What’s in a Name? Ramblings on the Mystery of Internet Handles

by eternal on January 5, 2009

Chaos;Head is relevant, sorta.

Internet communication (as previously covered by a few of us) is something that is both very old and very new to me, ranging from miscellaneous tweets to the massive essays we get on some editorial blogs. However, whether you’re in the ‘sphere or you’re talking about mainstream shounen on a mediocre anime forum (or even not talking about anime at all), there’s one thing that follows you wherever you go, like a signature denoting your identity. That thing, which we so often take for granted, is called an internet handle, and it results in followers of the blogosphere tossing around names like DarkMirage and Impz in real life without thinking twice.

One thing I’ve always liked about the whole concept of internet handles is that you can change them at will. Sure, it’s usually impossible to delete your old account, and you occasionally might have to use a fake email, but it can still be done. Better yet, you can make an alt account or two in certain forums and use them for whatever mischeivous deeds you might want to do, without having to worry about denting your reputation. It may not be the most moral thing in the world, but I’m sure it’s been done before, and there really isn’t anything out there stopping us from doing it.

This also brings to mind the topic of imageboards, where users are more or less anonymous (and in the case of 4chan, where people who try to identify themselves from the rest of the anons are usually looked down upon). The lack of usernames decreases the stress people presumably feel to be decent human beings, and probably results in a lot more trolling. Of course, one can say that about any form of internet communication: you’re not going to be arrested for saying that KyoAni sucks and that Kenshin anime > manga, so if that’s what you think, then why not say it?

However, the issue of choosing a single internet handle and using it everywhere comes into play when people start taking the internet seriously. If all you want to do is mess around without consequence, then I wouldn’t be surprised to see you use countless different accounts on every forum you go to, but if you actually want to build up a reputation – one such case being in the blogosphere – you’re probably going to want to keep your name.

And that’s where things get interesting: the act of choosing an internet handle.

Takumi’s hallucinations are usually relevant.

What kind of thought process do we go through when deciding on what to call ourselves online? What do we calculate, predict, contemplate? Or do we even contemplate at all? This is more of a question than an answer, because I can only speak from my own experience. In my case, Eternal is effectively just a shorter, easier to say, and overall evolved form of a previous handle I used to use back in elementary school because I thought it sounded cool. That’s it. Really. I’d like to say that there’s some sort of significance behind the name (especially since I spell it in all caps most everywhere), but it’s just something that evolved over time. When it came time to start blogging, I couldn’t think of any different names, and I figured that naming myself after a word was at least unique (if not a little stupid), so I decided to stop thinking and go for it. I believe DarkMirage also got his name from an MMO of some sort, but I can’t for the life of me remember where he said that.

On the same topic of internet handles, and stepping back for a moment at my choice of spelling for my name, how much effort do you generally put into maintaining a user’s original spelling, capitalization, etc. of their handle? And this can go beyond handles, too; what about the names of certain anime and games? For example, TYPE-MOON, AIR, sola, the crazy capitalization of Tsubasa Chronicles…and those are just off the top of my head. And when it comes to anibloggers, we already have a decent variety, like the all-lowercase names such as lelangir and ghostlightning, or the acronyms like CCY and OGT. Much like with anime names, the list can be endless if you want it to be.

Personally, it doesn’t bother me at all if people are too lazy to hold shift and type ETERNAL or KOTOKO, and yet, I find myself doing it anyway. Rarely do I ever write AIR without the caps, and I only started writing Clannad in lower case because I never actually use caps lock and it’s annoying to hold shift while typing all of those letters. Proper spelling isn’t particuarly important to me, and I certainly wouldn’t be offended if someone decided to omit those caps that I seem to be so fond of, but I still like playing around with grammar anyhow. Maybe it’s just because I have a personal grudge against plain names that obey the laws of grammar. Whether it’s caps, lower case, or even something as simple as the tilde-spamming that goes on in visual novel names, I always feel the need to toss in those things that really don’t make a difference, and I always seem to replecate them when I see them used in other names. I have no idea why, but ef – a fairy tale of the two and ef ~a fairy tale of the two~ feel like two completely different games to me, and even though I know it doesn’t matter, I wouldn’t be caught dead writing the latter. Even though it looks a little better.

Siscon is always relevant, right?

To sum this all up, I guess I should just clarify that I’m rambling – you did read the title, right? Ultimately, I don’t believe that there are any conclusive findings for one to report on something as trivial as the mystery of internet handles, especially since I won’t have any info unless you readers out there decide to comment and tell your own stories. From this post, we can conclude my own rather disjointed thoughts on the topic of internet aliases, but the discussion can’t be complete without hearing a little from all of you. I also posted the idea on Danny Choo where I hope to get a much wider response, but for those of you that are reading this right now, do me a favor and respond: how did you arrive at your own internet handle? What does it mean to you, if anything at all? The mystery of internet handles isn’t one that can be easily solved, but a bit of knowledge is better than none, ne?

…In retrospect, another option would be to just use your real name…
…but where’s the fun in that?


{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

A Day Without Me January 5, 2009 at 11:11 pm

In revealing the origins of one’s username, though, does one in a way somewhat deny themselves a former aspect of privacy? Sometimes I have the urge to give the ‘creation story’ behind my username, particularly as I do use it in a few different places, but at the same time to explain it seems to take away from it somehow. And somehow it seems fun to allow it to remain up to interpretation, or fun to at least speculate as to whether or not anyone can figure out where it comes from.

A Day Without Mes last blog post..Hakushaku to Yousei Series Review


Blowfish January 5, 2009 at 11:11 pm

Blowfish is the shorter Version of TheeMightyBlowfish and i cant really remember how and why i picked up the name many moons ago.
I have no affinity to fish or thelike and im not really THAT mighty.Its a mystery thats never going to be solved.
Hmmm…Why am I always picking up the same name?I wouldnt say to build up reputation but because i like the name and im lazy.Try to remember a 100 handles including Passwords

Blowfishs last blog post..Akatsuki and the red light


Nazarielle January 5, 2009 at 11:32 pm

I’m actually rather proud that I came up with a completely unique, but not too complicated name. It must’ve been close to 10 years ago now, when I was playing D&D, I was thinking up names for a character. I don’t really remember what the character was, in fact I can’t even remember if it was supposed to be male or female, but I came up with Nazarielle. How? Just by randomly piecing together words and letters here and there.
But since it’s something I came up with, I can be sure that no one else will have taken the name before me, which allows me to always use the same handle on forums and the like. Which can also be bad, as you can just search for Nazarielle and pretty much e-stalk me :p

Nazarielles last blog post..Chobits – First Impressions


Adun January 5, 2009 at 11:49 pm

My internet handle is quite simple. It’s actually taken from the game StarCraft and the Protoss’s greeting “En Taro Adun”. Back in the days I was REALLY into SC. It’s also the time I came across the internet at home and had to think of a name for myself. Thus I came to Adun and it has stuck with me for the past 8 years and it’ll stick for many more years to come.

Aduns last blog post..How to Treat Bootleg Figures


afatcow January 5, 2009 at 11:49 pm

Ho hum. I thought I might quote something I wrote on my blog, uhhh, a week ago?
“I’ve always thought of the internet as a sort of mask. While there is a human being behind the username, the user uses his username as a mask, and may act differently than he would in real life. Just look at any MMO: half the people you meet are complete dicks. Now, I really do hope that half the people I meet in real life aren’t complete dicks.
Also, people act according to the image they want to portray: somebody who wants to seem formal and proper may always speak in proper language, while somebody who really doesn’t care would just degrade to chat language.” (from my post http://thetruemelody.wordpress.com/2008/12/28/without-a-doubt-the-decline-in-human-interaction/, which also quoted this blog :O)
Think what you will.
As for my name… I have no idea where afatcow came from, actually. I just remember, when I used to play Warcraft III, my friends and I would always meet at this channel called moocow. Don’t ask me why, I didn’t make it. I think this name probably came from there.
Of course, it isn’t very original, as if you googled it, half the responses wouldn’t be me. Wait, that means half the responses would be me, huh.


GNdynames January 5, 2009 at 11:59 pm

GN are the first initials of G.N. Lewis, who is known for discovering covalent bonding (Lewis dot diagram anyone?)

Dynames is a slight shift from the Greek word dynamis, which means energy or power.

Or it may be from a more recent title, believe whichever one you want XD

Copied from DC.com, will probably drop by again tomorrow for a more elaborate answer or something.


Panther January 6, 2009 at 1:08 am

Always loved the big cat, but my handle was taken when I was just a mere 12, and have stuck with it since. I suppose I liked it back then for what it represented to my adolescent mindset.

I still do.

Also, siscon is always relevant. But not Nanami.

Panthers last blog post..Minami-ke Okaeri 01 Impressions


Kiriska January 6, 2009 at 2:17 am

People like a sense of identity. Sticking with a name can offer that kind of identity, and switching it up or modifying it is a change of pace, an attempt at rebirth, a desire to try something else. I think most decent people will habitually choose an alias and stay with it a while; when we’re younger, we’re more prone to changes and might swap handles quite often, but as we grow older and are more comfortable with ourselves and our identities, names stop changing. Really, this can apply to a lot of different aspects of a person, not just names.

For myself, I’ve had my current handle for almost a decade. Before that, I had maybe a half dozen or so switched up over the course of two or three years. The thought I put into the actual name was minimal and mostly irrelevant now, but the word to me has become as much my identity as my real name because I spend so much time with it. Internet culture is a funny thing, I guess.

Kiriskas last blog post..I Had a Dream in Japanese — With Subtitles


Micchi January 6, 2009 at 3:29 am

My internet handle is a nickname given to me by a friend of a friend on an MMO, a variation of my in-game name, which was in turn a variation of my character name on another MMO because it was already taken. The original name was a nickname given to a anime character that happened to be my favourite at that time. I stuck with it because it was somewhat unique and sounded cute. Confused enough?

I’ve definitely noticed that while I had changed my name a lot when I was younger (in IRC, forums, etc), I’ve generally stuck to this one for the past 3-4 years. Names evolve and change over time and after a while, you’d become attached to one.

Regarding exact capitalization, I prefer to write things like AIR and CLANNAD the way that I treat all titles, which is capitalize first letter and lower case for the rest (and italicized). I feel that the excess caps are too annoying. Maybe because of too many forum trolls with their caps lock perma-on. Funny thing is I’d stick with things like sola and true tears though. I just don’t like caps. I think it’s not a big issue as it doesn’t detract from the reader’s understanding of what you’re referring to.

Interesting thing though is since I’ve played many MMOs and have lots of friends who know me using different names (I use different names for every game for creativity’s sake), not that many actually call me as Micchi aside from my closest friends and people who meet me via forums or my site. I guess in the end, you usually call someone by the first name you knew them as.

Micchis last blog post..Nendoroids to Celebrate the New Year


M12 January 6, 2009 at 5:59 am

M12’s the name of a highway in the US (speed!). It’s also the name of a star cluster. I grew up admiring a basketball player named John Stockton. He wore number 12. I grew up in an apartment. It was labelled unit 12. My first name starts with M.

I try to spell people’s handles correctly. I respect people online like I would in real life.

I like handles, because they’re mysterious and make me feel cool :P.

Even with handles, people always show disrespect on cyberspace. There’re usually no consequences, that’s why. People forget that there’s a person behind that handle. If you say mean-spirited things, you’ll hurt him/her. It’s depressing, really.

M12s last blog post..3koma – Walking on Water


super rats January 6, 2009 at 9:48 am

A long time ago I was signing up for a Magic the Gathering board and needed a name. The card Ravenous Rats had been given the nickname super rats, at least locally, and I had also seen Breakfast at Tiffany’s where the character Holly Golightly called every guy a rat or a super rat…so I used that and it just stuck with me.

super ratss last blog post..Unity Yuno


FuyuMaiden January 6, 2009 at 1:10 pm

Mine’s really quite simple. I love Winter (Fuyu) and I liked the word Maiden too, I’m a girl, it made sense, and so one day I just BAM shoved it together. I had another username with Fuyu before, but I’d like to keep it to myself. I just always really liked the word Fuyu (it looks pretty in certain fonts). Once I got Maiden and it all looked good I stuck with it.

But for me the most important thing about creating a name to use on the internet is that it would be something unique. Something I could use everywhere without adding on some stupid numbers or something. No one else has come up with “FuyuMaiden” and now I’ve used it so much that it’s something that belongs just to me. If “Fuyu” alone wasn’t popular, I probably never would have even picked up the Maiden part. But adding on another word assured me a one-person name so I’m satisfied.

To put it simply, mine evolved over the course of a couple of years. Once I found something that worked I stuck with it and used it everywhere. For no reason other than it makes registering accounts and socializing easier.

FuyuMaidens last blog post..Weekly Anime (12/29 – 1/4)


Kokuyoku January 7, 2009 at 10:31 pm

I have never stuck with a single one in particular since each separate one I create is defined by the state my life is currently in – everchanging as my real-world life goes on defined by how I am.

However, I do not limit myself merely to single handle – I create multiple ones in order to act out different actions that would not be possible for my normal handle such as roleplaying other ages, genders and even personalities as a form of expression I cannot do so in my ordinary handle which is linked to the persona I show the real-world as thus limited by that face.

This specific handle is use now is because it represents a fictional character which may not much to most but I feel that share a great number of similar traits.

As for my opinions on other peoples handles – I believe a great deal of users choose a specific handle since it has a connection to them no matter how vague it may be. For why others choose handles that are not connected to the creator it is likely they wish to become a different being to that which they show the world.

(If anyone was weirded out by my post – I’m not thinking about what I type here ^_^’)


animekritik January 7, 2009 at 11:47 pm

My handle is supposed to mean “anime critique” in German, although i imagine people usually think it means “anime critic”. Now, i don’t at all consider myself a critic (i’m just interested in critique) so maybe my name is misleading and makes me sound like a fool. Ohh!!


jennkei January 9, 2009 at 10:25 am

Ah, interesting to see so many people comment. I think a common thread is that it’s nice if names could be unique…and I’m lucky to have found mine when I was pretty young! It’s just a mix of two of the names I’ve had (jenn and kei), so nothing too hard to figure out, heh. :)

jennkeis last blog post..Touhou Anime Musoukakyo’s Seiyuu – How??


NyaChan January 11, 2009 at 8:07 pm

Well, I’ve had a few variations of my online name since I started getting involved online more and more, about 6-7 years ago. My e-mail was the first thing I ever got, so I had a tough time thinking of a name and such. I had some Harry Potter nicknames (Which I was really into then, but they were all taken), but I ended up on settling on “meower”, which was related to these cat pajamas that I had and pretended to be this made-up super hero Meower (I was in, like, elementary school when I did this, okay?), who was part cat and *ahem* SAVED THE WOOORLD. xD; It was available, and tah dum, the start of it all.

I got into anime and manga soon after and joined Gaia. I had started drawing and I did a lot of Chibi drawings so instead of just “meower” I went with “Chibi-Meower”, which is also my DeviantART name. Following that I kinda got sick of the username and around the time I joined a Tokyo Mew Mew Forum I started using “Nya-Chan”. Quiet obvious how it evolved, since “Nya” is Japanese for “Meow” and I just tacked “-Chan” to the end to make it sound more like a nickname. xD; Now I use it without the dash either because a lot of sites were like “NO DASHES RAWR” So I got into the habbit of not including it. Also some places (anime related and whatnot) have “Nya-Chan” and “NyaChan” taken, thus I’ve warped it into “NyaronChan” when I need to.

However, all my online game sign ins are “meowerchan” for what reason I don’t recall, but it does make a nice nod towards my old incarnation of my nickname. In the games themselves I used to use “Kisemi” (A warped version of “Kiseki”, a RPG character I had at the time I started MMOing), while now I’ve settled more on “Natsuko”. I don’t use NyaChan as IGNs because I dislike seeing non-name sounding IGNs for characters.

NyaChans last blog post..Gamer Talk [01.11.09] — Persona, Persona, Persona!


Fang-tan January 30, 2009 at 10:30 pm

Ah well~ Fang-tan. I was in love with the OS-tan and spent allllll my time over at Derailed by Darry (it was AoMM back then) and Tsuruya was the kinda of person I could be on the internet, So I became Fang-tan.

Fang-tans last blog post..200th Post!


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