When I was a kid, I had a friend whose mom's name was Hermine — which, admittedly, is an atrocious name. But a weird name can also be kind of endearing, and despite the fact that she was a cold shrew who clearly hated her life, I grew to like her mostly on the basis of her name alone. A few years back, she had it legally changed, and it somehow just never felt right.
There's a subtle social taboo around the self-selection of a name: Normal codes of behavior dictate that names are things not chosen, but assigned — first our parents and then our friends — and although they are seldom flattering, that's just the way it is. (One of mine, for example, is "9 o'clock Otte," on the basis of that one time I got wasted and passed out at a party around 9 o'clock; there's a whole rap song about this among certain groups of people I know. It's a lot better than "Piss-Pants Dan," though.)
And it's the way it must be. There's nothing more annoying than the dude who introduces himself as "Skull" or "Hatchet" or whatever stupid fucking nickname he obviously made up himself, because to make up a name for yourself is desperate and vain — manipulative, somehow, like someone who is constantly telling you about their personal attributes so that you, too, can think of them the way they wish to be thought of.
Probably the worst offender ever in that regard, since sometime in the late '90s, has been Sean Combs, whose latest preferred moniker is just one in a long series of ever-shifting designations the rapper/producer has foisted upon all those who might utter it. And while most of those names have in some way been variants on the "Puff" and "Daddy" themes of his original stage name, this time he's switching it up entirely. Now you shall call him "Swag." "I'm not going as Puff, Puffy, Puff Daddy, P Diddy, Diddy, King Combs. For this week only, you can call me by my new name, Swag," he decreed.
The idea that everyone must refer to him as Swag apparently came to the artist currently otherwise known as Diddy Dirty Money in some sort of epiphany during a week-long bout with the flu, when he had some time to ponder the more existential facets of life, such as what nonsense syllables can be combined to form some connotation of either Puff or Daddy, eventually coming to the conclusion that a totally fresh start was in order. "I was sick for a week," he helpfully explained, "and I had a lot to think about when I was almost dying underneath the covers with a fever. But I'm not dead. I am alive. So I decided that I'm gonna change my name for a week, in honor of my comeback."
Puff Daddy, that makes no fucking sense. But more important, it sets a bad example for other douchebags who make up their own names. In other news, I will now be known as "TurboShark."
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