What’s in a name?

Jack Goldfisher

I Googled myself today. I wasn’t feeling particularly narcissistic, nor did I actually expect to find anything new since my last self-Googling, which probably took place about four or five months ago. I guess I did it more out of curiosity than anything else; it almost seems like a normal thing to do in times where one’s primary outward identity is that which is presented, or rather manufactured, online.

People select the tidbits of their lives they want to share on Vine, Twitter or Instagram (none of which I have, despite my supposed penchant for embracing new technology) and these snippings metastasize into full identities that resemble nothing close to the people we know in real life.

I like to occasionally check up on web Jack to make sure he’s not straying too far from my own self. I tend to keep him on a pretty short leash these days, after so many stories of a quick web search losing someone a job or driving someone else to depression. Often times, a Google results page can be clouded with many people of your same name, and unless you’ve done something of particular import, you get lost beneath the crush of your same-named brethren. I have a friend who shares her name with a porn actress, so she stays away from searching for herself most of the time. Today, my search yielded a Jack Goldfisher who had died in 1906. It’s usually pretty easy to find the real Jack Goldfisher (me), though, as I have a pretty uncommon name.

I like that about the name Goldfisher. Besides my relatives, I have never met another. However, I get a lot of “that’s a weird name” comments, with a smattering of judgmental looks and the occasional “that can’t be your name.” That is what I like least about my name; second only to the fact that it has the word goldfish in it, and I hate goldfish. They’re cheap and boring to look at.

I find names really interesting. We have absolutely no choice in the matter, at least until we’re adults, and yet the way we treat our names can tell others a lot about how we view ourselves.

A friend of mine goes by one name normally, but uses a formal version of his name professionally, because, as he puts it, “My name looks impossibly stupid the way I normally say it.” I’ve had a pretty complex relationship with my last name, but I’ve come to terms with Goldfisher in the past few years.

I guess the thing I like least about goldfish is that they have impossibly short attention spans. It seems like I, and a lot of people I know, are trending towards this dangerous trait more and more with the advent of services like Twitter and Facebook that update you every five seconds with 140 characters of new information. If I could take one lesson away from my last name, It’s that I want to be less like a goldfish, and more like a Goldfisher.