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Exploring the science and magic of Identity and Access Management
Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Identity Map – Names

Author: Mark Dixon
Thursday, November 17, 2005
5:59 am

"a word or phrase that constitutes the distinctive designation of a
person or thing

Dad taught my 7th grade math class. For some odd reason, I remember an exercise
outlined in his instructor’s book to teach about symbolic representation: A
student was to come forward and write his name on the chalkboard. What is the
name on the chalkboard? Is it the same as the student? No, the name is just
a symbol that represents the student. If the name is written twice, do we get
two students? No. When the name is erased, does the student cease to exist?
We hope not!

So, what kind of names are given to individuals?

Each time one of our children was born, we filled out a form specifying the
child’s name, including:

  • Given Name(s)
  • Surname

This act of assigning the name for a child’s birth certificate establishes
the official "distinctive designation" for the child. To change this
official name requires a legal process.

"Unofficial names" come naturally, or may be assigned or assumed
during the course of one’s life:

  • Relationship terms (e.g. Dad, Mom, Grampa)
  • Terms of endearment (e.g. Honey, Deary)
  • Nicknames
  • Aliases
  • Pseudonymns
  • Stage names
  • Screen names

Titles are modifiers to names:

  • President
  • Mr./Ms./Mrs.
  • Bishop
  • Doctor
  • The Honorable

Honorary names

  • Your honor
  • Your excellency

Other names include special codes, numbers or names assigned for convenience
in interacting with a person:

  • Social security number
  • Student ID
  • Employee ID
  • Prison ID
  • Customer ID
  • Drivers license number
  • Subscriber ID
  • User ID
  • Password
  • iName

So, what is a name? A symbol? Yes. But it often represents much more. Every
name has a story. My surname represents a legacy of courageous pioneers who
braved unbelievable odds to migrate across the great plains to establish an
honorable existence in the hostile mountains of the West. My first name is the
same as my great grandfather, whose dad wasn’t quite a pioneer because he came
west by rail. My middle initial is a compromise between a mother who wished
to give me a middle name and a father who didn’t like middle names! My initials,
MGD, were
mine before Miller Brewing misappropriated them!

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One Response to “Identity Map – Names”

    Hi Mark; if you can get hold of a copy, Colin McGinn’s “The Making of a Philosopher” has a very neat analysis of what we mean when we refer to someone by name. I won’t try and reproduce it here… ;^)

    Comment by Robin Wilton on November 27, 2005 at 2:56 pm

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