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?