After asking about the origin of online handles, I heard back from a number of folks and loved the stories.
It’s fascinating to see an online name like “Apple Annie”, read the origin story, and see this wonderful, multi-faceted human being with a rich history behind the seemingly-random string of characters on screen.
It makes the internet more human and I love it.
So I wanted to follow up with a collection of what I heard from folks.
First, the two people mentioned in my original post:
- Jeremy’s handle
adactiois a secret that he’s keeping — which means we’re all free to speculate wildly on its origin and meaning. Here’s my guess: the
adacrepresents a series of musical notes, depicting his love of music; the
tis shorthand for “tea”, noting his English background; the
iostands for “input/output” which means he is both a tea input/output machine but also references his nerdy love for computers. So the meaning of
adactiois “your music-loving, tea-loving, computer-loving, man from England”.
- Dave named his cardboard box robot costume from summer camp
davatron5000. Due (at least in part) to peer pressure, he still uses that handle today.
A few replies from Mastodon:
- Kristof was around early enough to snag the terse
kikowhich later became the envy of business. It’s always fun to hear about individuals who were on the scene before the internet became commercial and, as such, were able to grab coveted names. As I noted, early bird gets the
- Philip noted how he would borrow handles from whatever was the craze of the time, such as The Lord of the Rings. It reminded me of when I was a teen and we scoured the Bible dictionary looking for obscure names that would make good online handles.
- Keith used his middle initial to differentiate himself from all the other Keiths of the same name and now his middle initial is part of his career identity. I suspect this a common occurrence. Tell all new parents: in the global namespace, middle names just became a lot more important, ha!
- As I alluded to in my original post, it seems many folks had quirky names but then felt the need to “grow up”. For example: Maurice had “madbrain” while Mary used her roller derby name “Captain Painway” (imagining myself in a dark roller skating rink, that is a terrifying name).
- Mia’s story has so many familiar elements. Her first handle was a familiar algorithm: name + repeat a character until the system says it’s unique. Then she chose a handle that was close to her real name, but off slightly, and found people started calling her by that in real life which became annoying. So then she found
terribleMiaand stuck with it as a way to fight professionalization.
Folks who published their stories on their blogs:
- Paul Traylor was inspired to use
KungFuDiscoMonkeythrough his time in Boy Scouts, which he later abbreviated to
kfdmwhich, turns out, is also a TV station in Texas.
- Thomas dug into the family tree to come up with
hryggrbyrand now I don’t know how I ever missed tapping the well of genealogy as a source of inspiration for online handles.
- Thomas has a long, winding origin story with a handle that started as
kingkongin 1993. I love it — ask anyone who has been around computers for a long time and they’ll always have a great story to tell about the history of their online handles.
- When I was a teen in scouting, we always had to introduce our “troop” (a group of scouts) by doing our troop-branded cheer. The other troops always had some cheer about integrity or group spirit — the kind of stuff we thought was lame. So, much to the chagrin of our scout leaders, we always introduced our troop, number 376, to others with this jingle: “Three-seventy-six. Buff-a-lo chips. Rumble, rumble, rumble, rumble, [fart/poop sound].” ↩