I’m sorry that my column is a day late but I’ve been having an identity crisis. Not really. I know who I am, it’s just that I’m not sure what my name should be. In the alternate universe of Facebook, I recently took the plunge and changed my online name to Biff. This is a name that was given to me by my friend Georgene Nitzsche a few years ago and that I adopted as my professional name when I became a tennis pro last year at the advanced age of 57.
The amazing thing about FB (as it is known to the cognesceti) is that once you change your name it goes back through all your previous postings and automatically changes your name. On FB, at least Corrin has been successfully killed off. If only it was so easy in real life.
Of course, I have a lot of experience at name changes since I was born and spent my first 18 years as Michael. I like that name, but I hated the diminutive “Mike”, especially when it evolved into “Mikey” after a certain cereal commercial. When I set out for college in the Fall of 1968, I adopted my middle name, Corrin.
In order to change your name, it’s best to have a new pool of people who don’t know your former name. They are willing to accept your new name at face value, while those who have known you before are often quite stubborn in wanting to cling to the name they are familiar with. (Especially my daughter Mary Alice, who I think is just jealous because FB won’t let her change her name to Malice!)
I had an opportunity to try this with Biff when I went to the USTA (United States Tennis Association) Eastern region convention a few weeks ago. Since no one there knew me from Adam, I had my name tag made out with my new four-letter name. Throughout the weekend, people were addressing me as Biff and I loved it.
The thing I like about being Biff is that people smile when they say your name. I’ve encountered the same thing at home ever since I announced my new name to the local tennis world last summer. People rarely say my new name without a smile and often a little laugh. It’s nice to bring a little joy into a very depressing world right now, so I’m going to stick with Biff.
The only problem is that, while Biff is a great tennis name, it doesn’t go so well with my other passion to return to a life of farming. Seriously, has anyone ever heard of a farmer called Biff? Biff connotes a boy of leisure who has nothing better to do with his time than to poke his head in the door and ask merrily, “Tennis anyone?” That’s a role I was born to play.
Farmer Biff is a harder sell, but I’ll work on it. BTW. Did you know that biff is an actual English word that means to punch or hit? So Biff Strong actually means to hit strong, which is why Batman’s punches were always denoted as “Biff, Bam, Pow.” Perhaps my farmer name could be Bruce Wayne.