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Davis, California

Monday, April 15, 2024

New names need to be normal

Changing names should be a celebrated experience


By ALEX MOTAWI — almotawi@ucdavis.edu


Names are super interesting. They are oftentimes the very first thing that you judge and envision new people by, yet it’s often not something they choose for themselves. It really is essential that everyone has a name that feels true to themselves, and general fear as well as a negative stigma is getting in the way of that.

When you truly think about it, how can you expect a parent to pick a name for their newborn child that will fit the person throughout their entire life? People often come to accept or at least bear their names, but it should by no means be a requirement. This applies to when we pick our own names too — nothing says it has to be your name forever. Changing your name shouldn’t be a big deal nor should it be permanent, yet we treat names like they are.

What it boils down to is that names do not define a person. A person is defined by their actions and the way their actions are perceived by themselves and others, not a name chosen by someone else at birth.

We already change names often in the form of “nicknames” — why is that seen as different from actual names? People pick up new nicknames and drop old ones all the time and can identify with these nicknames more than their original names due to the memories behind their creation and their personal choice in the matter. The keyword there is “choice.” The fact that we can choose to introduce ourselves by our nickname as something that represents us really does matter — it gives us power over our own names.

As an Alexander, I can choose from a variety of nicknames until I reach something I’m happy with. But besides keeping the sentimental value my name may or may not have, why should I have to constrict myself to traditional shortenings of Alexander? Nobody judges me if I go by Alex instead of Alexander, but people would question me if I picked a different name like Jordan or Lily. This has to stop.

Depending on the name, people may get judged as humans before even their first interaction with someone new. It’s often the first piece of information available to someone, so it’s no wonder why they are going to form a cursory opinion of someone based on name alone, myself included. I will get instantly batched into all of the other “Alex’s” and that will lead to assumptions about me that I don’t want, regardless of if they are good or bad.

People should be allowed to do what makes them happy if it’s not at the expense of others, and being able to change names without judgment is the first step in the process. Plenty of people are unhappy about their name. Change it — nobody should feel stuck with a name they don’t identify with purely for continuity’s sake. Whether you just want to try something new or you want to keep your old name in the past, please don’t be afraid to make the leap of faith! I and others will support you every step of the way and hopefully soon, nobody will bat an eye.


Written by: Alex Motawi — almotawi@ucdavis.edu

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie.



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