Coming to Terms with an Old Screen Name

by Paul Fidalgo

I had been an AOL user since I was about 16, and my first screen name, “Jayqueez,” was a play on the role I was playing in my high school’s production of  As You Like It, the character of Jaques. Three years later, in college, I was playing Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, and I was damn proud of it, so my screen name became “Merkutio” (since the correct spelling wasn’t available).

From the age of 19 on, and after I’d left AOL behind, I’d use Merkutio as a screen name or handle in several places, but it began to feel a little too, well, high school. But I was still attached to the name, maybe even just the sound of it, so I began to modify it for subsequent online usage, usually in the form of “Qshio” — pronounced “cue-shee-oh,” essentially Mercutio without the “mer.” That seemed to put sufficient distance between the character and my Internet self-projection, still hearken back to Shakespeare’s character loosely, but also be its own unique word that would be unlikely to be replicated by other folks online.

But eventually I stopped using that, too, still thinking it was a little too highschoolish, and also it made me feel like I was going out of my way to anonymize myself, when in fact I am something of an Internet attention whore, and one that wanted to build more of a personal “brand” around my writing and music. So my handles and email addresses all began to be a variation on my actual name.

But I’m starting to miss the old moniker. Something about the look of the word “Qshio” to me is both quirky and mysterious. The sound of the name, if you don’t make the Shakespearean connection, is likewise pleasantly enigmatic, maybe somewhat generically “foreign.” I like that. I don’t like that it might look like I’m trying to compare myself to the character Mercutio, who, beyond the mood swings and verbosity, I resemble very little.

I think a lot of folks these days find themselves chained to a handle that they came up with when either very young or very naive about the Web. They’ve now established their online identities under this old, goofy name, and can’t change it without some major inconvenience and confusion. That’s how I felt somewhat, but I’m in a more ambiguous place now. I’m thinking of readopting it. Even if it is a little too much like my 19-year-old self, well, he wasn’t so bad, was he?