How Do You Call Yourself? A Taxonomy of Artists’ Auto-Appellations

Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2004


"Though empirically meaningless as a string of letters, names are among the most charged linguistic signifiers. A “funny” sounding name can be a junior high student’s social downfall, while a catchy, elegant name can enhance an actor’s potential for stardom. Rife with potential connoted messages in their phonetics and orthography, names can attest to—or hide— a person’s pedigree, ethnicity, gender, family tradition, and even age. Some people even believe that names are augurs of personality traits or career paths. “What is your name?” in English assumes that a name is preexistent and a given. But in romance languages, the same question is posed in a more forgiving and empowering manner, and is translated as “How do you call yourself?”—as if one has a choice about it."


This article was originally published in X-tra, volume 7, issue 2, in Winter 2004.