People say that names carry an extraordinary amount of meaning.There’s some truth to that. To my friends, I go by Dan, but I grew up with my family calling me Daniel. To me, the two names are somewhat different: Daniel is deeper, more emotional, while Dan is fun and free-spirited. I don’t have a favorite; they just feel separate. But no matter what, everyone knows my last name as Eash-Scott — until now.
This semester, I made a decision I’ve been wanting to make for a long time: I am now writing under the name Daniel James. I’ve replaced my last name with my middle name.
This shift has already caused some confusion. Some readers were unaware that I’m the same Daniel as the executive editor, and even those who know me well didn’t know that James is my middle name.
And although I have some mixed feelings, I don’t regret my decision one bit.
Having a hyphenated last name is often a challenge. Many electronic forms don’t have ways to enter hyphens — I’ve had my credit card rejected before because the name I entered didn’t match the card … because I couldn’t enter a hyphen.
I also want to get married. What does that mean for my last name? I’d be happy for my kids to take my spouse’s name, but what about my own? Could I really keep a hyphenated name that isn’t a combination of mine and my partner’s?
And nobody pronounces my last name right. (Not Esch, not Eesh… it’s Ayy-sh.) I don’t even correct people anymore because they often don’t remember, but it’s still a bit frustrating.
But the biggest reason why I made the change was simply because, to me, Daniel James feels more professional. I’ve wanted to use it as my professional name for a while. I’m thinking about going to umpire school and/or law school and in either context, I want to be known as Daniel James. And I just FEEL like a Daniel James, if that makes sense.
I didn’t know this before I made the change, but there is also hard evidence that easy-to-pronounce names are subconsciously evaluated more positively in the workplace. One article by researchers in Australia, Belgium and the U.S. compiled five studies — all agreeing on this finding.
But there’s a big thing I’ve been thinking about: the name “Eash-Scott” tells a story and is part of my heritage — what am I giving up in order to sound “more professional”? And what does it say about my privilege that I’m even able to do that?
Working at the Rec-Fit Center’s front desk, I’ve met many community members that knew my parents — because they saw my last name. As much as I roll my eyes at the “Mennonite game,” I’ve indulged in it a lot. I’ve connected with a lot of people because they know my grandpa, and again, they only made that connection because of my last name.
My friends’ reactions have been mixed; some of them are really appreciative of the change, while others say they’d rather see the Dan Eash-Scott they know in the paper. I’m curious about what some of my extended family will think, too.
I’m planning to be Dan Eash-Scott in my personal life and Daniel James professionally. It creates a line for me to walk: what do I set my email signature as? What do I want on my nametag when I’m working at the RFC?
But I’ll be honest: despite the meanings behind it, to me, a name isn’t much more than some letters and sounds. And because I like Daniel James more, I’m perfectly happy to go with that.
Due to a technical error, the January 25 copy of The Record published a slightly unfinished version of this column. This page has been updated to reflect the final version.