On Sat, Jul 9, 2011 at 07:59, Padraic Brown <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> On the other hand, Sai has only *one* name -- no first name with which to
> be familiar and no last name with which to be distant. He has made himself
> an entirely different sort of animal than we usually encounter in the
> modern West. I understand that his situation was the norm in earlier ages
> in many European countries. But then surnames came into fashion and have
> been ever since.


FWIW, while I am clearly unusual, I am certainly not unique (as
attested by the WP list of legally mononymous people, let alone the
giant list of one-word stage names):

… and that's not even trying to count the gobs of non-notable
Indonesians and Arabs who are quite arguably mononymic!

I don't think that there is any functional distinction whatsoever,
socially speaking, between someone who is "merely" stage-mononymic
(I'm sure you can think of a dozen such people off the top of your
head) and someone who is legally mononymic.

Indeed, I'd argue that one's name is necessarily, by common law, that
which one is pervasively called; as such, for someone like Pelé or
Sting, those *are* their names. I see absolutely no reason to abrogate
this common right to name oneself by usage to, of all things, a
government department whose primary purpose for existence is the
regulation of motor vehicle usage, or to defer to their opinion on
naming in any way.

This isn't merely a legal argument; it's a social one — it's simply
true that *you* consider Madonna to be that singer's full name,
despite it not being what's on her government sanction ID. Why would

If you met her, or referred to her, would you call the woman "Mrs.
Madonna"? Surely not — and this would not convey any disrespect.

I think in this regard at least I am not substantially different from
those people, except in that I (unlike the various celebrities, such
as entertainers and royalty) am not famous, and so it seems odd that I
should have the gall to take the same privilege as is otherwise
reserved for people who are. ;-)

> I certainly join the others who have congratulated Sai! I think we've lost
> something in the West (and perhaps never had it, except a very few) in
> that we are *given* our names. Usually by parents whose grasp on the
> importance of names may or may not be all that strong. I think there is
> something to be said for standing forth and taking your own Name. The
> Popes do this, and to an extent, kings do this. Why not the rest of us?

I strongly agree with this. I'd point out that the assumption that
your name assigned at birth ought to persist into adulthood by default
is a rather modern Western thing; there are other cultures where this
isn't true.

Indeed, how could you possibly name somebody in a reasonable way
before they even achieve sentience, let alone a developed personality?
It's not much better than the Roman practice of calling their kids by
ordinal numbers. This is even aside from being more appropriately a
matter for *self* determination; there simply is no reasonably
persistent basis at all to determine the name before adulthood.

Of course this makes me wonder: what would you call yourself,
supposing you had no barrier to doing so? ;-)

> I am curious, Sai: I don't know your name before (I've always known you
> as Sai), but I'm interested in the thought process that brought you to
> this point. It's a bold move and I could only imagine some considerable
> thought has gone into it. I know of only one other person who has done
> this, but I don't think the change was ever sanctioned in court (as if that
> really matters).

"sai" was actually the second handle I ever used online, back in the
days when Gopher was still big (remember that?). (The first one was
both stupid an common, so didn't last long.)

At one point it had a name conflict on a server, and so I changed my
handle to saizai (from the Japanese voiced ditto), which is globally
unique, memorable, and nonstupid, and thus stuck.

In 2001 I underwent a fairly drastic change in personality, sufficient
to make me strongly disinclined to associate myself with my birthname
(as it simply belongs to in effect a different person). [As an aside,
you're welcome to ask me for more detail on whatever you like — except
for this part. It's fairly private, and this is all I am comfortable
saying about it other than to very close friends.]

By this time I had already been using Sai occasionally as a nickname —
my handle not having the marring of my birthname — and so I began
using that pretty much full time. I came up with the psuedosurname
Emrys (from Myrddin) purely to meet an implied premise that I "ought"
to have a second name; in point of fact I never actually used it in
any significant way, and I always corrected people who called me by it
to call me only by Sai.

In 2007 I got it registered as my DBA, simply because someone had
written me a check to that name — which at that point I'd been using
exclusively in daily life (if not government paperwork) for about six
years, and I wanted to be able to deposit it.

About a year ago, I started thinking that it having been a decade
already, I really ought to just pay up the thousand or so dollars it'd
cost me in total, get the damn court order, and have my affairs be
synchronized. It really grated on me to have my birthname constantly
forced upon me, to have to explain to bureaucrats that it's not the
name I go by, to have it on my ID, to have to identify myself by it in
nearly all my dealings in any official capacity outside of business —
a name I have strong negative associations with, and which simply is
no more my name than Bob is yours (not that there's anything wrong
with "Bob"; it just isn't your name).

That irritation overcame my reluctance to both submit my identity to a
judge's whims and pay a substantial sum for a privilege that lawfully
is mine already under the common law upheld throughout the United
States, one that has been widely acknowledged as not merely
precedential but a _fundamental right_, abrogated through security
paranoia and bureaucratic obstinancy. Suing the DMV for failing to
respect the common law, however, is rather harder and more costly than
just paying up, so I did the latter. (Which is of course how such
rights are lost… alas. Cf.

Since I was giving serious thought to effectuating something fairly
costly and permanent, I spent a long time considering a) whether the
name Sai suited me well enough as not merely a nickname or handle, but
as a label of identity, and b) whether to keep the surname Emrys,
which I never used or identified with, but makes it easier to conform
to others' expectations.

In the end I decided that Sai is about as close as I expect to ever
get to a name I identify with (and something that would actually be a
massive social barrier to change, as my entire life under this
personality has been by that name, including all publications,
friendships, etc); and that frankly, I just really don't give a fuck
about others' presumptions and sure as hell don't want them dictating
my identity. So fuck it, I'll formally adopt the name I actually
identify with.

I'm very well aware of the pragmatic pros and cons of this. I sought
fairly broad advice on MetaFilter [0], as well as privately from
numerous friends; they were quite frank about the problems. More
usefully I think, I discussed it at significant length with Mitch, a
mononymous law professor at U. Wisconsin, who was extremely kind and
had much more direct knowledge of the issues than others would.

He acknowledged all of the issues of it — we actually have a small
mailing list of mononymous people now — but I think the most
persuasive fact is that he got married and didn't change his name back
to a binym, despite it being an obvious opportunity at no significant
external cost and with full knowledge from experience of the problems.
Why is that? Simple: it's not his identity to be other than

The same is true of me.

So as I mentioned earlier in response to And — and I think a quote of
his [1] is apropos — it's not that I have any specific *intent* to
"buck the system", but rather that I have no desire to submit myself
to it needlessly, especially not on matters of identity. I don't
pursue uniqueness, I just don't feel any inhibition from it.

So: Sai it is. ;-)

- Sai

[0] Quite good stuff, actually:

[1] From an email conversation:

Is Saiïsm cognate with seism? - Don Boozer

Hoho. I read that as se-ism, related to 'seity', 'selfhood', in which
case I think yes, Saiïsm is related to seism and to suism
(selfishness, prioritizing one's own goals and needs), so a kind of
'selfism' then, understood not as a kind of callousness or
psychopathy, but rather as a product of being both independent-minded
and sui generis, a species with a population of 1. - And Rosta