18 votes

Has anybody changed their first and/or last name (legally or socially)?

I don’t like my name, and I never really have. It has nothing to do with ‘tomf’.

My main questions are:

  1. How did you go about choosing the new name?
  2. How did you manage/roll out the new name?
  3. What unforeseen challenges came up?

My main concern is that I’ll settle on a ‘cool’ sounding name and that people will think it’s weird. While I want something normal, I do have some parameters:

  1. The name should be free for the .com and major social media
  2. I don’t want a main ‘S’ sound, since I don’t like how I say it.
  3. I am hoping to have something simple to use over the phone. I use ‘Tom’ for Starbucks and reservations because it’s clear, short, and not me.

Anyway, has anybody done this? Any feedback is great, but I am more focused on changing my first name.

Pardon the crappy tags.

24 comments

  1. [11]
    Adys
    (edited )
    Link
    I've gone through the process in order to remove accents from my name, unsuccessfully. My govt (France) interrupted the case at some point, rejecting it as a name change and calling it a "birth...

    I've gone through the process in order to remove accents from my name, unsuccessfully. My govt (France) interrupted the case at some point, rejecting it as a name change and calling it a "birth certificate correction" (correcting a misspelling) which ironically is much more complicated than a name change.

    Anyway, I'll give you my take on it. Your name is your identity. If you are unhappy with it, changing it might be a good idea, it might not. It won't suddenly fix how comfortable you are with yourself and the image you project, though; remember, people who aren't you, even if they care about you, just don't give two shits about your name (as long as they can spell it).

    I find it's easy to look at someone else you respect and project that respect onto their name, start thinking "man, with a name like that, I could be that good looking / successful / whatever". I mean, how can you be born with the name "Leonardo DiCaprio" and not end up a movie star? "Jason Momoa" and not end up an overall badass? Anyway, that's all psychological tricks you play on yourself.

    A few tidbits of advice:

    • Your thirst for a new name/identity may be temporary. Temporary can mean several months! A name change is very hard to go back on so give it time.
    • You don't have to change your name legally to play with your identity. Anyone who doesn't know you and asks you for your name will accept anything you give them. (For most, that's a margin of error of over 7 billion people!)
    • Don't ask your close friends to change how they call you until you are certain about your new identity. This is "ask only once" territory, otherwise people won't take it seriously.

    So my general strategy would be to pick a new name (maybe a variation of your current one. Have you tried diminutives?) to give out to people who don't know you and see how it rolls off the tongue. Try some variations, see what makes you happy. Once you find one that you like better than most, start using it more; anywhere you can get away with it. Once in a while, try your original one again for contrast. This process can and should take months if not years, unless you want to end up doing it all over again down the line.

    Once you truly find something that makes you happy, then you can ask your close friends and relatives to start calling you that. By that time, you'll also be able to put into words why you feel more attached to this new identity than the old one they're used to call you by (if you so wish to explain). And then you can feel comfortable about legally changing your name and making it official.

    Also .coms are lame. Get something that plays well with your name! My last name ends in -che, so I got a .ch :)

    9 votes
    1. Adys
      Link Parent
      Quick personal addendum to explain the reasoning above. For years I was extremely unhappy with both my first and last names. This is the case for a lot of people. Eventually, as I started using...

      Quick personal addendum to explain the reasoning above.

      For years I was extremely unhappy with both my first and last names. This is the case for a lot of people. Eventually, as I started using them in public, I grew more attached to them. When I lived in England I asked people to call me by a diminutive, as my full name was mispronounced all the time. I still like that diminutive but I've stopped using it; it feels like a different identity, and I've just accepted I'm no longer the person that it represented.

      Removing accents from a name can seem less serious than going from "Jack" to "Lucas" or something, but it still feels like a strong part of my identity. I've never used them, and I think it's weird when people use them, which is why I've gone through legal trouble to try to drop them (and will keep trying). But that won't stop people from putting them on once in a while; if it's someone I'm likely to talk to again, I'll gently correct them and they won't use them again.

      I've also gone through this whole ordeal with nicknames. "Adys" used to be my go-to nickname and I wanted to change it at some point. Then… I gave it time, and I no longer wanted to. Whether it's my name or my nickname, or even my avatar, all these things are part of my identity, my brand; they're part of me.

      (On my avatar: I use a screenshot from this comic to represent me everywhere online. I've done so for years, to the point that it's my brand. Last year, I made it official by contacting the comic author and getting permission to keep doing that… felt super weird!)

      5 votes
    2. [9]
      tomf
      Link Parent
      ha. I have a bunch of fun / cool domains --- but for work stuff I should stick with a .com until the rest of the world catches up with us cool people :) I've been trying to think/discover a new...

      ha. I have a bunch of fun / cool domains --- but for work stuff I should stick with a .com until the rest of the world catches up with us cool people :)

      I've been trying to think/discover a new name for a few decades now. It started when I was ten. I have a very.... beautiful last name. It's not the worst, and I might ultimately stick with it since I also have a perfect domain for it.

      The only reason I don't like my name is because I can't say S as crisp as I'd like. It's so stupid, but it's bothered me forever. Both my first and last name have it -- and the combination of sounds isn't comfortable to say, despite others liking it.

      Good tips overall. My inner-circle will pretty much play along with this whole thing. I could probably get away with a name-of-the-month pulled out of a hat with the bulk of them :)

      It's interesting that the process for a birth certificate correction is more drawn out than a normal name change. Probably an older process that hasn't been revised.

      3 votes
      1. [6]
        Adys
        Link Parent
        Heh, I actually find .com confuses people when associated with a name. It's great if you have a consultancy under your last name or something (Johnson Partners or something), but not so much if...

        I should stick with a .com until the rest of the world catches up with us cool people :)

        Heh, I actually find .com confuses people when associated with a name. It's great if you have a consultancy under your last name or something (Johnson Partners or something), but not so much if you want a personal email address. Either a cool-sounding tld, or simply lastname dot your country-of-residence's ccTLD, makes it feel much more personal.

        The only reason I don't like my name is because I can't say S as crisp as I'd like. It's so stupid, but it's bothered me forever. Both my first and last name have it -- and the combination of sounds isn't comfortable to say, despite others liking it.

        (I'm sure you have, but…) Have you played with variations of your name that don't contain an S? Such as "Luke" instead of "Lucas", or getting creative by replacing the S-sounding syllable with something different, eg "Riven" instead of "Sven", "Cheb" instead of "Sebastien", etc.

        Of course, mind your native language, and be aware of some sounds that trip up certain countries if you frequent them a lot. "th" will be hard on french and german people. "r" will be hard on asians and many mediterraneans. "sh" on scandinavians.

        It's interesting that the process for a birth certificate correction is more drawn out than a normal name change. Probably an older process that hasn't been revised.

        Primarily it's because it's a process meant for situations such as "Name was misspelled / misread on the birth certificate", which are usually addressed within weeks/months of the baby's birth. So it's meant for the parents, not the person.

        3 votes
        1. [5]
          tomf
          Link Parent
          If I could get away with RIVAN, that would be amazing... purely as a Star Wars EU fan :) Sadly, there's no way to drop the S from my names. Three of my four names have them in prominent positions....

          If I could get away with RIVAN, that would be amazing... purely as a Star Wars EU fan :)

          Sadly, there's no way to drop the S from my names. Three of my four names have them in prominent positions. The one starting with the S is the worst one for me, though.

          off-topic re: domains, I've got the standard firstlast.com, some fun ones for side projects / communities, and lastna.me (not literally). I love that last one. I bought it off of a guy for a chunk of change about fifteen years ago after I sold another domain for a similar chunk of change. For a while I had a growing domain purchasing addiction (which is a strong word for it), but I've finally got it down to about seven that serve an actual purpose.

          2 votes
          1. [4]
            Adys
            Link Parent
            Dude, yes. This is mine. Here's the fun part: One of switzerland's (.ch) spoken languages is french, and written like this, leclan => le clan means "the clan" (as in, "the guild"). That domain...

            and lastna.me (not literally). I love that last one. I bought it off of a guy for a chunk of change about fifteen years ago after I sold another domain for a similar chunk of change. For a while I had a growing domain purchasing addiction (which is a strong word for it), but I've finally got it down to about seven that serve an actual purpose.

            Dude, yes. This is mine. Here's the fun part: One of switzerland's (.ch) spoken languages is french, and written like this, leclan => le clan means "the clan" (as in, "the guild"). That domain belonged for the longest time to some swiss guild until it expired and I finally snatched it.

            4 votes
            1. [3]
              tomf
              Link Parent
              that's so good! I was eyeing a .ch last week for something that was, at the time, brilliant -- but I can't remember what it was. I love when great domains expire without being scooped up by...

              that's so good! I was eyeing a .ch last week for something that was, at the time, brilliant -- but I can't remember what it was.

              I love when great domains expire without being scooped up by squatters. Elsewhere in the thread I mentioned that I'm a big It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia fan and picked up https://rickety.cricket. Someone had this before me, but I religiously checked it and was so delighted when it was up. .cricket is also dirt cheap, too.

              For my bouncer I use http://b.irthday.party, since I needed a FQDN for the rDNS. I love the look of the URL for things like this. There is very little I love more than a good domain. :)

              3 votes
              1. [2]
                Adys
                Link Parent
                Hahah brilliant :) When I got addicted to Two Point Hospital I actually bought the domain name twopoint.hospital and got a blog started there. Unfortunately the game didn't end up being...

                I'm a big It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia fan and picked up https://rickety.cricket

                Hahah brilliant :) When I got addicted to Two Point Hospital I actually bought the domain name twopoint.hospital and got a blog started there. Unfortunately the game didn't end up being captivating enough to get a decent flow of content on it so I abandoned it.

                3 votes
                1. tomf
                  Link Parent
                  I love it! Great domains really are the best.

                  I love it! Great domains really are the best.

                  1 vote
      2. [2]
        Algernon_Asimov
        Link Parent
        Why .com? Because of this recent thread, I gained a greater awareness of the full list of domains available. You're not stuck with .com: you could have .work, .business, .name, and so on. Or you...

        for work stuff I should stick with a .com until the rest of the world catches up with us cool people :)

        Why .com?

        Because of this recent thread, I gained a greater awareness of the full list of domains available. You're not stuck with .com: you could have .work, .business, .name, and so on. Or you could go geographical: there are a few cities in that list of domains. There are lots of choices. You just need to track down the owner of the domain you want, to be able to buy a website there.

        2 votes
        1. tomf
          Link Parent
          .com is still good for work stuff, though. I've got a few .party, .cricket, .ws., .gq, .ml, and a few .coms. My favorite are .party, but for the industry I work in, .com is still the way to go. I...

          .com is still good for work stuff, though. I've got a few .party, .cricket, .ws., .gq, .ml, and a few .coms. My favorite are .party, but for the industry I work in, .com is still the way to go. I think the SEO for the mains (.com, .net, .org etc) is still better, but I'd have to look into that again.

          I'm a big It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia fan and picked up https://rickety.cricket last year or so, intending on using it for my spam domain. Sadly, a lot of sites won't accept .cricket as a valid TLD, so I used a .party domain.

          1 vote
  2. [3]
    JoylessAubergine
    Link
    In England it's really simple. You do it buy deed poll which you can get from the court of justice or you can do it yourself with a couple of witnesses. Then it's just a case of telling banks and...

    In England it's really simple. You do it buy deed poll which you can get from the court of justice or you can do it yourself with a couple of witnesses. Then it's just a case of telling banks and changing your passport. Gov.uk site superhelpful as always

    How to make your own deed poll
    Use the following wording:

    “I [old name] of [your address] have given up my name [old name] and have adopted for all purposes the name [new name].

    “Signed as a deed on [date] as [old name] and [new name] in the presence of [witness 1 name] of [witness 1 address], and [witness 2 name] of [witness 2 address].

    “[your new signature], [your old signature]

    “[witness 1 signature], [witness 2 signature]”

    7 votes
    1. ThatFanficGuy
      Link Parent
      Do you have to be a UK citizen in order to change your name via deed poll? It did say that permanent residency abroad disqualifies the person from changing their name via deed poll, but nothing else.

      Do you have to be a UK citizen in order to change your name via deed poll? It did say that permanent residency abroad disqualifies the person from changing their name via deed poll, but nothing else.

      3 votes
    2. DanBC
      Link Parent
      You don't even need a deedpoll, you can just start using the new name. It is sometimes tricky to get organisations (like banks) to accept the change of name. Weirdly it's easier to get a passport...

      You don't even need a deedpoll, you can just start using the new name. It is sometimes tricky to get organisations (like banks) to accept the change of name. Weirdly it's easier to get a passport in the new name and then use that to persuade the banks.

      3 votes
  3. asep
    Link
    Just because you have a name doesn't mean that that's what others have to call you by. Where I live it's quite common for people to have their given name and just go by another completely...

    Just because you have a name doesn't mean that that's what others have to call you by. Where I live it's quite common for people to have their given name and just go by another completely different name or a shortened version of their given name. Figure out if this is something that would help you. I think what @Adys said is quite helpful in that this is "ask only once" if you're going to go through with this decision make sure you're over a 100% certain sure that this is what you want as you'll spend more time being unhappy with a new name if that's the case.

    6 votes
  4. [2]
    mat
    Link
    I've gone by four or five names so far in my life. Several were chosen for me, and were very location-specific (ie, at work I had one name, at home another) which was fine. One I did myself. I...

    I've gone by four or five names so far in my life. Several were chosen for me, and were very location-specific (ie, at work I had one name, at home another) which was fine. One I did myself. I just asked people to stop calling me one thing and could they please call me another. Took a little while for people to get used to it but it wasn't an issue. Some people never bothered but they turned out to be people I didn't want to be friends with anyway, so that was fine. Moving places made it easier because nobody in the new place knew my old name(s).

    I've never bothered with the legal stuff because that's really just the name on my passport and stuff. I don't hate my birth name or have any particular desire to change it so I'm OK with the arrangement as is.

    I have tried to change my surname a few times because I've never really liked my surname much but I couldn't make it work. In that I couldn't settle on anything that felt right. Now I'm married and have a kid so there are other people who share the surname, I'm probably sticking with that now. Again, I don't hate it. But it's not my favourite name and I always have to confirm the spelling over the phone.

    I have a friend who invented his own surname when he escaped a difficult home situation, he didn't want to carry part of his father's identity around any more, and that worked out really well for him. If I remember rightly he portmanteued his mother's maiden name, his birth town and something else, then tweaked it a bit for mouthfeel and spelling. One branch of my family has a tradition of mashing up surnames on marriage (now in gen 3 of doing so) which is nice. Didn't work for mine + my partner's surname though.

    I wouldn't worry about what people think. Go with what you want. It is your name, after all. Nobody who matters will mind, and the people who mind don't matter.

    6 votes
    1. tomf
      Link Parent
      I love the mashing tradition! We do that with my sister and her husband's last name... and they like it. On my mother's side, she's the only one of her large family that actually goes by her birth...

      I love the mashing tradition! We do that with my sister and her husband's last name... and they like it. On my mother's side, she's the only one of her large family that actually goes by her birth name. The others either go by their middle name or some random name they picked up at some point. It's weird.

      Ultimately, nobody really cares what my name is... unless it's Tyberious, then they'd be jealous. :)

      I think if I do change it, I'll also skip the legal stuff. It seems like more of a headache than anything, and doesn't really provide any true benefit.

      Roughly how long would you say it took for the new name to stick with your social circle?

      1 vote
  5. reifyresonance
    Link
    I read through a list of baby names, all the ones I could find, and when one jumped out at me, I wrote it down. From a list of ~20, one of them stood out, and I asked my friends and family to use...

    I read through a list of baby names, all the ones I could find, and when one jumped out at me, I wrote it down. From a list of ~20, one of them stood out, and I asked my friends and family to use that one. I haven't told the government about my name, but people have been using it for me for ~4 years.

    The main challenges are that my parents see it as a rejection of them to rebuke the name they gave me, and that it's a bit of a hassle sometimes to have 2 names.

    I use one of the other names some places online for anonymity. I recommend trying that out with whatever you pick, or maybe asking a friend or two to help you by using the name you're thinking about for a little before you commit.

    5 votes
  6. [2]
    Algernon_Asimov
    Link
    I haven't changed my name, but someone close to me did. He hated his birth name. He had a double-barrelled surname consisting of both his parents' surnames, with both surnames being non-Anglo...

    I haven't changed my name, but someone close to me did.

    He hated his birth name. He had a double-barrelled surname consisting of both his parents' surnames, with both surnames being non-Anglo names (which makes them "foreign" here in Australia). It meant he was forever having to spell it out, complete with hyphen - and, even then, people would get it wrong ("was that one C and two T's or two C's and one T?"). He also didn't like his first name, partly because it reminded him of his mother, partly because it was also "foreign", and partly because it was one of those names that have a meaning, but he didn't like that meaning.

    He did, however, like his middle name - but not as a middle name. It was one of those names which can also be used as a surname, so he that's what he did. It's unusual but simple, and it has a meaning which he likes.

    For his new first name, he simply chose a name he liked. There was no real science or method or logic behind his choice. He just liked it. And that's good enough for a name. It's an Anglophone name, rather than non-Anglo, which makes it easy for the majority of Aussies to understand, which was one of his main goals.

    As for his new middle name, he chose one that he liked, but which also indirectly recognised someone important in his life (which may or may not have been me...).

    Leading up to the change, he just started asking his friends to use his new name. It took some time for everyone to get used to it, but they all understood why, so they were all motivated to go along with it. And, when he met new people, he simply gave them his new name.

    However, his mother never used his new name: she still called him the name she gave him (I'm not sure what happened with his father).

    And then he did the paperwork and paid the fee to make it official.

    3 votes
    1. tomf
      Link Parent
      I have a fairly simple last name, but I still have to spell it out for people -- and even then, you'd think I was presenting them with a new letter of the alphabet. I couldn't imagine having two...

      I have a fairly simple last name, but I still have to spell it out for people -- and even then, you'd think I was presenting them with a new letter of the alphabet. I couldn't imagine having two foreign last names.

      re: their mother not adopting the new name -- I can totally understand this. I don't expect my family to use whatever name I decide on. They all know that I don't care for my name, though.

      Over a family dinner a few weeks ago my Mom mentioned how they took a month to name my sister because my Mom didn't like my Dad's idea -- which is the name she has. haha. She's got a good name with a weird spelling. She didn't like it growing up, mainly because the rest of us had cool license plates for our bikes with our names and she didn't. However, it suits her and she's grown to appreciate the unique quality.

      This thread is really helping me formulate my roll out process and giving me some great ideas re: the method (or lack there of) for choosing a new name.

      2 votes
  7. [4]
    pallas
    (edited )
    Link
    I have always been referred to by several different names and combinations of names in different contexts. They have changed over time, and I have had a legal name change in one country. However,...

    I have always been referred to by several different names and combinations of names in different contexts. They have changed over time, and I have had a legal name change in one country.

    However, in thinking about how to describe the changes, perhaps the most important distinction is that they mostly didn't change how any particular person referred to me within a particular context. There was never a point where, for a person who already knew me by one name, that name, for them, could no longer refer to me. People who meet me might not be able to use previous names, but people who were already using them can. People in different contexts might use different last names for me, but they are all reasonably valid. And everyone generally knows all the names they might hear within the contexts where they know me.

    This means that, in some conversations, different people might use different names to refer to me (and might be socially obligated to), but it doesn't usually seem to cause confusion. In looking at other name changes, the major difficulty seems to arise when the name changes forces someone to stop referring to you by one name, and start using another: that can require quite a bit of effort for them. For people you already know, adding an alternative way to refer to you is likely much easier for them than forcing them to change. I think this is in part why many people who want to change the way they are referred to do so by adding a middle name.

    One of my cousins did change her first name, a change that appears to have been motivated by family drama, and is offended by the use of her old first name. We all try our best to respect her wishes, and support what we understand as her reasons for changing it. Yet I, for example, knew her by her old name from the time she was born and I was a child, until she was a teenager. I see her perhaps once a year at most, in stressful social contexts. I can consciously think of her new first name easily, but the old one will pop up alongside it in my mind, and it is very easy, especially if distracted by other thoughts, to use the wrong name, and then end up embarrassed. Her friends, of course, don't have this problem: they don't have the long association in their mind between her and another name.

    Ultimately, your names are identifiers negotiated between you and those around you. While you can change your legal names as you wish, you'll most effectively be able to change the names people associate with you if you give consideration to how they will perceive and remember the changes.

    2 votes
    1. [3]
      tomf
      Link Parent
      I think I'll take a similar approach. I'm not changing it with any sort of negativity surrounding it -- and others seem to be able to say my current name perfectly. Years ago I ran a magazine with...

      People who meet me might not be able to use previous names, but people who were already using them can.

      I think I'll take a similar approach. I'm not changing it with any sort of negativity surrounding it -- and others seem to be able to say my current name perfectly.

      Years ago I ran a magazine with some friends and wrote everything under a different name. A lot of people are still convinced that my name is that one, since my birth name sounds equally fake / too pretty (this was a time when emo was big.)

      As it stands, I don't know anyone who has changed their name, but I can imagine that it'd be difficult to mentally switch it up -- especially if you didn't see them on a regular basis.

      Ballpark, how many different names are associated with you?

      1 vote
      1. [2]
        pallas
        Link Parent
        Arguably two first names, two middle names, and four possible combinations of three last names. For the most part, the two first names are the only ones that are commonly used within the same...

        Arguably two first names, two middle names, and four possible combinations of three last names. For the most part, the two first names are the only ones that are commonly used within the same social groups and contexts, with a somewhat rigid social etiquette that has developed around them. The middle and last names in any given situation are largely dictated by context.

        2 votes
        1. tomf
          Link Parent
          that's awesome!

          that's awesome!

          1 vote