A man came into our staff room the other day, a carpenter. Funny guy, not shy. Introduced himself as 'Chips', for that's how everyone knows him. His father was Chips and his brothers. When people came round to ask for one of them, you can imagine the confusion. He didn't say why he got his name, but denied it had anything to do with being a chippie.
Maybe he likes fish.
Nowadays, lots of people have taken on names that they weren't given to offer themselves a cloak to wear as they surf through tweets and blogs and game-sites. It makes sense. There are so many people in the world and so few names that, before you know it, when you're signing up for something by the time you get to BillSmith117, your ready to call yourself practically anything - even Bill Smith.
There are some great names out there. Some of my favourites on Twitter include the brother and sister combo 'CrimespreeJon' and 'LovingShiva', there's the lovely word play of 'ArtsCounsel' and the numbered JohnRob77 (the 77 refers to punk and is totally apt).
My own handle there is Amouseandaman. It was the first thing that popped into my head. The idea was that I'd be anonymous and that I wouldn't really check Twitter out much; wrong on both counts.
On this blog I'm nigelpbird. Saved going through the numbers and having to keep something new in the sieve some might call my brain.
After Birdy, I dabbled with Nigel Pig for a while. That's enough of that, right off.
Since the computer age caught up with me, booradley, swbird7, nigel.bird7, salvino, nigel.bird2, heygarland and another list I've forgotten have been my identies. No security risk, by the way folks, these were for signups ten years ago for sites that have long since bitten the dust. Like Birdy.
At school finding a name was easy. It was given to you and, before you knew it, it had been ever thus. The rule of thumb was take the surname and add a 'y' unless it had a 'y' at the end. If in doubt an 'o' would sometimes do the job. Wally, Jacko, Army, Payney, Coomby, Robbo and so on. And then there were Fat Mark and Bubble.
Me? Not too difficult. Birdy. Between the ages of 7 and 20, that's how I was known. Me and my brothers.
And who was Birdy? Nice guy. Skinhead/punk. Quiet. Occasionally explosive. A little bit rebellious. Not one to get into a fight with. Could be a tosser. The guy that lived on a boat.
So when do my school name start to slip?
I guess it's when I left my home-town. Couldn't introduce myrself as Birdy when I was meeting new folk, now, could I? It's just not done. Friends kept the name alive for a while, but even they couldn't hold on to it for ever. So now I'm Nigel.
Nigel. For goodness sake. Wouldn't you be looking for alternatives?
I'm Nige to those I know best. Nigel when I'm in trouble and at work. When I sign things online it's nige or nigel, an ee cummings thing about modesty is the slant I put on that and maybe I feel I only deserve to be lower-case for some of the time.
Birdy. Now there's a name with a ring to it. Juvenile maybe, but good. It's rooted in me. You say Birdy I know who you're talking about (as long as Ade and Geoff aren't in the room). I like the Charlie Parker link there and the fabulous book/film on identity and war-induced crisis. More than that, I know where I am with it.
I might reintroduce it to the world slowly but surely, see how I get along.
If that's how you find me signing one day, try responding with it. See how it feels. See it can catch on. See if I can post myself back to the days when my body didn't hurt unless I was fighting, pushing myself, drinking too much or ill.
Thanks for being here,
Nigel, aka Nige, aka nigel, aka nige, aka Nigel Pig, aka Birdy, aka birdy, aka amouseandaman, aka nigelpbird, aka nigel.bird7, aka heygarland, aka boo radley, swbirdn, aka Nigel Bird