What’s in a name?

The name I use here, Gianna Kali, most of your probably know, but perhaps not all of you do, is a pseudonym. I do not use my real name for issues of privacy. A number of things concern me. First, I write about sensitive personal matters that sometimes include other people, in particular family members whom I wish to protect as well as not hurt. Secondly, I do not know where my professional life will lead and I don’t want potential employers finding all this intimate information about me. Pretty much no brainer stuff. Should I at some point find that my career grows out of this work I may some day “come out.” In the meantime I’m Gianna Kali.

The name is flush with meaning for me though. It is me as much as my given name is.

Here’s the story:

I am Italian-American, first generation. I spoke Italian in my home growing up. My first and last name is distinctly Italian. My middle name is Jane. I’ve never liked the flow of my first and last name with my middle name. The middle name, Jane, interrupts the beautiful flow of the Italian language. And so for many years, I’ve simply used Gianna, which translates to Jane, when I say what my middle name is—I always tell my given name as well, but I like to say my name out loud with the Gianna.

And Kali, well that name too means a lot to me. Kali is my cat. My 18 year old sweet kitty. She is part of me and will remain a part of me long after she is gone. Kali is also the Goddess of destruction and creation in Hinduism and she inspires me. Out with the old and in with the new!!

If you use a handle or a pseudonym what is your story? Or, alternatively, if you use your real name is there a story there?

Sloopy Cowbell—I really want to hear your story!!

Note: Some of you have sent me things in the mail. I usually use a combination of my pseudonym/or first real name and my husband’s last name to insure that it makes it to our mailbox. Just if you’re wondering what the heck was up with that!! Hubby has a distinctly non-Italian sounding name!!

17 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

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  1. My handle on here comes from a name my mother was going to use for me but didn’t. My email address, multifoliate, literally means “many leaves”, but it also refers to the Virgin Mary.

    Do you know what I really wish? That I could use my real name on here, first and last, without any harm coming to my family or myself. Unfortunately, I don’t even feel comfortable enough to reveal where in the U.S. I live.

  2. another interesting story! thanks, susan.

    I love the name Sophie…it’s so sweet.

    “stories you’re sitting on”

    do you mean fiction or memoir that you’re writing? I hope you work through whatever is troublesome.

  3. I was named after my paternal grandmother who died before I was born. Her name was Sophie, but my parents thought the name was a bit old fashioned, and went with the number one name for baby girls that year- Susan.

    When I first started writing about mental health issues back in 01, I was working for a company on Wall Street and would have lost my job if I was outed. Hence, I wrote under the name Sophy. It was either that or my Hebrew name which is Zelda. I cannot be a mental health writer and advocate with that name…….

    That changed after 9/11. The company I worked for was hit hard, and the man who owned the company and was President/Ceo wanted employees to help out the brave firemen and policemen digging at the site, so I spent several weekends at Ground Zero running messages and beverages. It made me realize how short life is, and also threw me into a big depression in 02.

    I started becoming a mental health activist from that, to help deal with my depression. I used my real name, but never my surname. I stopped caring if I would be outed at work, and eventually I was which lead to being asked to take a LOA from work and my job was outsourced to India.

    Today I still keep the name but I don’t have the guts to use the surname on line, but found it’s really not necessary.

    What an interesting topic Gianna, and a nice break from several stories I am sitting on that are very upsetting.

  4. suzanne,
    I’m sorry I didn’t respond to you…

    I’m tired…and don’t feel so hot today and read your comment and meant to come back to it…and then forgot until now…

    In any case your name is brilliant!! and the story, yes, somewhat self-explanatory…

    thanks for sharing.

  5. “…I use the word ‘given’ rather than real…”

    Actually me too, I thought “real” wasn’t quite the term. After I’d sent my comment. Came to think of Thich Nhat Hanh’s poem “Please Call Me by My True Names”. “Real” seems a bit too close to “true”, in this context. And my given name isn’t more or less true or real than any other name.

  6. I fixed it Marian…those smiley’s in wordpress are a pain in the behind…

    thanks for sharing your story…

    I think if it feels better not to use your given name it’s good to respect that…and I use the word “given” rather than real…because what is so “real” about your given name if it does not work for you??

  7. There are people who say that any word is a label. Which truly is (perfect), can’t be named. A name defines one’s limits (or imperfection, or ego) from others’ limits (or imperfection, or ego). Semiotics is a fascinating thing. Especially the psychology involved in it. “Once you label me you negate me.” Because only the imperfect, limited form can be labelled. Being itself is eternal and boundless, formless, perfect, (watch me grope for an appropriate name for the unnamable… ) and thus can’t be labelled.

    I’ve always had nicknames, and I embraced them. Because my real name symbolizes everything I want to delimit myself from (imperfect, egoic me). At times I’d react aggressively towards anyone calling me by my real name. At other times it just would make me zone out, or feel nauseous. Calling me by my real name equals to violating my boundaries. It still makes me feel uncomfortable. The worst of nightmares and “hallucinations” are the ones where my real name is said.

    I tried to accept it: ‘I’m a grown up. I can’t continue to go by nicknames.’ Or: ‘I’m not recovered as long as I can’t do with my real name.’ It only made things worse. In spite of all the analyzing and realizing, and intellectual understanding that my “past has no power over the present moment”, and that it’s just a word, not the thing itself, not me myself. So, in consequence, I took a look at the family tree (the “good” side of it…), in search of something that would be more fit for use in irl, in official contexts, than an evident nickname, and changed my name. Though not officially yet, because that involves a lot of mentioning my real name. Luckily, you’re a number in this country, not a name. So the pseudonym works, in almost all, even most official, contexts.

    On the surface, it has nothing to do with anonymity, since I use the same name everywhere. In irl as well as in cyberspace. Under the surface, it has everything to do with anonymity…

  8. My Dad named me. He chose the spelling with the “Y” as opposed to the “ie” ending of Stephany.

    Sloopy, how cool are those bells! I ring a cowbell for my dog to come in from the woods!

  9. cool topic…i do always wonder about some names…i chose missisyphus rather quickly just to have a name but miss…well i’m really a ms and sisyphus is probably easy to guess…living with bipolar and then just life at times i always used to say i feel like sisyphus working hard to roll that rock up the hill only to have it roll back down and know that i’d have to get up and do it all over again. something i’m sure many can relate to! and suzanne…was not what i was called when i was younger but i sign off with it when i write to others….

  10. Sloopy!

    that’s a beautiful story and so are those cowbells. I love them…

    how many of them to you have.

    anyway, thanks, I sure wasn’t disappointed!! Your story was better than I could have imagined.

  11. Hi! You want to hear my story?! How I got my name Sloopy Cowbell?!

    I figured I needed an idiotic first name! The kind of name a character in a Walt Disney cartoon would have. And Sloopy seemed to fit the bill!

    As for my “surname”, well.. hmm… slightly longer story..

    When I was first “ill”, a friend suggested I start metal detecting as a hobby. He said it had been a great healer for him, and that it would be good for me, too. Mentally relaxing, he promised, but also good physical exercise, exhilarating and sometimes rewarding, too.

    He was right.

    At the time we lived in the farmlands of East Anglia. I used to spend whole days at a time, come rain or shine, often alone, roaming across the fields in search of that hoard of priceless gold coins. A find that sadly remains elusive to this day!

    However, what I did find were beautiful little bells. They were animal bells – cow bells, sheep bells and tiny little hawking bells. Known collectively as crotal bells.

    I used to get such a rush of excitement when I found one. I would spend ages, poking out the soil trapped inside the bell, just so I could hear the little clay ‘pea’ ringing once again, perhaps for the first time in hundreds of years!

    Childish or what?!

    And that is the story of how I got the name “Cowbell” !

  12. Gianna,
    Although I write my blog under my real name, I find it very interesting how you picked your “handle,” and why it’s meaningful to you. I wonder how other bloggers, whom I regularly read, have picked their “handles.” Thanks for sharing!


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