Some of you may remember that I once wrote a post about naming posts. To this day, finding interesting yet meaningful post names is a huge challenge for me. I’m tempted to just name them randomly, like Henry or something…

What I didn’t mention then is that names in general have long been a source of personal interest. I love hearing stories behind names or nicknames. I’ve long named my favorite objects such as my winter scarf (Beauregard), my TV (Mistress Titania Forester the 8th) and an assortment of trinkets and nick knacks I’ve taken a particular liking to. Buddy came with his own name, in my head I call him Livingston but he’s always refused to answer to that.

ok …how about I call you Sir Poopmeister?

There’s a singular type of magic the comes from giving something, or someone a name. A unique identifier all of their own. The bond formed between the namer and the namee is deeply personal and completely irreplaceable. Of course, in the most basic sense, we are all named by our parents, the people to whom we quite literally owe our existence. However even beyond that, anyone that gives you a name usually holds a special place in your life.

Friends give us nicknames to show how close our relationships are. How we have this understanding where the other person is our one and only “buttface”.. Lovers share terms of endearment to similarly mark their relationship status. And bullies use them to intimidate and single out prey. Whether for good or bad, when someone gives you a moniker, they’ve spent some time thinking about you. You occupy a certain space in their brain that no one else does.

As such, we often see stories that highlight the significance of naming people, places or objects. In a way it gives them an identity on which we leave a mark. In fantasy stories it can be associated to magic. It’s often a way to show a deep connection between characters or mark a significant change in a relationship. Whatever the case may be, it’s always important.

very very important!

Of course, this isn’t unique to anime in any way. It’s basically the central plot element of the Neverending Story and has been a huge component in fairytales since time immemorial. Ok that makes no sense, how would I even know about it if they are immemorial? I just like that expression. Let me have this one, ok?

However, in anime the significance is even more impactful because of the particularities of Japanese culture. Since social norm dictates that people be referred to by their last names, you often get scenes where a huge deal is made out of people calling each other by their surnames. It’s a step that has all kinds of implications. These scenes can seem odd or exaggerated at first to us uncouth Westerners. There’s few people more casual and irreverential than me, (I would probably do very badly in Japan). Yet, I find this utterly charming.

did you just say “Irina”!?!

Are you guys fed up of me oversharing with you? I get it, I really do that too much. I’m going to do it again. SPOILERS – SKIP IF YOU DON’T WANNA READ ABOUT ME AGAIN. My last name isn’t the one I was born with. We left my birth country when I was really small, not entirely legally at the time, and my parents legally changed out family name in order to blur our tracks a bit. They were a little scared but always made me feel safe. And because I come from generations of single children families since time immemorial, and my original family name has a very quirky back story, that name effectively died that day. I now have a very generic, very English sounding last name which I quite like and has nothing to do with my roots.

For the longest time I disliked my first name. It always clearly singled me out as an outsider. Everyone mispronounces it and it’s very easy to make quite unpleasant sounding. For years I would sort of avoid it. I wouldn’t correct people when they got it wrong or called me Irene, Erin, Catrina… But then, when I started losing the little family I did have, I suddenly realized that this name was a gift from them. They loved it and they loved me, that’s why they gave me something special and unique. Since I don’t have my last name anymore, it’s sort of all I have left of those very early days.

I started liking it a lot more. I tell people how to pronounce it (even though most still struggle, they try and that makes me happy), I correct them when they use the wrong one. I still like nick names cause that’s special between me and my friends, but I don’t insist on them using the nick name all the time. I use my name for avatars whenever I can. It’s a precious present form people I adore and it’s my treasure. PRETTY MUCH END OF IRINA SPOILER, YOU CAN READ AGAIN!

this movie brought ribbons back…

It’s in that context, that I’ve come to see the notion of having someone call you by your first name as an intimate act. Your name is special and sharing it with someone should be as well. At least a little bit.

None of this would have occurred to me if I didn’t constantly watch adorable anime teens melt in embarrassment at hearing their own first names from friends. I sort of wish we had the same standard here. It would add a little layer of the exceptional to our everyday lives. Just a touch of significance to make the world more meaningful.

What do you guys think? Is it silly? Do you also have some type of magical name notion? Is there a nick name I could call you, just between us?

71 thoughts on “What’s in a Name ? (Anime Edition)”

  1. Names are generally something I don’t much about in regard to my own name. I get called more by nicknames than my real name these days. The most popular one being Light from Death Note. I’m not sure I should be flatter being Light, or not, but it seems to catch on that both offline, and offline I get refereed to Light a lot more than I ever thought. I also get called that one guy who really loves Cardcaptor Sakura. Whenever it get brought up in that server, people always think about me, and Cardcaptor.

    The origin of my real name ain’t special. My dad was too lazy to come up with a name, and so he just gave me his name. Of course, because of the recent Planet of the Apes movies I still get friends telling me they enjoyed my appearance in War for the Planet of the Apes because I share the same name as one of its leading characters hahaha. Luckily, I have a friend who’s initial is ET, and so I also take part in making fun of him.

    Speaking of names, my username is a combination of a type of character I like, and a nickname I picked up. Arsene is basically a 100 year old character who’s a gentleman, and thief. I liked that type of character, although once the Persona 5 design for a demon named Arsene came out it made me further like it. The Lucifer part comes from me playing a character named Lucifer in a play. I had long enough hair where I could gel my hair, and make two horns stick out from my own hair. People told me the horns looked creepily, natural on me, and the name Lucifer stuck to me even after I was done performing in that play.

    As for names in general, they should be value, and should not be taken granted. I agree in the west there’s a not whole of thought, or importance placed them compare to other cultures. I guess people simply seeing it as a series of letters, and nothing more. Speaking of which, the importance of names was also something the novel Pachinko (yes, that book again) briefly touched on at a certain point in the story. It was a touching moment since it was a one one heartfelt conversation.

  2. Your Name is a magnificent movie. It’s also a tear-jerker. I saw it on blu-ray and its one of the few that could benefit from this level of resolution. Most line art don’t need more than regular DVD quality but this was extra good. I generally hate time-travel films, and avoid Dr. Who fans as social diseases, because having time travel in your story usually means that’s the final decision. Thankfully, Haruhi avoided that, but usually that’s the case. YN was a good film and very pretty, and really grabbed on. Its like 5cm/s, that resolve to do the right thing no matter what.

      1. All the pictures you used in this post are from “Your Name”. I thought you were also referencing that movie as you talked about the importance and intimacy of names, in a layered approach to a more complex film review. Was that not the case?

        1. Not at all. The pictures are from your name but the post doesn’t refer to the movie, time travel or reviews in any way. Kinda wish it did now

      1. No, I’m definitely logged in as it tells me I am commenting as MIB, which is why it is so weird. Plus it is fine on other WP sites I’ve commented on today/yesterday.. If this post works then maybe it was a cache.cookie issue. Here goes…

  3. I wasn’t sure if you thought that this was someone else masquerading as me. 😛

    Not sure why I’m logged as anonymous, it says I’m posting as me… 🙁

  4. I’ve never really been comfortable with my surname and sometimes my own Christian name sounds weird to me which is why I prefer my online non de plume of MIB! 😛

  5. I don’t think that much about naming. When call people, I usually don’t call them by their nicknames even if they have one. I pretty much keep a distance from them that way.

    If it’s naming pets, well I don’t usually name them but my little sisters did. I think it’s awesome they can come up with names for their pets very easily.

    As for my avatar, I honestly just randomly hit the keyboard and BOOM that’s my name!! I have a very bad naming sense…

  6. You’re so right, Irina. That was such an awesome story about you and why you are. Thank you for sharing 😁. I would like it if we went by our last names like in anime because I’ve ran into a lot of Scotts through out my life and going by our last name instead of Scott (last initial) would be more personal.

    When it came to having an online persona, I wanted to just go by my first name. I know that many people in our group and elsewhere go by an online name, but I didn’t want to do that. It didn’t feel as personal and I wanted people to get a glimpse at who I am. (Yes, I put thought into it).

  7. Ah…
    I never really cared much for names. Even though I’m about as western as possible, with a proper lower-class last name (it literally means weaver), no one can pronounce it right! Names just basically help people misunderstand one another-
    Like my family’s throwing a fit because my roommate next semester is named Bhavik and they’re worried I’ll come home smelling like curry!
    Then again, I give my friends nicknames all the time. My best friend is ‘Fish’ because ___. My friend Mike is Mik-Hail. Aamna = Anna or ‘Oven’…
    So yeah, my nicknames are nonsensical and random. And that’s kinda the point! I’m a blasphemous writer, cus I believe that words should just be words! 😀

      1. If by sad you mean contextualizing the pain of being called ‘Puppy’ as a preteen by downplaying and attacking the significance of naming itself…
        Uh. I’d prefer if you called it edgy…
        (Cus wording matters)
        ^_^

  8. Wow, can you name my TV too?
    Names are pretty significant to me. I’ve lived with two names for most of my life (a Chinese legal name and an English one for Canada), and now there’s “Moya” too. I almost feel like I have a different personality for each name! The English name is probably my least favourite. I totally relate to you when it comes to people messing up the pronunciation (I actually have a pseudonym for ordering Starbucks drinks), and because it’s a Gaelic name, I always feel unreasonably self-conscious for being an Asian in possession of that name. “Moyatori” is the only name I gave myself, and coming up with it gave me a sense of power over my identity…or something like that.
    Anyhow, I’m not sure if I have a point, but names are pretty interesting to me and so was this post!

    1. There are a lot of rituals which envolve giving yourself a secret or warrior name as an exercise in empowerment. I totally get why Moyatori would make you feel that wayand it’s awesome. I would say learning to love my own name also gave me a confidence boost

  9. Names make me happy. It’s something that’s always intrigued me, too. The part I hated most growing up was when people mispronounced my last name (Prange–2 syllables, pronounced 1.Prang 2. ee–PRANG/ee….Prange)
    Now I just shrug it off and say, “you probably won’t get it right anyway, so it’s cool.”
    But yeah! Prange means “brawler” or “fighter”, and then my first name (Alexander) means “defender of men” (Greek rooted name I guess)

    Ahhh….I’m rambling…I have a generic name that I love because it’s meaning seems strong and proud–which as a Germanic-rooted person is amazing to me.

    Names are awesome, and the name Irina has intrigued me since you started following me. What does it mean? How is it actually pronounced? What root language is it from? Is it common or uncommon? So many questions!!!

    Ramble=Done

    1. Alexander is a beautiful name. That’s why Alexander the Great (whose suffix I regularly steal) named everything Alexandria. Maps were a bit tough to figure out but it really is very pretty.

      1. Aw thanks, Irina!! I searched for your name meaning and came up with “peace” as a result– which I think is wonderful and much better than “defender of men.” Peace is better. Always wanted to make my name Russian and spell it Aleksandr, but I have no Russian in me and I’m a stickler, so that’s a no from me.

  10. I’m pretty much the opposite. Names mean little to me. I don’t use them a lot, and I don’t much care what people call me (with exceptions mostly for aesthetic reasons). My screenhandle? Back in the days, I used to be Foxfire, the name of a faerie mage I created as part of my first party in Wizardry 7. Then I joined a Wizardry 8 forum, which already had a prominent member with “Fox” in it, so I thought I should use a new name. I picked the first thing that came to mind, which is the title of T Rex song “Dawnstorm”. The song isn’t my favourite of the band, and T Rex isn’t my favourite band. I relate somewhat to the lyrics, but not too much. I’m not an early riser, and I don’t have a stormy temperament. The doesn’t really fit me, but having a name that doesn’t fit me sort of fits.

    It’s not just names. I tend to understand concepts intuitively, but I have bad terminology retention and mix up terms a lot. It’s as if talking moves me one measure away from reality.

    The anime-teen-naming science is cute, though. For some reason, I’m having trouble getting used to the bare name being more familiar than name + chan. I don’t have the problem for “kun”, which is odd.

  11. I think I’m the opposite of you with regards to my name I’ve got like the most common first name there is and the least common last name. I like to think my common first name affords me a bit of anonymity in casual circumstances while my last name invokes curious questions from nosy bystanders and people who are interested enough to ask!

    1. But Cactus is such a eird first name.. OK you know I gotta ask (you don’t gotta answer though) what is your family name?

  12. I’d never given much thought into names but this is a really interesting way of thinking about it especially with your name connecting you to family! I did however always find it fascinating when my parents told me what I could have been called and it makes me think would I have suited those other names 😂 I love your name as I think the name Irina is so pretty and different! 😄

  13. I always thought your name was very unique and quite beautiful. My own name, Michel, is one that I have never really liked. But then again, everyone now calls me Raistlin or Raist anyway, so there is that 😊

    1. Wait – do people in your day to day life call you Raistlin as well? That’s kinda awesome.
      For the record I love angel names.

      1. Haha…no just here they do (it would really be cool if the did though 😀😀). Naw in real life they just call me Mies (which is the Dutch short version of my name, and it’s pronounced in English as mees). Well, there are certainly some very beautiful angel names, that’s for sure 😀

  14. I never thought about this, but, of course you are right!

    I have a lot of different names depending on with I am! It’s funny that I got that Japanese vibe of people calling me for my first name for most of the time I’ve been alive xD

    My real name is Daniel. I love the name, but it’s a pretty common name. However, my last name is something that is completely different than everyone else. In fact, I never encountered anyone in Portugal with this last name. This way, most people call me by my last name. So, when someone called me “Daniel” it was because we were way more intimate than just a regular friend. This, when I was a teenager more or less.

    When I went to college, the papers reverted. People would usually call me by my first name and closer people by my last name 😛

    When it comes to family it’s strange that they never call me by my name lolol My brother and I treat each other by “Mano” which is basically a cuter way to say brother in portuguese. While my mother always call me by “love”, “dear”, or something in those lines! Normally when she does call by my name it’s because she’s mad ahah

    When it comes to my boyfriend we usually call each other “love”. Not really that original but it’s great! 😀

    Contrary to you, I never gave any name to my belongings. I see my belongings as things and I don’t really want to get attached to them in case they break or something like that!

    So, thank you so much for this post! You just made me feel good inside by thinking how the people I love call me xD

    For my “Internet” name… Since I came up with Arthifis, I use it for everything in the Internet/Games. Basically, I was able to create a name from my head which nobody uses in any kind of online game I’ve ever played. Normally when people get closer to me, they normally call me Arthis or just Art. So, you can call me those or anything you can come up with ahah xD

    1. I always liked Arthifis. For some reason I associate it with fanfare and magic. Like Oz. You know – a wizard name.

    1. really – I thought it was the same as surnom. Man I hope I didn’t confuse the readers too much. At least they’re somewhat use to having no clue hat I’m going on about

  15. Your one and only “buttface” 😂😂😂 that’s amazing! Great story about your name!! It’s nice that you’ve come to love and understand it. At least you weren’t born in this time where people name their children the STRANGEST THINGS! I mean, you could have been “lamp”, or “sidewalk”! I actually have a customer who named her child “Vulcan”… As in the Star Trek race, and my brother in law works for a company where he dealt with a woman who named her child “Shithead” … She pronounced it “Shitheed” but… Come on lady, look how it’s spelled!! 😅

  16. I think nicknames are a form of intimacy and it’s fun to do. I have name for my plants, haha. I wouldn’t really give a nickname to a stranger so it’s usually a sign of closeness of relationship as well.

    1. I do occasionally call people Kitten when I can’t remeber their name. It’s not a good habit. I have to stop that it gets me in a lot of trouble.

  17. I’ve always loved the act of naming things.

    I think names are just generally much better when lots of thought is put into it.

    For example, I named my first cat Kumi. She was pure white, but was also rather “street” worn when we first got her. Due to this, I decided not to name her Yuki, as it would make her sound all noble. Instead, Kumi, meaning rice, would be much more humble for a stray.

    My own name, I am very happy with, but am also rather peeved it’s ALWAYS a villain name in literally every incarnation despite having an angelic origin, probably to drive home the irony of the name.

    Though I guess that also applies to me, degenerate I am.

        1. That’s not a villain name… Maybe the boy version. It’s an extremely common name for girls here. I know 4.

    1. You know, the Greeks had a different idea about Lucifer and a slightly different version of the story. They called him Prometheus.

          1. Free of needing Gods was a good thing. Jews, not so much. Both got sent to Hell. Hercules liberated Prometheus and it was good. Lucifer wasn’t so lucky.

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