How I chose my name

Published .

When I decided that my previous name didn't fit me, I eventually got tired of carrying it around and started figuring out how to change it. Obviously the first step would be to come up with a new name that does fit me, and I wanted to throw some 🧪science✨ at the problem because it seemed like a fun way to solve it. If I was going to pick a new name using 🔬science🥼 then I needed a lot of names to do 🚀science⚡ to, so I went to the US Social Security Administration's popular baby names information to gather a list. (Behind The Name's tools were more useful and they claim to use the same dataset, so I actually used their site to pull the information.)

I grabbed all of the names given to children for every year around my birth year so it wouldn't sound too out of place. I also added names from later years to represent "rebirth" and because I liked how they sound, but most of them came from the same decade as my actual birth.

This gave me a huge list that was several thousand names long, so I decided that I didn't want it to be too common or too rare and stripped it down to names that were in the 100-500 rank, then very quickly culled any name that felt like it would be culturally inappropriate for me to use or I just had an immediate "not that" reaction to. That left me with a much more reasonable list of 200 or so.

Now that it was manageable, I could go through and give the names a score based on how they make me feel. If a name would have gotten a 1, it should already be removed, so if it gets a 1 here, it gets removed right away. This was a rough sorting just to figure out which options are good enough to stick around, so I didn't put too much thought into it. Score the names. 1s get deleted, everything else gets a 2 for "fine" or a 3 for "I like this one, actually".

Before I could get to a second scoring pass, I realized that a lot of the names were really just variations on the same thing. Ana/Anna are the same name, Haley/Hayleigh are the same name, and Sara/Sarah are the same name, so I took a while to reorganize the list and group up all of the "duplicates". Then I could go through all the names that got a 2 and decide if they stay or go. I thought about how I felt being called each of the names and gave it a new score.

Right about this point is where I started sharing my list with the people who were close to me, who suggested that I remove the names of other people we knew. Years later, I think this was a bad idea. Relationships change and the people I'm close to shift over time, and ruling out a name just because I could be confused with someone I happen to know at the time was not worth it. That's what I did, but I would encourage others to learn from my regrets.

After letting the list sit for a few days so I could think about it from a fresh perspective, I decided that I had only given about two dozen names a 3 or a 4, and that was few enough to start figuring out why I liked the names that I liked. I tried some different approaches, but the one that stuck for me was when I converted the names to their International Phonetic Alphabet pronunciations: I realized that a good portion of the names that I liked had diminutive endings (like Kaycee and Haley and Kari) or could be easily modified to use them (like Abigail or Grace). That got me to realize that I cared a lot about how the name sounded in speech, so I went back through and adjusted the scores after speaking them aloud a few times.

The step was to add my family name into the mix and adjust the scores as a combination. I had narrowed it down to about a dozen final choices, so this didn't take long, but it did trigger one very important final realization:

I was only really choosing a new "documentation" name. My friends and family would call me whatever I asked. This wasn't to pick a new name for myself, it was to pick a new name for my legal documents.

My "name" is Audrey. That goes on all the serious legal things that cost money and paperwork to change.

My name is Joy, Nasha, Daski, August, Bris, Karai, Ren, Eden, Selkie, Adam, Everest, Casey, and Lucky. Those are spoken by the people who matter, and they speak every new one I want to try out.