Monday, August 20, 2007

Identity Crisis

Have you ever introduced yourself to someone and been asked, after stating your name, "Is that your given name?" Most of us have never been on the receiving end of such a query. However, when you go by Bubba, the question is not uncommon. The inquiry does two things: 1) implies that your name is unusual, bizarre, or unfit and 2) calls into question the sanity of your parents, who may or may not have bestowed such a name upon you.

In Bubba's case, he can luckily reply "no" to the question. Born Michael Dan, he is neither the recipient of an unsound name or unsound parents. His current moniker, however, was no less Bubba's choice appellation than yours or mine. And, unfortunately, it's giver did not have the wisdom or life experience that many parents possess when choosing a name for their child.

It could have been worse. In many ways, Bubba got off easy. I went to high school with kids nicknamed Cheese, Sleaze, and Fruity. Or, he could have followed in the misguided steps of those who choose self-imposed nicknames: Corndog (chosen by the individual because of his love for the delectable treat) or Fritz (I don't know why this person chose this name).

Regardless of the quality of his nickname, Bubba has, in the words of Alexander Pope, "first endured, then pitied, then embraced" it. Which brings him to his current dilemma. Until now, Bubba has been, well, Bubba. But our recent move to Munster has been accompanied by a life change, i.e. a job. Bubba is, in some sense, a professional. And is it fitting for a professional to go by the name of Bubba? We don't know the answer to this question yet. But ask yourself, seriously, would you hire a lawyer named Bubba?

For the time being, Bubba is using the alias Michael at work. The members of our ward have been less receptive to calling him Bubba than other congregations have been in the past. Some members have flat out said they would prefer to call him Michael. Michael? Who is this man? Surely I haven't been introduced to him.

The term "given name" implies that it is, in some sense, a gift. For people with given names of Thomas or Sarah, this concept seems plausible. Less so for those with the given name of Jazz or, as I recently encountered, Prima Donna. In these situations, it is reasonable to ask if a given name is indeed a gift, or rather a curse.

The implications of the term "nickname" are less certain. How does one, exactly "nick" a name? Is a nickname merely a substitution of one name for another? A replacement? I fear in Bubba's case it may be not a substitution of one identity for another, but a multiplication of identities. Will Michael bring about the demise of Bubba? Or can the two exist simultaneously?

Only time will tell.


katie said...

Kim I am obsessed with you now! Is that wrong? As far as nick names...maybe there is a Michael deep down inside of Bubba that is waiting to emerge...One that is full of new possibilities...maybe the name change (or change back) will send Bubba on a road to self discovery...who is this man trapped behind this nick name? But maybe not

Stacy said...

I believe BUBBA will need to be dual natured. Bubba natured and Michael natured. To "my Michael" he will always be Bubba. At work he really should be Michael but in some cases (tough ones) maybe Bubba wouldn't be so wrong to bring out at work? Though I appreciate Katies insightfulness, I believe Bubba will do better to keep both "given names" appreciate them for what they both do at different times. Maybe the self discovery is that he is complete only if he can transition when necessary to the name that fits best. Must the world be so black and white? Bubba or Michael? Both please.

mlkid123 said...

Hey, I remembered my password! Since I am one of the referenced parents of Bubba, I should really have more than one vote on this. Even before he was Bubba, Bubba went through several evolutions of his name. First, he was Michael. His oldest brother still calls him Michael. The rest of us switched to Mikey, then Mike. When his so-called friend Mike christened him Bubba, Christy and I called him Bubba-Mike for a while and then just Bubba or Bubbs. I resisted Bubba for a long time, but when nobody seemed to know who Mike Karras was, I succumbed. But I've always preferred Michael. Michael is distinguished, time-honored, historical -- with roots in Latin and a spiritual connotation. Bubba is NASCAR and deep-fried pork chops on a stick. Michael Karras is lyrical. I'm going with that.

Heaps said...

Michael was the most popular name from the 60’s thru the 90’s, today after years of gross over-usage it’s fallen all the way down to number 2. I’m pretty sure Michael doesn’t even count as a name anymore; it’s more of a place holder used by mothers to drugged up from labor to think of a real name. Unfortunately some forget to change the name before leaving the hospital. As a result at least 72 different Michaels have been in every class I’ve ever been apart of.

When I first met this kid from Davis County and asked him his name he couldn’t even look me in the eye when telling me his name was Michael he was so ashamed. Upon hearing there was going to be yet another Michael in the neighborhood I began cussing and the poor kid from Davis County began to cry. I then told him that he didn’t have to be the same as everybody else, he could be different, stand out, be somebody. That’s when I told him he would from now on go by the name of Bubba and for the first time I saw in that boys eyes hope. And I’m pretty sure that one moment in time is 99% the reason Bubba is who he is today. I only wish somebody would have done the same for me…

And for those who don’t believe me that the name Michael is supposed to be changed, you may remember that even the most famous Michael, the Archangel Michael, had his name changed (at least in Mormon doctrine).

Denise said...

CORNDOG! Who in their right mind would nickname themself Corndog, surely some wierd kid looking for attention and needing to sound a few pounds bigger than he looked. Thank goodness for good friends who refused to latch on to such a ridiculous name or he may have never found a wife! Kim- Henry is adoreable, keep him sweet and innocent and away from any nicknames having to do with fair food and maybe someday he can be my little princess' prince!

Seth said...

I would love to meet the guy who gave himself the nickname Corndog. He must be a really cool guy to have come up with such an original nickname.