Names as social currency
When you think about it, our given name is at once intensely personal, and immensely public. Nicknames, titles, proper or mis-pronunciation… all of these are keys that unlock different aspects of who we are - a friend, a colleague, a stranger. It can even be a form of currency, something that keynote speakers and bankable box office stars rely on.
As an outgoing and sociable person, it may sound like a contradiction to say that I am selective about who I share my personal details with. Recently, the Starbucks in Montreal started asking for your name when you order. While the thought of someone yelling out my name in public does not appeal to me in general, I don’t necessarily feel like having an extended discussion about it with the barista.
Enter the ‘Starbucks Name’.
An unusual fake name you provide to a worker at a restaurant, coffee shop, etc. in order to uniquely identify you among the other patrons.
Yes. I am that person. With a dose of whimsy and imagination, I enjoy coming up a new name each time. My given name is hard for Francophones to pronounce, and often ends up morphing from ‘Holly’ to ‘Oly’, with questions about the religious inclinations of my parents. So instead I try to shake it up a little and choose something a bit different. I’ve been known as everything from ‘JessecA’ to ‘Marla’ to ‘Marie-Josée’.
As it turns out, I’m not the only one with this predilection - author Svati Kirsten Narula engages in the same creative predilection for a similar reason, as she describes in the article ‘What’s your Starbucks name?
A back-and-forth about the spelling, pronunciation, origin, and meaning of “Svati” can be fun, even necessary—at a cocktail party, during an interview, on a date. While ordering coffee? Not so much.
The Urban Dictionary entry details a variety of reasons one would latch on to a new moniker in public spaces, and Ms. Narula (AKA Kristen) finds that some of her colleagues are also in on the secret. There are even entire Tumblrs dedicated to the topic.
So - what’s your Starbucks name?