first few are lost to history. I may have been 28202 at some point-- that was my old They Might Be Giants info club ID#, in the long-ago paper days, and I was pretty attached to it. It's sad to realize, though, that I have no idea.

My name here was chosen to be as blank as possible. I used to post very occasionally on the AV Club boards, and I wanted a name that couldn't be associated with almost anything preconceived. No gender, no preferences, none of it. I am, of course, not trying to be Super-Anonymous and hide my actual opinions, but it's nicer when people actually have to read what you say before figuring out what boxes you fit in. I also wanted to make sure it didn't connect at all to any of my other usernames. I have a few, which I use for various purposes, and with which I prefer to be responsible. Most of my online life is just as carefully weighed as my offline life-- is that actually something I want to say to this person? Have I fully considered this fellow's viewpoint before composing my response? Is it unnecessarily combative to say this thing in this way, and will it breed undesired bad feelings? Aaaaah, but sometimes I just wanna BITCH. I just want to say something abrupt and unilateral, and damn the consequences. And I want to keep that separate from the names under which I actually have some responsibility and humanity. So initially, "Because" was a blank name for that purpose.

Of course, then I registered for MetaFilter, after having lurked for quite some time, and now Because is, you know, a real identity. I still quite like the name, so I intend to keep it. But now I try to be (mostly) responsible with it as well.


No, that wasn't the question. But I'm putting off getting ready to go to a bar here, people. I have to procrastinate *somehow*.
posted by Because at 8:35 PM on June 30, 2011

La vie scélérate by Maryse Conde, a really depressing novel. I liked the idea of being a scoundrel -- four year old me insisted being addressed as Han (Solo) for a few weeks in 1980 -- and the domain was free.
posted by scelerat at 8:38 PM on June 30, 2011

Unseen eye beams.

'Not really, I just like that poem.' Burnt Norton, TS Eliot

This is my only posting name, ever. It came out because I always say oh yeah. I stuck it together, and someone made me an elite loser, figure that one out. So it became Oyéah.
posted by Oyéah at 8:40 PM on June 30, 2011

I've been reading multiple baby name forums and inadvertently left this tab open in the same window.

Hmm. X-Himy and Thawhidol. It's gonna be hard to pick a middle name.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:41 PM on June 30, 2011

I am what I am.
posted by troll at 8:44 PM on June 30, 2011

My favorite game in 1995 was Descent. Playing online with it was the first time I needed a handle, so I incorporated my favorite weapon into my handle - Mega Missiles. "Megadeath" - but I wasn't a metalhead at the time and didn't know that name was taken.

So "Megadeath" begat "Teradeath". After awhile I thought that sounded stupid. I found myself incrementing "Tera" to "Exa", skipping "Peta". And it has always remained "Exadeath" in some form for years.

By shortening it I feel less like the 15 year old who needed a threatening name.
posted by Exad at 8:46 PM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

"I chose it because I thought it was as far from my real-life persona as I could possibly get. I am not very cherry!"

Umm ... does she mean cheery?
posted by smithsmith at 9:33 PM on June 30, 2011

I chose effwerd because effword seemed like an awkward spelling, though people often refer back to me as effward, which is even stranger to me. I am not going toward eff. Anyway, I really like Message Force Multiplier, which I used for awhile on some other site. Such a wonderful turn of phrase. I wish I could trademark that screen name and make it mine everywhere for everything.

I've also used samhain for more art related sites, but people would always refer to me as sam, which never sounded right to me.

I can't remember all the screen names I've used, though. Most of them weren't very important to me, more of spur of the moment creations because it was required of the registration page.
posted by effwerd at 9:52 PM on June 30, 2011

Beavis and Butthead reference. Also, there's not a single word in any of my comments that I meant to say. (That's mostly just a note to my future self who will no-doubt be very embarrassed about all of this.)
posted by fartknocker at 9:53 PM on June 30, 2011

I had to plumb the depths of the Internet USENET archives to find out what my nom de net used to be. Thank the miracle of technology, all my posts on rec.arts.anime are STILL around!! As I logged in using a university system, technically I was sbrunda, but I went by The Fangirl.
Sadly, I don't have enough time to indulge my nerdy hobbies anymore. I have cats now.
posted by fiercekitten at 10:20 PM on June 30, 2011

This is my original handle. It originated in the '90s.

It came about while typing in a mailing list for a band I used to work for - people would sign up for the mailing list during a gig, and part of my job was data entry of the list. Very often people would sign up in not so sober states of mind, and trying to make out what was written in the light of day could be challenging and kind of amusing. I couldn't make out one of the names at all, so a bandmember suggested I just make something up for the name, as long as the address was legible it would still get there, and most likely whoever signed it would be amused rather than offended at an invented name. He laughed so hard when I suggested krinklyfig that I knew it had to be mine. So, of course I had to register a hotmail address, and I've used it often ever since - nobody else ever takes it first. We still used it when sending out a mailer to that person (can't even remember who it was now), and my handle and its origins were a seemingly endless source of amusement for the band and the circles of friends around us. So, there you go.

Inside jokes don't usually make for good stories.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:34 PM on June 30, 2011

Azreal. Because I didn't think to check my spelling.

I was 12 and it was AOL. I regret nothing.

Ok, I regret a great deal from my AOL days, but the less said the better. To paraphrase Hemmingway. that was another service and besides the computer is dead.

I do need a new gmail account. I'm starting to get embarrassed by not having an account that seems a little more professional.
posted by Hactar at 10:41 PM on June 30, 2011

My first was so unoriginal. I joined a gaming message board that didn't take username registrations - you just posted under whatever name you liked. After I started using my first name, Kat, I caused some confusion because there was already a girl using Kat there. So I called myself Kat2.

jkaczor: "handle? not brave enough to personally stand behind your words?"

Nah, more worried about some serial killer tracking me down and killing me. At least, in 1998 when I first got on the web.

filmgoerjuan: "I went through a period of looking up anagrams of my own and friends' names using the Internet Anagram Server."

That was fun until I realized that one combo of my initials and last name form Jerkily.

caution live frogs: " In a private message, he disclosed that he really shouldn't be using it as a handle, because it was his FBI field agent number."

I have a bridge I'd like to sell you...
posted by IndigoRain at 11:40 PM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

True names are best kept to oneself.
posted by ged

If one is not quite as clever as one thinks one is, one might pick a name that can quite simply be reverse engineered back to one's real name. It's a lot more simple than trying to be King of the World, too.

Searching for the first online ID that I can remember having, I get bios for the character I stole it from, fanfiction (not mine), random bits of a backup of a Wheel of Time messageboard I used to mod (and argue with American fundamentalist christians on), role playing (not mine), and pirate copies of the books the character appears in. Before that I used to post at the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree, but I think that was before they required registration, and I can't remember how I signed my posts.
posted by Lebannen at 1:36 AM on July 1, 2011

Potentially regrettable usernames, carried on only by the momentum of years? Why yes, I can relate to that.
posted by The GoBotSodomizer at 1:52 AM on July 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

"The sysop had a single phone line and you'd dial over and over until you got in, at which point you'd go through each of the rooms to one at a time reading the messages that were left and leaving your own reply for the next set of people."

Ah, a Citadel board? I still run one. It's been up for more than 20 years.

My earliest 'nym was Little Nemo, on the a company internal BBS (it was a HyperCard stack!). :) I used it on all the BBSes I called as well (mostly Seattle-area Citadels), and still use it on my own BBS, Slumberland. (Little Nemo in Slumberland, get it?)

In 1993 I got an email account at the University of Washington and was limited to 8 characters. So it became litlnemo. I've used it most places ever since. I know it's very easy to match me to the name, so I don't think of it as anonymous anymore.

I also once had (long story, can't talk about it for legal reasons), and now have a couple other domains with Slumberland in them.

The 'nym is such a part of my identity now that I wouldn't change it, and I tend to get annoyed when people ask me to use my real name online.
posted by litlnemo at 3:28 AM on July 1, 2011

can that 'webcam shows desktop' software be inserted into someone's computer when they were away from their desk? it explains a lot about some funny goings ons i'd noticed in the last office I was in
posted by infini at 4:02 AM on July 1, 2011

I used to be ObscureIndieGirl on AOL chat. I stole it from Megazine - a teletext message board for teenagers, whose members always seemed so cool when I was seven or eight. It stayed in my head until I was sixteen, by which time I was a girl into obscure indie.

I quickly retired it when I found I got cybersex messages from people who misread it as 'India' and wanted to know where my parents came from and how about that sweet coffee-coloured booty.
posted by mippy at 8:09 AM on July 1, 2011

Sadly, choosing this username has not turned me into a Canadian bank.
posted by desjardins at 1:06 PM on July 1, 2011

My first handle was Delirium, after the Sandman character. I am not ashamed.
posted by cereselle at 1:19 PM on July 1, 2011

Oooh... my first handle came from a pendant I used to wear all the time, but I shall not speak it aloud lest all the grody crap I posted on alt.tasteless back in college return to haunt me.

Speedlime has a much more benign origin-- it was the name of my first car, my beloved red shitmagnet 1994 Neon. Years before I ever owned a car, I'd been out cruising with a friend in my parents' Honda when she saw a speed limit sign that'd been partially obscured by a tree. She turned to me with a confused expression and asked what a "speed lime" was. And I thought that was such an awesome word combination that I promised her that in the unlikely event I ever got a car of my own, it'd be named Speedlime.
posted by speedlime at 2:05 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

My first online account was a university account that used "first initial, last name" format, but that's boring. Later, when I started having accounts on systems (like over-the-phone BBSes) that didn't seem like "real name" kinds of places, I went with "islander," because I grew up on a island, and I was then living in a part of the country where that's rare, so the name was interesting without being weird or lame. (I glommed on to the ridiculous of most userids early, often joking "Every BBS in America has user named 'lestat,' doesn't it?" Turns out that "making fun of usernames" is one of the things that wasn't well tolerated on the old BBS systems.)

Then I moved back to a part of the country where being an islander is not so rare (everybody I went to high school with is an islander, after all), so the name wasn't interesting enough to keep using. Now I use my real name for most things, complete with a "firstname at lastname dot com" e-mail address that many people assume is fake. *Sigh* I still have one of my two "islander" e-mail accounts, though, which forwards a prodigious amount of spam to my gmail account.

My name here is unique and ridiculous, because I just thought that was, like, part of the unwritten rules. It's the only account where I don't attach my real name, because metafilter is more fun if I pretend nobody has a normal name.
posted by faster than a speeding bulette at 3:05 PM on July 1, 2011

Mine is from way back in the nineties, when I was trying to get a hotmail account. I'm not sure if I couldn't get one with my real name or if I didn't want to, but I was really stuck for something to use. I ended up wandering around my room and trying a bunch of random things. I had a stone egg from Yellowstone, quartz or something. I tried stoneegg, but that didn't work, there were already one. So I tried adding my second favorite number, 21. It worked. It's always worked, it's the only 'nym I've ever used. I kind of think of it as me.
A quiet version of me, though. The real me talks a lot.
posted by stoneegg21 at 3:19 PM on July 1, 2011

Previous to this, all of my usernames have been song lyrics. grapefruitmoon was definitely the best of them - I'm not even going to begin to list the friends-only livejournals I've had with way, way cheesier usernames.

I think what embarrasses me more is thinking that my melodrama was so important as to require not one, but a whole series of many, friends-only LJ accounts. With multiple filters.

Oh, self. No one cares.
posted by sonika at 6:25 PM on July 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

For what it's worth, sonika, I've had one livejournal account. With three different names.
posted by madcaptenor at 6:26 PM on July 1, 2011

madcaptenor: I seem to recall reading your livejournal. Or at least I'm pretty sure it was yours. If not, you've got a very convincing döppelganger who went to MIT when I was in college.
posted by sonika at 6:28 PM on July 1, 2011

My first online nick was smoo. That's my sister's nickname for me (Linda, Lindy-loo, smoo). I discovered fairly quickly that due to the ever-charming "Picture" (PHWAR, check out the SMOO on that! My TOCKLEY'S gone all STIFF! <= example of the stellar commentary available from that magazine) smoo was also another name for a woman's genitalia so I quickly changed it to one form or another of hoopy and have been battling fellow HHGTTG and basketball fans ever since.
posted by h00py at 8:57 PM on July 1, 2011

As far as I know I have no very convincing doppelgangers.
posted by madcaptenor at 12:41 AM on July 2, 2011

> Ah, a Citadel board? I still run one. It's been up for more than 20 years.

I believe it was Citadel. Having grown up in the Seattle area, I might have dialed into yours at some point, but I really don't remember at this point. I used to have a list of the BBSes I frequented; I think I got the main list off of Eskimo North?

Heck, I think Eskimo North was my first ISP, too.
posted by narwhal bacon at 1:57 PM on July 2, 2011

You probably did call mine, then. Eskimo North had a list, and there was also the list in Computer User magazine way back when.
posted by litlnemo at 1:56 AM on July 3, 2011

I have been' bwg' since getting online and have never changed it, because it is also the name of my web site.

I once asked the mods here if I could change it to 'Big White Guy' but that would entail shutting down my current account and creating a new one.

So I'm stuck with it, which is okay because I am in fact a big white guy.
posted by bwg at 6:45 PM on July 11, 2011

« Older MC Hotdog   |   0 Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments