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October 3, 2011 2:06 AM   Subscribe

I know there's been questions about changing one's name before, but this relates to the temptation to change my name...to a popular literary character.

I've always, always, always wanted to change my name. It's not that I hate mine - merely that mine feels like a bland fit. Since I was 10 or 11, I've been wanting to change the whole damn thing. When I was 12, I figured out which were my favorite letters in the alphabet. When I was about 13, I discovered information on the perfect syllable combinations for first and last, and first-middle-last names. I've kept a running list of first and middle name options for 13 years, slowly narrowing down the list. The list for last names started more recently.
Now, I read a lot, so of course one of my big influences for names are....

Oh screw it. I'm thinking of changing my last name to Moriarty. I know there are people out there with this last name, that it's Irish in origin, and I've already thought up the "nemesis of Holmes" type jokes...

Combined with what I want to change my first and middle name to (I ...uh....actually can do a full on name change, right?), I'm pretty sure I would be the only person in existence with this name. My first name choice isn't this, but I'll use Lyra from the Golden Compass and a generic middle name as an example, since a book is my influence for at least the first name as well.

Lyra Fern Moriarty.

So why would it be a bad idea to change my last name, AND my first name, to that of a popular book character? My actual choice for first name is still a book character but definitely not as popular.

Think up the things I haven't thought of.

Other stuff: I've been carefully spelling out my full name for all of my life. My first which has a number of variations and is fairly popular. My last name is a simple common word with some letters tacked onto the end; despite this, people _still_ don't know how to spell it every. godddamn. time. So I'm totally cool with having to spell out a new name too. I'm used to it.

Hah, and yes I enjoy both books very much. Not stalkerish about the characters - just adore the names. I used to collect them after all.

Thanks. Any advice about this is welcome. What would -you- think of someone with a literary last name? What would you think if you happened to be well read and connected the dots on my full name?
I don't really care what people think in the long run, but I'm more looking for stuff I haven't thought of.

Apologies for being a special bookworm snowflake.
posted by DisreputableDog to Human Relations (48 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I can't think of any which are worth not doing it for.

If people find out you changed your name to something unusual and literary-influenced, they might think it's a pose. But some people think it's a pose when you ride an old-style bike, or wear a hat, so good GOD let's not worry what those people think.

Others might think you're doing it for attention, but is it any more attention seeking than dying your hair bright red or refusing to watch the Sound of Music? Again - who cares.

I have an unusual name that I'm incredibly attached to as I'm a bit odd and it suits me. If I had a boring name, I think I'd feel cheated. Go for it!
posted by greenish at 2:33 AM on October 3, 2011

What would -you- think of someone with a literary last name? What would you think if you happened to be well read and connected the dots on my full name?

This, clashes quite a bit with this:

I don't really care what people think in the long run

If what other people might think or feel about you changing your name is a source of (small or large) anxiety or fear for you, then I'm not sure you're ready to do it. Are you changing it for me? Then why would you care what I think of it? The world is full of people who will look for reasons to judge you. This is one more to an already large pile, what of it? Those people are dicks, and if it wasn't your name it would be your hair colour, your shoes, the way you talk etc.

Btw, I wouldn't even raise my eyebrows at a surname of Moriarty, and if the christian name was another literary one, I would probably just assume it was coincidence - not that it matters.

FYI, I grew up in a weird rural area that was half very country, salt-of-the-earth people, and half total hippies, so I knew tonnes of people with bizarre names, both adopted and given. Whatevers. The fact you're choosing a name with meaning to you is nice - most of us don't. :)
posted by smoke at 2:35 AM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Upon first meeting you, any thoughts I had about your name would be about your parents, not you. I wouldn't think a literary name means you were a fan of the books but that your parents were. I might mention it, but if I did I would not expect any particular recognition from you -- when growing up I went to school with a girl named Casey Jones who had no idea or recognition of the railroad connection, but on the other hand I work with a guy named Mohammed Ali and yes I wasn't the first person to mention the boxer.

If you don't have opinions about keeping your last name as recognition of your family, why not?
posted by Houstonian at 2:41 AM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

DisreputableDog: "My last name is a simple common word with some letters tacked onto the end; despite this, people _still_ don't know how to spell it every. godddamn. time."

I just changed my last name this past January. My old name was 7 letters and misspelled and mispronounced constantly, and I feel your pain because it really sucks. Especially when it's someone like the nurse who's worked at your doctor's office for 10 years and who should really know better by now.

My new last name is 5 letters and just about as simple as Smith, and people still get it wrong and ask me to spell it. (Similarly to Smyth, Smithe, etc.) I think your name could be Jane Doe and people would still get it wrong.

As far as changing your name... go for whatever makes you comfortable. My last name was made fun of in school so much that I felt like utter shit every time I wrote it out. (I'm fat and part of my last name could be mispronounced as Cow.) And a couple of other reasons. So I changed it. Easy as that.

Yes, you can change your complete name. You may need to publish a notice of your hearing in the paper (in your county), so people have a chance to contest your name change. (No one ever contests it.) I shopped around and got this for $75. The court costs seem to vary wildly by state. You will need to amend your birth certificate as well (this was included in my court costs) and then obtain a new copy. Expect it to take a few months to get your hearing and name change. I advise taking your paperwork to Social Security and the health department first (the latter for your birth certificate) and then once those change, you can take them to the DMV. Then go forth to your banks and so on.
posted by IndigoRain at 2:43 AM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

And as far as your names, I really love Lyra and Moriarty is just fine with me. :) I didn't do anything like that to pick my new last name, I just took my great grandmother's maiden name. If I did comment on Lyra, it would be that I love it, and that the movie was sooooo good and I wish they'd made the sequels, and have you read the books? I simply must get around to reading the books. Etc.
posted by IndigoRain at 2:49 AM on October 3, 2011

Best answer: Thing is, the first thing people think about another person's name is "what were the PARENTS thinking?!?" Nobody connects the name to that person's interests, unless the named person explains about their name change to everyone they run across.
posted by easily confused at 2:50 AM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Only thread-sit info that might be relevant:

I might be pre-disposed toward this because I'm in the Navy. And because I'm thinking of making it my career. And.....because Chief Moriarty sounds FUCKING BADASS! *Ahem*
*Fans self*

Anyway, thank you for the info so far. Do, please, continue.
posted by DisreputableDog at 3:01 AM on October 3, 2011

this thread is useless without... telling us the first and middle names. ;-)

only joking. but you really must remember to consider your new initials too. so here's hoping you're not considering Barbara Ursula, for example.
posted by alan2001 at 3:10 AM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm not entirely convinced you have the measure of living with a name like this. My last name is Dent. For most of the population, it just registers as weird, which I'm fine with. For Hitchhiker's fans, it's like a dog whistle. Which as it happens I am also fine with, because I am a modest H2G2 fan, but motherfucker can it get annoying.

Having said that, my husband is thankful we don't have children so we can avoid an argument about naming our daughter Fenchurch. Which I think would rock.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:17 AM on October 3, 2011 [6 favorites]

"Lyra Moriarty" would cause me to raise an eyebrow or two, because it is unusual. Especially since both would be (to me) very obvious literary references. I love both names, but together they come across a bit... strong?

I don't know what your actual choice in first name is though, and if it makes you happy then go for it if you feel you can pull it off. But you'll have to be very confident and self-assured to carry a name like that.
posted by stillnocturnal at 3:43 AM on October 3, 2011

I don't think Moriarity screams "literary reference" at all. But I know a lot of Irishmen.
posted by thinkpiece at 4:15 AM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've known a couple of people who've changed their full names - several of them before graduating college/law school. A couple of them felt their names were too juvenile to be taken seriously when read off a business card.

If your name change doesn't effect you professionally down the line (Rear Admiral Moriarty, General Moriarty) or if you believe you can deal with those repercussions . . . go for it. Maybe you should discuss it with someone up the ranks -- folks in the military could be considered more conservative than the average Joe and your name change could be seen as frivolous/un-serious by the people who'll be deciding your future.

As a female who may marry in the future, you'll probably have pressure to change your name. You might catch extra pressure to change because you 'made up' your name. Counter that with 'I chose this name, it means more than merely being born with it'.

And if it matters, how does your family feel about this? My late cousin changed her name from "Mindy" to "Miranda". Everyone on this side of the family still refers to her as Mindy or Mindy/Miranda even if most of us managed to say Miranda to her face. (No one minded that she changed her name, it was just an usual adjustment and not everyone in the family was aware she'd changed her name anyway)

If you do change your name, you might want to send a formal type written announcement to all the relatives you have contact with:

As of July 2012, Lt. Disreputable Dog will be known as Lt Lyra Fern Moriarty both professionally and socially.

(if you can time the name change with a move or promotion, all the better)
posted by jaimystery at 4:33 AM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've never actually read any Sherlock Holmes, so of course my mind doesn't jump to that, but I bet even if I had, "Moriarty" wouldn't trip my fiction alarm. It's a real-person last name in my world, as common as "Watson." It wouldn't make me think "someone sure likes that book" like Baggins or Javert.

Be careful when you choose your first name, though, because Moriarty is pretty enough to sound fakey when paired with a too-interesting first name. Lyra Moriarty? Sounds nice, but too unusual and singsongy - like the kind of name a fanfic author would give their Mary Sue. Lyra Watson? Okay. Amanda Moriarty? Normal. Sabrina Moriarty? Acceptable, but getting closer to too-pretty territory.

Since it is an Irish last name, depending on where you live you might get asked about that often. If you don't look Irish and have no Irish ancestry, have a story ready. The good news is tons of people are one-eighth or one-sixteenth Irish, so you'll likely be able to handwave it away by mentioning a great-grandfather on your dad's side.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:58 AM on October 3, 2011 [4 favorites]

Since it is an Irish last name, depending on where you live you might get asked about that often. If you don't look Irish and have no Irish ancestry, have a story ready. The good news is tons of people are one-eighth or one-sixteenth Irish, so you'll likely be able to handwave it away by mentioning a great-grandfather on your dad's side.

I have an obviously Hungarian surname (at least to people from central Europe). As far as anyone knows (which isn't much), my ancestors were German-speakers. Occasionally a Hungarian finds out my surname and comes up to me a bit excited hoping I speak Hungarian. While they're disappointed that I don't speak Hungarian, no one's ever not believed me when I've explained that my ancestors seem to have been German speakers and I don't know much of anything about them beyond that. My point is that 'I don't know much about my dad's family' is very likely to work. It works for me just fine and people are hoping I can speak Hungarian with them, which is an added layer of complication.

I know someone whose first name appears in a couple of books, but it's very rare as a name. Then it showed up in a popular TV show. No one will think she was named after the TV show, as she was born like 10 years before that, but I wonder if that name is a bit dead for a while because of the TV show. If you're choosing a name where you predate the 'big' reference and it's a 'plausible' enough name (i.e. it has existed as a name (albeit rare) for a long time or it makes sense your parents might have made it up), then people are just going to think it's a weird coincidence.
posted by hoyland at 5:24 AM on October 3, 2011

I know a Moriarty in real life and think nothing of it. It's a family name.

If you were Arwen Moriarty, I would assume your parents named you that; if you were Lyra Moriarty, I might assume you named yourself that.

If I knew you had changed your name, I would think it was really weird. I would feel like it was a transgression of social norms and I would be judgmental and I would think it was... distasteful, for lack of a better word.

If I thought it was a name given to you by your parents, I would still think it was weird but I wouldn't judge you.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:36 AM on October 3, 2011

Best answer: I went to college with a guy named _______ Moriarty. I don't think the Conan Doyle reference came up more than once in the three years I knew him. Depending on how well-known the first name is, this may or may not be a relevant data point.
posted by Alterscape at 5:50 AM on October 3, 2011

Response by poster: For those who are noting "it would all depend on the first name", I'll add that it sounds and is spelled like a classic name, such as Janet, Lydia, or Emma. However, the last time it was popular was in the 1970's. Lyra was perhaps a too recently known (due to the movie) and strangely spelled example.
posted by DisreputableDog at 5:55 AM on October 3, 2011

I have a friend who named her kid "Atticus." It's quite obviously from To Kill a Mockingbird (the rest of the family are all Johns and Lisas, it's not a family name by any stretch). I'm used to it by now so it doesn't really register any more, but most people's first reactions are to think there's something odd about his mother (never his father!) that she would name him Atticus, and is she some kind of creepy fangirl? (If the name comes from SFF, that's way more fangirly than if it comes from "the classics.") A lot of people just raise an eyebrow and move on, and some don't recognize the reference, and a few say, "OMG I loved that book!", but there is a subset who finds it very distasteful, because they

a) think she's trying too hard,
b) think it's cutesy/annoying,
c) think she's a bad parent for "inflicting" a difficult name on her child, or that she was trying to "make a point" at the expense of her child,
c) think she lives in an imaginary world and doesn't exist in/can't cope with the real world, or
e) didn't like the book. (yes, there is a subset of people in the world who actively hated Mockingbird. Who knew?)

Using your example, I actually strenuously disliked the Golden Compass novels, and if I met someone who liked them enough to actually change their name to Lyra, I would probably be judgmental about it, because their taste in novels is pretty epically questionable. Obviously that's an issue of personal taste, but if it's an obvious namesake, you're going to be inviting people to judge you on the basis of their personal taste in novels. I would think, for example, that we probably had little in common; I might think that you were shallow and not very thoughtful (based on my opinion of the books being fairly shallow and not very thoughtful), which might be a problem if we had to interact professionally or something.

And Metroid Baby is right that you want to avoid a "Mary Sue" fanfic-y name.

You will still have to spell out the names. Even if it's "Smith." My husband's last name is along the lines of "Lincoln" and people constantly ask, "How do you spell that?" "Like the president? Like the capital of Nebraska?" Tons of people have NEVER HEARD OF EITHER THE PRESIDENT OR NEBRASKA. So even if these are super-common and easy-to-spell names, you're going to spend your life spelling them out. Somehow it irritates me way more when I have to spell my husband's easy and common name than when I have to spell my own unusual, non-phonetic, and lots-of-letters-sound-alike-over-the-phone (C as in Carl, B as in Boy, D as in Dog ...) name.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:02 AM on October 3, 2011

Best answer: Moriarty is just an Irish name to me, and it would not strike me as strange or literary for someone to have that name. As to the first name, I too would think your parents gave you the name. Lots of kids born in the 60s and 70s got some very strange and in some cases unfortunate first names. Some kept them, some changed them

Changing one's last name to something easily to pronounce and spell makes sense. Changing a first name to something more exotic usually strikes me as pretentious and a bid for attention and really annoying when you have known the person for years by one name and they keep correcting you to use their new name.

Not sure really why you want to do this, but be ready for people who know you not understanding, and people who have never met you before just assuming your parents gave you that name and let it go at that. If you insist on explaining your name change to everyone you meet and expect them to find it interesting or clever, prepare to be disappointed most of the time. I doubt many people will say "how cleverly literary!"on hearing your new name.

If you really don't care what people think and this means a lot for you, go for it, but that is not what comes across in what you have written, and the fact that you have to ask what people will think or how it will come across says that is still a worry for you.
posted by mermayd at 6:04 AM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you were a professor, you'd get a lot more recognition with Moriarty. But most people won't notice that. And even with people who do remember who Professor Moriarty is, those who will say anything about it will only say something like a recognizing, "Oh, like Professor Moriarty!".

You'll get no negative looks. Either people won't care or those who do, will be fans of Holmes.
posted by inturnaround at 6:05 AM on October 3, 2011

Moriarty is a totally normal, fine name. If you were a professor and you were changing your name to James Moriarty, that might raise eyebrows. But otherwise I wouldn't bat an eyelash.

If the first name is a name that would be seen outside of the book it's from, then I think it would be fine and no one would give you a hard time. Lyra Moriarty or Katniss Moriarty would make me do a double-take. Alice Moriarty or Dorothy Moriarty sound like normal names, albeit a little old-fashioned (but there's nothing wrong with that).
posted by Gordafarin at 6:16 AM on October 3, 2011

be ready for people who know you not understanding

This is what I'd focus on. People who don't know you don't know you. But everyone who does know you already is going to have to be informed at some point (and each will have his or her reaction, no matter how small), and you might find the process dragging on for a long time. Hey, I moved to my current address six years ago and up until last week was still using a checkbook with the old one...little mismatches like that will linger.
posted by psoas at 6:19 AM on October 3, 2011

Lyra Fern Moriarty sounds great. Go for it!
posted by flippant at 6:25 AM on October 3, 2011

When she was in college, my younger sister decided to change her name. She decided, after reading way too much Anne Rice, that she was going to be called Rowan. She told all her new friends that was her name, and that's what they called her. She did not receive any sort of buy-in from her older friends and our family, so you can tell when someone met her by what they call her. There was some pretty epic eye rolling done by me and other members of our family while she was insisting on being Rowan, so be prepared for that. You can call yourself whatever you'd like to be called, but your family may still continue calling you your old name.

FWIW, if I came across someone named the equivalent of "Lyra Fern Moriarty" I would roll my eyes and think that either your mother wrote bad fanfic or you did.
posted by crankylex at 6:32 AM on October 3, 2011

Best answer: I think that if you are really sure about doing this, and you have been really sure about doing this since approximately age 13, you should just do it.

Sometimes people change their names. Sometimes other people don't accept the change, for whatever reason. No matter how "ordinary" and matter of fact. So you might as well pick what you really want.

That said, how old are you? It's one thing to decide at 13 that you want to be named after a certain literary work and then go through with it on your 18th birthday, and quite another to decide about it and then go for it at, say, 27. I constantly wanted to change my name, from early childhood on, but then ended up growing into it by the time I hit my mid 20's. YMMV, of course.

I also wonder at the decision to name oneself after YA fiction? Which is part of why I ask about your age. Especially a given name that is fantasy/sci-fi/"not a real name" oriented. It's one thing to want to be Madeleine or Ramona, it's something sort of different to want to be Nymeria, if you get my drift. Will this name still sound as cool when you're 50? Can you imagine it on your resume, your business card, a diploma, your marriage license? Nevermind this whole line of thought if your prospective given name is a "normal name" and not something made up for a children's fantasy novel.
posted by Sara C. at 6:49 AM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've read the Golden Compass a while back, but I wouldn't have recognized the name Lyra from it offhand.

I think Lyra Fern Moriarty is a beautiful name.
posted by tdismukes at 7:07 AM on October 3, 2011

"Lyra Fern Moriarty sounds great. Go for it!"

"I think Lyra Fern Moriarty is a beautiful name"


People: those AREN'T her proposed first & middle names.

To the OP: the latest incarnation of Moriarty on UK TV is as camp as a row of tents - skip to 2 minutes in: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NeEVuPiqE24.
posted by alan2001 at 7:27 AM on October 3, 2011

My cousin Sarah named her son after his maternal and paternal grandfathers, Connor and John. She is not a person who watches a lot of movies and had actually never seen any of the Terminator movies. I do find it hard to believe that her husband hadn't seen them either but that's their story.

The young man is 5 now and already rolls his eyes when you say "Come with me if you want to live." He has also been known to scream "I'm not THAT JOHN CONNOR!!" when hassled overmuch. I have told him that when he gets older, being named after the one man who can save us from Skynet might help get him girls, but he is steadfast in his assertion that girls are icky and Skynet is not real.

That said, Moriarty wouldn't really ping on my radar.
posted by teleri025 at 8:15 AM on October 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Lol, well, here. Not a big deal to throw it up here, since it won't happen for a few years yet.
Lyra Fern Moriarty was just an example.

Lorna (possible middle name Rose) Moriarty is what I'm actually deciding on.
Sorry if that was confusing and overly ambiguous, but eh *shrug*.

Lorna from R. D. Blackmore's Lorna Doone, written in 1869. Rose because it's a lovely name. And Moriarty as previously stated.
posted by DisreputableDog at 8:33 AM on October 3, 2011

DarlingBri: "I'm not entirely convinced you have the measure of living with a name like this. My last name is Dent. For most of the population, it just registers as weird, which I'm fine with. For Hitchhiker's fans, it's like a dog whistle. Which as it happens I am also fine with, because I am a modest H2G2 fan, but motherfucker can it get annoying.

Having said that, my husband is thankful we don't have children so we can avoid an argument about naming our daughter Fenchurch. Which I think would rock.

First thing that came to my mind was Bucky Dent of Yankees beating Red Sox fame.

I read a lot but mostly non-fiction or biography. If I heard your new name, I would think nothing of it other than that is what your parents named you. If I later found out you had changed it to that, I would be curious as to why, but really it is none of my business so if you just told me "because" I would say hmm and move on.

Change your name to whatever you wish. Good luck.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:48 AM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer:
Lorna (possible middle name Rose) Moriarty is what I'm actually deciding on...Lorna from R. D. Blackmore's Lorna Doone, written in 1869. Rose because it's a lovely name. And Moriarty as previously stated.

Sorry to be a downer, but this is my honest opinion and I won't sugarcoat: Way too girly, pretty, flowery, and weird.

You know Bella Swan? The most recent example of egregious Mary-Sue-ism in literature? She's named, literally, beautiful swan. Other hallmarks of Mary Sue names include references to Celtic culture, trees, (note Rowan, above), flowers, and have lots of ls and unecessary ys and just sound very...pretty. Lyrical.

If a twelve year old girl would be a huge fan...it's probably too Mary Sue. Lorna is really pretty much in the same realm as Lyra. It's not the literary reference, it's just the sound of the name, especially when combined with Rose and the last name. Agree with what someone said upthread: Rose McGurken is a normal name. Helga Meadow Smith. But THREE pretty, flowy girly names in a row? Too much.
posted by Nixy at 9:00 AM on October 3, 2011

Dude, nobody is going to look at you all hinky with that name. If I met a Lorna Moriarty neither work of fiction would be first on my mind. Well, maybe the cookie? But probably not. It glosses as a perfectly ordinary name to my ear.
posted by Sara C. at 9:03 AM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I agree with Sara C. I think age also matters in this instance (my sister was 18 and going through a particular phase that mercifully lasted for only a year or two, hence the eye rolling), but if you're a grown up and this is something you've been thinking about for years and years, then go for it.

Upon review, if I met Lorna R. Moriarty, I wouldn't blink. Using Lorna Rose in a business context is a little too flowery, no pun intended.
posted by crankylex at 9:05 AM on October 3, 2011

Best answer: I dated a girl with the last name Moriarty at one point. When I found out that was her last name, I secretly found it thrilling! "I'm dating a Holmesian villain!" I thought, gleefully. Most people, though, didn't seem to say anything about the Arthur Conan Doyle connection.

Anyway, Lorna Moriarty sounds completely normal to me. If it was like, Unicornula LissomeBlossom, that would ping my Mary Sue radar, but Lorna doesn't actually strike me as a wish-fulfillment-y type of name at all.

posted by Greg Nog at 9:13 AM on October 3, 2011 [6 favorites]

If I had one thing to say about the name, in general, I'd say that the N in Lorna and the M in Moriarty don't flow and make the name seemingly difficult to say. A lot of people will probably accidentally call you Laura Moriarty. Also, I know you mentioned that you figured the name out via "harmonious" vowel sounds, but the repeating O and A sounds cause the name to sound very... crafted?
posted by Sara C. at 9:19 AM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Here's what matters...how you feel about it. Seriously, that's it. Any one person's problem with it doesn't matter. And those who get to know you as Lorna Moriarty will learn to associate that name with really liking you.

I had a conversation with a friend a week or two ago and I told her that I really start liking a name when I like the person. Then it comes to define them in my brain.

So if you love it and it will make you happy, then by all means stop thinking about it and do it. I will always support people in decisions that make a difference to them and doesn't hurt anyone else.
posted by inturnaround at 9:34 AM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

Lorna R. Moriarty. Say that five times fast!

I'm in favor of it; it's certainly crafted-sounding as Sara C. says, but it falls on the sensible, credible side. The relative untrendiness of Lorna (like you mention, it's one of those Janet/Linda/Carol-type names that aren't in fashion now) gives it a little bit of weight.

I admit, I'd personally think of the yarn, but that's because I'm a knitter. Knitters usually don't name themselves after their favorite yarns, so you're safe.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:34 AM on October 3, 2011

*making supportive noises*

I've always hated the first name my parents gave me, but honestly was never able to think of "the" name I'd prefer. I'm 43 and I still cringe when I have to introduce myself. Give yourself this gift.

An area woman changed her name to Pussycat Doppleganger, and her signature is a drawing of a piece of bacon. She made the local paper. You probably won't. :-)
posted by Occula at 10:49 AM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

First thing that came to my mind was Bucky Dent of Yankees beating Red Sox fame.

Yeah, that too. That was a long time ago now, so that almost never happens anymore. I also got Richard Dent, the football player, which made even less sense. But it's been Arthur Dent most consistently my whole life. As a bonus, my first name is Sabrina, so high school was non-stop Sabrina the Teenaged Witch. Also Bewitched. Also Sabrina Fair.

I point this out only to say that if you have a name, or two names, that people really associate with something they love, they will want to talk about it when they meet you. This is natural, as the association for them is fresh data, even though you have had this little chat hundreds if not thousands of times before.

Moriarty is a great name, as long as you like Sherlock Holmes. Same thing for Lorna, as long as you like the book, the films, and the shortbread cookies and are prepared to get a lot of those in your Christmas stockings. For as long as they make them.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:23 AM on October 3, 2011

Best answer: FWIW, real people are named Lorna Moriarty and it doesn't set of my 'Mary Sue meter', though I guess it may for some. It doesn't immediately strike me as a literary reference, either (the first two things that came to my mind are the yarn company and the character in a recent Doctor Who episode). I do agree that a lot of people will think your name is Laura on first hearing.
posted by Gordafarin at 11:52 AM on October 3, 2011

I would find my kids changing their first names sad and somewhat insulting, and I think there has to be some piece of getting back at parents in this kind of name change in many cases. so yeah, I'd be one of the eye rollers if this happened.

I was named for my grandmothers, a very plain two names made into a combined name. As a young teen I wished I had a more exotic, "pretty" name like the girly ones referenced by earlier posters. By the time I was in my 20s I liked my name and history it represented. My kids all have common, classic male names, and seem ok with them.

I wonder how many little "Madysons" or variations thereof will want to change their names when they grow up?
posted by mermayd at 12:58 PM on October 3, 2011

I know a woman who changed her first, middle, and last names. And the last name she chose was the name of a hard-to-find gourmet butter. (Although the following year, it started turning up for sale at Trader Joe's. And despite having told people early on that she loved the name of this butter, as soon as people discovered the butter, she started a new story in which she'd never heard of the brand, and isn't that a fascinating coincidence.)

Bottom line, people got used to butter girl. They'll be fine with this choice of yours (and I think Moriarty is an awesome last name.) Just as long as you don't lie about the origins.
posted by themissy at 1:07 PM on October 3, 2011

I think the good people of askme are being a little too nice here, and are probably not representative of the general public. The problem is not so much the name ("Lorna Moriarty" is fine), but the fact that you're changing your name for no apparent pressing or societally accepted reason other than that you'd rather be named after a fictional criminal mastermind. My dear, this is not going to go down well with many people -- particularly people in the Navy, who tend to be somewhat conservative, I believe. It's going to come off as a bit eccentric at best; a sign of nuttiness/instability at worse. If you were an artist or whatever it probably wouldn't be a problem, but career military ... ?
posted by yarly at 1:36 PM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: (and don't forget that you're going to have to explain your name change in any security clearance check you get from here on out ... )
posted by yarly at 1:38 PM on October 3, 2011

Re making the Navy a career as "Chief Moriarty": I grew up SURROUNDED by US Navy Chiefs: those of my father's friends who weren't Chiefs were all Master Chiefs ---- worse, they were all SUBMARINE Chiefs and Master Chiefs, and lemme tell ya, their names made no difference! Sure, 'Chief Moriarty' does sound good, but I used to know a Master Chief Swishy, among many others, and the ONLY people who even dared mention how silly the name was were his fellow Chiefs. My own name is and has always been both misspelled AND mispronounced, and it made no difference to my father, a Master Chief who was also a COB for eight years.

Which is all not to say there's anything wrong with changing your name to whatever you like --- I used to work with a guy who changed his to Xavier Aloysious Wormword the Third, fer cryin' out loud.....
posted by easily confused at 5:33 PM on October 3, 2011

Best answer: yarly: " It's going to come off as a bit eccentric at best; a sign of nuttiness/instability at worse."

So people in this day and age can change their gender with love and tolerance and support, but they're considered a form of crazy for changing their name? Preposterous.

No one has blinked an eye when I tell them I changed my last name. I give varying (true) reasons to varying people according to what I feel like saying, and not one reason has ever gone over badly. And if they do judge you for it? That's their problem, not yours.
posted by IndigoRain at 7:13 PM on October 3, 2011

Best answer: You change your name to whatever pleases you. Every time you hear your new name you will experience a small joy. Maybe even a big joy the first year or so. Some people won't like it. Some people will love it and want to change their names too. Some old friends and family will stumble over it for awhile, but you just keep gently correcting and not responding to the old name and eventually they'll get it.

Don't let people give you that old, "It's too odd" or "It's too hard to spell." People have all kinds of odd birth names and even "easy" names get misspelled. I have a friend named Poe and people ask Po? Pope? Pogue?

I changed my name 30 years ago and I'm still pleased every time I hear it. I don't mind spelling it. I love it. I rejoice in my name (as the old saying goes).
posted by a humble nudibranch at 12:19 AM on October 4, 2011

Response by poster: I just wanted to thank everyone for the input (even the negative). I was really encouraged by people telling me to "go for it", and able to take a hard look at my choice by people bringing up things about how it sounds too sweet all around (which I actually agree with) and reminding me to imagine the name in different settings.

I'm still wanting to change my first, and possibly middle, name at some point, but now I'm considering it paired up with my current last name, a "ye olde" version of my last name, one of my grandmothers' maiden names, etc.

Thank you again everyone! It's good to have one foot firmly in the reality of such a decision while I let myself also get flighty in my wishfulness.
posted by DisreputableDog at 2:14 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

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