Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What’s in a Name?

You can tell a lot about people in Second Life by the names they choose for themselves.

Of course, these days you can have two names, your User Name and your Display Name. Even so – or maybe “even more so” – your choice of name(s) is revealing.

Oh, it’s not an absolute indicator. I’ve had people accuse me of trying to impersonate a Linden (because my first name is “Lindal”). I’ve had some people think, just seeing my name and not my avatar, that I am male; apparently, “Lindal” is a guy’s name in some places -- Scandinavia, maybe.  I don’t know, I came up with it on my own, with no prior knowledge of any Lindals. I had one tenant ask me how to hide her membership in my tenants group, “Kiddees”, because she thought it carried strong connotations of child avatars and ageplay. Needless to say, none of the above is true.

I look at user names first. The user name is a person’s first input into the world of Second Life, and they generally get to make it with very little knowledge of what SL is really like. I’ll bet you’ve met these people, haven’t you?
  • Security Sam. The name is a string of random characters, often unpronounceable. This person most likely picked the same user name they use for fifty other website accounts, and probably didn’t realize that it would be visible to everyone else in SL. Example: t2i2n2k2e2r2w2h2o2r2e2b2e2l2l Resident
  • Facebooker. They used their real name, or something close to it.
  • Alt. This person has been in SL before, knows how names work, and chooses a name that’s as close as possible to the old first name/last name convention.
  • Gamer. Their name reads more like a title, and probably includes some numbers or special characters. Example: L33t H4x0r Resident
  • Unimaginative. Picks a very ordinary name or a celebrity name, and when they find it taken, tacks on some numbers (usually their birth year) to try for an acceptable compromise. Example: SophiaLoren81 Resident
  • Clever. Picks a name that’s funny, or interesting, or droll. Some of my favorites: Charlotte Sometimes, TristanShout, Shouten Haller, ImNotGoing Sideways, 3Ring Binder
People choose Display Names later, and do so for any number of reasons. The most common one is that they really messed up with their choice of user name, and are backpedaling. People also choose a Display Name to denote some change in their SLife, such as becoming partnered, or getting seriously involved in some roleplay group.

Then there are the people who choose their user name, Display Name, or both, with an eye toward shocking or disturbing others. They may be griefers, or have some political, moral, sexual, or social axe to grind.  We had a griefer at Oxbridge the other day whose name was "ILookLikeShit Resident".

Your Second Life name (especially the user name) is the one part of your avatar you can’t change. Take some time and choose a name that says something positive about you. It’s the very first impression that you send out to everyone in SL.

If you are fairly new, and you’re reading this and thinking, “Too late, I screwed up”…if you really did pick a truly horrendous name, consider dumping your account and starting over again, now that you know better.


  1. L33t H4x0r!!! lol, i have a floating club called the Haxor Lounge!''

  2. Hi Lindal—I clicked here from your post in the SLF thread looking for suggestions on picking names. We have similar attitudes regarding the whole idea of user/resident names, which does not surprise me since I've talked to you a few times inworld. The only modification I'd make to your recommendation is "Take some time and choose a name that says something positive about you, AND FEELS POSITIVE TO YOU". When I chose my name I was more concerned with how I felt about it than anything else.

    I've seen some of the names listed under 'Clever'. I had not seen TristanShout but that might actually be the best one I've ever seen :-).