Initially Speaking

Speaking…or writing.

A recent guest of mine decided to use his first initial instead of his full first name for publishing and on his professional sites. His reasoning was that no one calls him by his first name, so why encourage people to do so?

It made me reflect on myself and others.

When I first started to write for public consumption, I wrote song lyrics. I had them copyrighted and entered a major contest under the name of “T. Joyce”. “Tonette” not only sticks out and I wasn’t ready to be that recognized,  since I wrote the songs from a male point of view, I didn’t want an obviously feminine name to throw anyone off. I guess that was fairly successful, since I received an award and when the certificate came in the mail, it was addressed to “MR. T. Joyce”.

I’m not the only one to try that.

J. R. Rowling used her initials because she felt that boys would be less likely to read her stories if they knew that they were written by a ‘Joanne Kathleen’.

I imagine that you can list many writers yourself who are known by their initials: A.A. Milne, C.S. Lewis, H.G. Wells, we could go on and on; I don’t know their reasons.

Several authors I know have gone to using initials even after they have been published under their first names. Most of these have been because their writings have taken a turn in another direction. A few reasons were because they changed from more serious works to lighter writing, i.e.: non-fiction to fiction, or ‘cozy’ mysteries to grittier work. A few wrote sweet romances and then decided to go in for more graphic ‘love scenes’, so the initials went on the new ones, so that their readers would quickly know what to expect.

What brings other people to use their initials in daily life?

Once a friend sat in a waiting area in an airport for a long time hoping to meet a doctor who had been paged. The man paged had the same unusual last name as the friend and it was a long time before the friend thought to inquire at the courtesy desk for a message he had been waiting for from his own brother. The page had been for my friend David all along. His brother had asked for “D.R. Lastname” to be summoned to the phone, but the written message was misunderstood by the announcer. It would not be the last time such a mistake would happen.

My father had the misfortune to have, what seemed to be for most Americans, three possible first names, with a last name that seemed the least likely to be at the end. All of us have had our names turned around. (Except for my brother John, who would have gotten off easy, had he not joined the Marines and had the drill instructors enjoy calling him “Joycie”.) So more often than not, Dad would identify himself as “I.J. Joyce”, to avoid any mixing up in the order of “Irwin Jackson Joyce”, and so as not to be mistaken for a woman, to boot. Conversely, when I tried to use “T.M.”, I was called “Tim”.

My mother, who had an unusual name herself, favored my brother, obviously. My sister and I have uncommon names. My sister has a middle name which I am under strict direction not to reveal. Suffice it to say that my mother made a name out of a cutsie (in her mind) family nickname. She did not think it through and take into account how it would be taken out in the world. It is not vulgar, but very odd, and my sister begged to only use her middle initial until she married.( I think she married relatively young to a fellow with a common last name to make things easier for herself, and so that “Joyce” could slip into the middle-name slot.)

A friend from the old neighborhood whom we knew as “Cissie” has for the past 40+ years only allowed herself to be known as “Cee”, for “C” . (A ‘sissy’ she is not!)

I knew a man who everyone called “H”, (pronounced “AYCH”). I always thought it was awkward. You’d think they could come up with a nickname, wouldn’t you?

I have a cousin, Jay, with whom I became acquainted with only about five years ago. He’s a great guy and I could not believe that I had no knowledge of him at all, until I realized that I did know him, from a picture of him as a child, taken with a mutual uncle. The confusion happened because in the photo he was identified as “Jim”. I had seen him all of my life. No one knows why he switched to “J”/ “Jay”, as there are no other Jims or Jameses in the family.

Years ago a neighbor of mine in Colorado dropped in on his way to work. \ We knew him also as “Jay”. However, I looked at his badge and it said “R. Lastname”. We had become very friendly, so I asked, ”Why, if you are “Jay”, does your nametag say ‘R’?”
“Well”, he said, “my name is Raymond James Lastname, Jr. They used to call me Junior, then they called me Raymond, Jr, then they called me Ray, Jr, then it turned into R.J., then they ended up calling me “Jay”.
Good thing my husband was there to continue talking to him and that the man needed to leave for work. He had no idea how close he came to Bill Saulga’s comedy routine and I could not keep biting my tongue for much longer to keep from laughing out loud:

Do you use your initials? Do you write under your initials?

Do you have any friends who prefer first initials to their names?

About Tonette Joyce

Tonette was a once-fledgling lyricists-bookkeeper, turned cook/baker/restaurateur and is now exploring different writing venues,(with a stage play recently completed). She has had poetry and nonfiction articles published in the last few years. Tonette has been married to her only serious boyfriend for more than thirty years and she is, as one person described her, family-oriented almost to a fault. Never mind how others have described her, she is,(shall we say), a sometime traditionalist of eclectic tastes.She has another blog : "Tonette Joyce:Food,Friends,Family" here at WordPress.She and guests share tips and recipes for easy entertaining and helps people to be ready for almost anything.
This entry was posted in America, Family, friends, imagination, Life, Miscellaneous and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Initially Speaking

  1. Patricia Kiyono says:

    I’ve signed things with my first initial and last name simply to save time, but I’ve never felt the need to be identified with an initial. Even when I went through a phase in which I wanted to change my first name, I didn’t really hate my name enough to shorten it to one letter. I guess it works if you want to be semi-anonymous.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Tonette” is a really difficult name for people to remember and even hard for people in Kentucky to pronounce. I will amend my post because I forgot top add what happened when I tried to use, “T.M.”


  2. My older two children shorten their names down sometimes. Quinlan will tell people her prefers to be called Q, when asked why he says its because too many people have problems saying Quinlan (he has been called Quintan a lot and some others that I don’t even recall now). He doesn’t like it when people get his name wrong. Jessica will go by J or Jess though she prefers her full name. She allows others to shorten it up (though Wyatt is the only one who gets to call her JJ)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like “Q”! It calls up cool images,(James Bond or Star Trek). Jessica is a very feminine name, so I am not surprised that she likes it.(Good choice, Mom!)
      BTW, there is a Wyatt in our family. The son of my youngest sister-in-law was a law enforcement officer, so he named his son after Wyatt Earp.


  3. Jeff Salter says:

    After I got my first fiction publishing contract, I intended to use the pen name Leigh Geoffrey, which is a variant of my real name, Jeffrey Lee. In a three-way email “conversation” among me, my editor, and the publisher, I was more or less talked out of using Leigh Geoffrey… on the understanding that it could create a log of confusion if people called me by a name that wasn’t actually mine.
    Long story, short… we decided on initials, so I’m published (in fiction) under J. L. Salter.
    In poetry and non-fiction, however, I’m published as Jeffrey L. Salter.
    While we’re talking about names and nicknames, this puzzles me:
    I know several people who go by the name Trey. I every case, they were named after two predecessors — usually grandfather and father — who had the same name (e.g., Robert Hardwick Jackson III). So I’m wondering: if preserving the name Robert Hardwick Jackson is so important, how come you call your son Trey and all his friends and teachers know him as Trey?


    • First of all, I like the name you chose as a variant of your own, but the name “Leigh” has been hijacked for females, like Leslie and so many others.(Sean and Alex are being taken over as girls’ names; it droves me nuts.) Actually “Joyce” was originally a man’s name. In Ireland, it is a common last name. I once had a librarian rearrange my name on a library card because she said, “Joyce couldn’t be a last name.”
      My husband’s oldest nephew is the third in their lineage with the exact same name, and he is called “Trip”. My father-inb-law’s side of the family’s ethnic heritage had been insistent that the first boy HAD to be named after the father. (The only time that I had any trouble from my grandmother-in-law, because I refused to make my son a “Junior”. )
      I have known families with ‘old money’ who are of the same mindset, except that it has something to do with prestige. I went to a private school for a short time and one of the gals in my class, (from a real country-club family), had a brother in the same boat who they called “Skippy”. Others in the same position are often called “Chip” or “Chippy” , as in “chip off the old block”. “H” was in that position, as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve never cared for nicknames myself. (Patricia, my main character in His Perfect Love, “hates” nicknames.) LOL As long as I can remember, no one has ever shortened Sharon to anything. At least, not after the first time they did it. All I had to do was give them the “look,” and that nickname was not used for me again.

    As far as initials for my author name, S.K. Connell was not considered. Nor a made up name. Nah. Not for me.

    Although I have many friends who go by initials instead of their first names, I’ve never given it a thought as to the why. I simply accept it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Nicknames! Don’t get me started. I HATE being called “Toni’, yet the family always does and friends feel like it makes them closer to me.I try to stop them if I can.
      I dare to guess some may have been tempted to say “Shar” (like ‘Cher’). I don’t blame you for stopping that before it gets started.
      Thanks so much for taking time to comment, Sharon. It’s always nice to see additional friends.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s