We’re getting meta in this episode featuring Internet Linguist Gretchen McCulloch. Learn why names are important not only in mythology and folklore, but in our own lives (including online lives!) as well. Also featuring the Amanda Sins Podcast, a podcast within a podcast, so many throwbacks to the 90s, and what kind of kids did the Bloody Mary thing at sleepovers.
- Gretchen McCulloch is an internet linguist: She analyzes the language of the internet, for the people of the internet. You can visit her website, listen to her podcast, Lingthusiasm, follow her @GretchenAMcC on Twitter, and you can preorder her book, Because Internet, here!
- Skillshare is an online learning community where you can learn—and teach—just about anything. Visit skillshare.com/spirits2 to get two months of Skillshare Premium for free! Amanda’s course is called “Podcast Marketing: How to Grow Your Audience with a Marketing Plan, Social Media & Metadata Tips.”
- Stitch Fix is an online personal styling service that finds and delivers clothes, shoes, and accessories to fit your body, budget, and lifestyle. Get started at stitchfix.com/spirits for 25% off when you keep your whole box!
Find Us Online
If you like Spirits, help us grow by spreading the word! Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, & Goodreads. You can support us on Patreon to unlock bonus Your Urban Legends episodes, director’s commentaries, custom recipe cards, and so much more.
Amanda: Welcome to Spirits Podcast, a boozy dive into mythology, legends, and folklore. Every week we pour a drink and learn about a new story from around the world. I'm Amanda.
Julia: And I'm Julia.
Amanda: This is episode 120, Names, with Gretchen Mcculloch.
Julia: I feel like this is very much an esoteric episode of Spirits but in the best possible way.
Amanda: Oh, yeah. We go on about how much we admire Gretchen and this really was one of my favorite conversations that we've had in a long time. So I am stocked and I'm trying to think here, Julia. I don't think I would ever ask the true name of any of our new Patreons because that would give me too much power.
Julia: That's fair.
Amanda: So, welcome and keep your name to your self, Mckayla, and Haley as well as our supporting producer level patrons, Phillip, Julie, ER. Christopher, Alicia, Kathy, Vinny, Danica, Marissa, Sammy, Josie, Neil, Jessica Fill Fresh, and Debra.
Julia: Amanda, I think that you know who we've already given our true names to.
Amanda: Is it our legend level Patreons?
Julia: It is.
Amanda: Sarah, James, Jess, Sarah P., Sandra, Audra, Mercedes, Jack Murray and Leanne.
Julia: It is.
Amanda: And Leanne Davis, definitely knows my true name.
Julia: Yeah. Leanne knows my heart and my soul. What's up, Leanne?
Amanda: This is the support that makes our show happen. It's what lets us keep our names hidden or as powerful every day.
Julia: I don't disagree with that.
Amanda: This week we'd really love to encourage anyone who likes Spirits to check out our Patreon. Just have a look, see a cute photo of all of us that was taken in Portland that I just put up on the Patreon page. It's adorable. That's patreon.com/spiritspodcast, and if you can spare just $1 an episode, that goes a long way toward letting us do fun thing like live shows and trips and conferences and upgrading our microphones as Julia just did.
Julia: I just did. I sound great now.
Amanda: So thank you to every single person who supports us and if you choose to support us this week, welcome.
Julia: Amanda, for our drink choices this week, I thought that probably our best option because we do talk a little bit about, in this episode, kind of like our '90s aim names and I realized we weren't drinking in the '90s because we were about we children, but I-
Amanda: Maximum we were 8.
Julia: Yes, but I wanted to pick out a '90s inspired cocktail to go with the motif. So I picked the bramble which is gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and blackberry liqueur. Which one did you pick?
Amanda: I picked a Cosmo, which is what my mom occasionally ordered in restaurants and therefore, to me, is the most '90s cocktail. But I'm drinking it in a gimlet glass because I'm an uncoordinated nerd and Martini glasses were made for comical onstage waiter accidents.
Julia: Onstage waiter accidents and also if you are just a very drunk older woman who is going after a younger man in a Broadway play.
Amanda: Yes, totally. It's actually not bad.
Julia: Ladies who-
Amanda: Not huge into vodka, but lime and a cranberry, can't say no.
Julia: Can't say no.
Amanda: Reminds me of the Bailey, which is my go-to airplane drink of ginger ale and cranberry, half and half. It's so delicious.
Julia: Smart, that's a good one. Is that named after your sister?
Amanda: It sure is because at six she was like, "Can I have cranberry juice and half ginger ale?" And we were all like, "Whoa, this bitch is classy."
Julia: Dang. Classic girl.
Amanda: Julia, speaking of class, what do you have to recommend to us this week?
Julia: I have a new audio fiction podcasts for us to listen to this week. I highly recommend checking out. Actually, I have two. One is a self-plug in, the other one is not. So I have Caravan, which is from the whisper forge family of products, my people and also our good, good friends. And Caravan is about a man named Samir who accidentally falls into a canyon that's full of demons and monsters, and he just real horny for them.
Amanda: Like you do.
Julia: Like you do, sometimes you just got to give like horny for monsters. I don't blame him. I also highly recommend this week the podcast Windfall, which is ... You've heard me talk about R-Fair City on the podcast before and I highly recommend Windfall because it feels like the emotional child or younger sibling of R-Fair City. It is a weird dystopian cityscape that is also funny and very well-built when it comes to the world building.
Amanda: That sounds like a wonderful thing to lose yourself in, in these strangely springy and then rainy days.
Julia: Yeah, not enjoying that. Enjoying those two podcasts, not enjoying grainy springiness.
Amanda: Well, Julia, you can bring some levity to your springtime with our sponsor this week, Stitch Fix, which we'll send you super colorful lovely floral print is bringing things if you ask, and you can go to stitchfix.com/spirits to get 25% off when you decide to keep all of the springtime items in your box and to Skillshare. An online learning community where you can learn and teach just about anything like I do, but at skillshare.com/spirits2, the number 2, to get two bunches of Skillshare premium for free.
Julia: I am very excited, again, to recommend Amanda's fantastic class. I'm sure I'll tell you more about it.
Amanda: All right. So we'd love to remind you again this week. Please check out our Patreon. At least just to look at that adorable photo of all three of us, which I want to like blow up to canvas size and hang in the Multitudio.
Julia: Yes, please.
Amanda: But now without further ado, enjoy Spirits Podcast, episode 120, Names, with Gretchen Mcculloch.
We are so excited to welcome Gretchen Mcculloch here. Gretchen, I think I told you in person when we met at Patriot Con, but I've been reading your blog for like 8 years and so meeting you in person was kind of a big deal for me. But Gretchen is the internet linguist and you might have read her writing on the Toast or on Wired. And now your book Because Internet is coming out very soon, and you host a podcast Lingthusiasm. So Gretchen is just a woman of our town. Gretchen, welcome.
Gretchen Hello, I'm so excited to be here.
Julia: So, Gretchen, I am very curious as to what mythological and perhaps linguistic thing you're going to be telling us about this week.
Gretchen Well, I was thinking about where is the intersection between a mythology podcast and linguistics podcast? I ended up with names and how we use names to create power over people, sometimes have mystical powers, sometimes to fight evil and sometimes just to make more weird or think about more weirdly the society that we already live in.
Julia: Hell yeah. I think we talk about names quite a bit in our podcast. So I'm very, very excited to see what we're going to be specifically talking about.
Gretchen The most obvious name story from a myth and legends perspective is the Rumpelstiltskin Story.
Julia: Of course. I feel like everyone knows the Rumpelstiltskin story, but they might not. Would you mind just walking us through the important beats of it?
Amanda: This is what I remember, spinning gold. That's all. So I certainly could use a refresher.
Julia: Newborn child, firstborn child.
Gretchen Okay. So I think the story is, there's a young girl who ... Is it her or her father? Makes a boast that she can spin straw into gold.
Julia: It is almost always the parent. The same thing happened to Andromeda, I want to say.
Gretchen Yeah, it's always the parent and somehow like a magical ... This comes to the attention of a prince and she gets locked in a warehouse filled with straw and she gets told, "You need to spin us all into gold before tomorrow or you have three days or something or else you'll be killed," I think is how it goes.
Julia: Yeah. That's usually how it goes. That's a classic fairytale choice, or you'll die.
Gretchen And then obviously she can't do this and so this mysterious little man shows up and offers to do it for her if she will give him something. I think some versions of the story probably had this happen three times and she gives him something else the first two times, but in the final ultimate thing where she has to spin a whole bunch of straw into gold, he asks for her firstborn child.
Amanda: Oh no.
Julia: Don't do that. Don't do that.
Gretchen Fairytales, right? But she's going to die anyway. So she's like, "Okay, fine." And he does it. He spins the straw into gold and then she marries the prince. Years later, she has this child and he shows back up again saying like, "Hello, I've come to claim that you owe me," and she says, "I can't do this. Is there any way I can get out of this?" And he says, "Well, if you can guess my name then you can get out of this."
Julia: That seems like a fair contract. Probably should have written this down beforehand.
Amanda: This reminds me of a show I had been watching an awful lot of on Netflix. It's like an Australian show about four rivals who go to different antique stores and then have to spend the same amount of money and then they sell items at auction and they have to compete to see who wins. It's so pure.
Julia: I'm sorry, I need to know the name of the show immediately.
Amanda: Let me look at my Netflix history.
Amanda: Please hold as we check Amanda's Netflix history, Clash of the Collectibles.
Julia: Oh my gosh, that's very good.
Amanda: It's very good. In any case, they will often talk to these proprietors of antique stores and the antique's store a person will say, "Oh, well, I had it marked at 200 but you're asking for 100, how about we flip a coin or have like an arm wrestling match? And then we'll see who wins." And this very much reminds me of that only it's the highest stakes possible.
Gretchen The highest stakes possible.
Julia: A human life.
Gretchen A human life and so I don't remember in the fairy tale how many that things she discovers his name, but she figures out somehow.
Julia: I vaguely remember her following him into the woods and him bragging about it, thinking that no one is listening.
Gretchen Oh, that's right.
Julia: Then she overhears it and then he comes back and she's like, "Yo, it's Rumpelstiltskin." And he's like, "How did you figure it out?"
Gretchen I think he gets so angry that he stomps a hole in the floor and disappears into the underworld.
Julia: Yeah, that sounds right. That sounds like something the French would add.
Gretchen So, obviously, there are many re-tellings of this in various different forms. But I think that's the kind of outline of the Rumpelstiltskin story and this idea that knowing someone's name, and the name is so distinctive as Rumpelstiltskin, gives you that kind of power over them.
Julia: Yeah, because you know something inherent about them or something about their essence, and in lots of fairy stories, like a kind of Faye wisdom is don't eat the food, don't drink the water and don't tell them your name.
Gretchen Yeah, yeah. Don't tell them your true name. I was thinking about the Rumpelstiltskin story recently because I read this book by Naomi Novik called Spinning Silver and it's kind of a retelling in novel-length form with a lot of adaptations of the Rumpelstiltskin story, which is not one of those fairytales you see retold as often as like Sleeping Beauty or something like that.
Julia: Yes. It definitely doesn't have that Disney princess vibe that everyone else is probably going for.
Gretchen There's no Disney Rumpelstiltskin, is there?
Julia: No, I don't think so.
Gretchen If there is, it's very obscure.
Julia: That would be very bad. It's like that really original version of the animated Hobbit. I imagine that level of like vague creepiness has to be involved.
Gretchen Yeah. Probably from like the 1940s or something.
Julia: Got to be.
Gretchen So, anyway, the Naomi Novik book is really good. It's still got a magical element. There's still a fairy type creature and so on, but the way that the main character converts, she doesn't spin straw into gold. She changes silver into gold and she does this through her shrewd business sense.
Julia: It's so good.
Julia: It's just Amanda, but in book form.
Amanda: How did you do this?
Gretchen This is what I want out of my fairytale heroines is that they have good business sense. Basically, she buys low and sells high, like the characters on the Australian show.
Julia: She's working in the market. It's all good.
Amanda: That's amazing.
Gretchen Well, and the details of this is she lives in the small village with her parents and her father is the town's money lender. So this is setting kind of like fantasy eastern Europe and her family is Jewish, and they're the only Jewish family in their town. And her father's the town moneylender, but he's not very good at being a money lender. And so she eventually takes over the family business as like a teenager and is a much better money lender.
And she gets all this business advice from her grandpa who is the money lender in a bigger town. So he's giving her the oldest business advice and she's converting the silver that she gets from money lending into gold through various means of buying stuff in the bigger town and selling it at a profit in her small town.
Julia: That's so good.
Amanda: Oh my God, I'm so into it.
Gretchen It's so good, and it's a really interesting setting and the whole story is, is really enjoyable. But she has this fairy character, I don't want to spoil too much, but she, who, of course, hears of her post that she can turn silver into gold and so on and comes after her wanting her to do this and she, at some point, very innocently asks swell, "I don't even know your name, what's your name?" And he is very offended that you could possibly want to know his name.
Julia: Yeah. You can't just be upfront with those things. Then where would all his power be?
Gretchen And then, of course, you have this system of patronage by giving people nicknames because that's like an honor to be bestowed a name by someone, and there's all these kind of like when you name it, you make it true.
Julia: Ooh, that's like the Puritan thing, right? Where they would name their child chastity or prudence or something like that.
Gretchen Yeah, or like these long phrases.
Julia: There's so many of them. They're so complicated.
Gretchen Whosoever does strike you on the first cheek, then let him strike you on the second cheek or something like this.
Amanda: I clearly need to do a lot more reading. I don't know, my family version of this is like, I have three cousins named Danny: so there's big Danny, little Danny and then just Danny. In Irish families, there have to be ... Yeah, normally, you repeat Christian names so much that you have to kind of have some kind of identifier. But it is funny whether or not it's a little Brian because he used to be little and now he's gigantic. I don't know, just like the nickname that you come by when you're a child stays with you and either proves to be funnily accurate or ironically not true.
Gretchen So my family just does this with diminutive, so we have like, James is a family name, but we have a Jim, a Jimmy, and a Peter James. And then we now have a new James because he was born after great-grandpa James has died, so he can be James again.
Julia: He's the new generation of James.
Amanda: Oh man. I'm sure there's so many comic book analogs that are running through your head, Julia.
Julia: So many, there's so many. There's so many variations of Captain Miss/Mrs. Marvel. There's just so many.
Amanda: The new Amazing Spiderman X.
Gretchen Well, and this is the funny thing about families because I was also thinking taboo names in general. So some cultures have taboos where you're not allowed to say something like your mother-in-law's name or you're not allowed to speak directly to certain branches of your in-laws with the family because it's kind of taboos there. But we also have certain taboos in English, in Western culture. For example, we did an episode of Lingthusiasm about names and we were talking about whether you call your parents by their names.
Gretchen A lot of people came back to us exactly what that reaction like, "Never. I would never call my parents by my names. It's so weird. I can't believe people do this" or, "Only in this very limited restricted circumstance of like, I'm trying to get their attention. It's a crowded room and they're not responding to mom or dad, I have to say their name, but it's very functional."
Amanda: Yeah, that definitely happened to me where I was trying to get my dad's attention in a room of his colleagues and could not yell, "Dad." So I said, "Br- Brian," and it was so half-hearted and under my breath, and when he turned around and I felt guilty. Just like no. In family culture, that is a no way.
Julia: Did he look at you with judgment in his eyes in that moment?
Amanda: No. I think he was just like that thing where your brain just snags onto your name, and then he turned around and was like, "Oh Amanda." I don't think you put two and two together, but it just made me feel super weird.
Gretchen Obviously, people call him Brian all the time. It's just that you don't call him Brian.
Amanda: Yeah. Even you saying it, again, makes me uncomfortable. Let's move on.
Gretchen I'm sorry. This also kind of gets us to this linguistic phenomenon called the cocktail party effect, which is people's ability to hear your own name mentioned in a conversation across the room even when you can't hear any other part of that conversation.
Amanda: Oh, you mean the, "Hey, freeze." As I try to listen to those people across the room and see if what they're saying is favorable or not effect.
Gretchen Yeah, like, "Who are you talking about? You're talking about me. What does that?"
Amanda: That's so funny, but your brain is better able to snag on to your own name than it is like general conversation.
Gretchen Yeah, absolutely. Your name and also certain other taboo words. So you'll also better at hearing like swear words.
Julia: Yeah. That's for sure.
Gretchen Your attention get snagged by swear words.
Amanda: Exciting words. That's so funny. It makes total sense to me. I'm sure your brain just kind of has ambient awareness of a lot of things that don't come into your actual consciousness but I'm sure that those exciting words like the word sex or your own name would make you more inclined or something that you're worried about or scared about. That kind of paranoia might kind of heightened your awareness.
Gretchen Yeah, and it's really interesting because it sort of shows us that the brain is processing at some level stuff that it hears before it's even telling you that it's hearing it because it's kind of listening to that background chatter and just not making any of it rise to the level of your conscious awareness. And then when it hears something that's really salient or potentially important for it, it's like, "Oh, you might want to know about this one because they're talking about you."
Julia: Like Siri.
Gretchen Your brain is actually Siri.
Amanda: Checks out.
Julia: That's so interesting too because I feel like that phenomenon does appear in folklore and urban legends and mythology as well. Like certain folklore characters that hear their own name and are suddenly summoned. You know what I mean?
Amanda: It's true.
Gretchen The kind of classic example of like you say, Bloody Mary three times in a mirror and something is supposed to happen.
Amanda: There she is.
Gretchen There she is.
Amanda: Which we definitely did at Kimberly's house in first grade.
Julia: Yeah, they did. Sorry Mrs. Kimberly's mom.
Gretchen What's supposed to happen once she's there? I never quite understood this.
Julia: I think that she's supposed to reach through the mirror and grab you and take her either into her realm or take you and kill you, I think.
Julia: That's what the blood is for. I don't really know.
Gretchen Why would you summon that?
Amanda: Or just be creepy and appear. I don't know.
Julia: It's like one of those truth or dare moments where it's like, "You don't have the courage to summon Bloody Mary," and then someone else is like, "Yeah, I do. I don't even think she's real. I'm going to do it anyway." And then you do and then you scare the shit out of yourself because you're 8 years old.
Amanda: It's also made its way into Harry Potter where saying Voldemort's name had a real or perceived power that people were really persuaded by for like 20 odd years.
Gretchen Yeah. And that one's really interesting because people are saying Voldemort's name and in the first several books, Dumbledore is the only wizard who he's ever been scared of. So he feels like he can say the name and he tries to get Harry to say the name to show that he's not scared. But then by one of the later books, I forget if it?
Julia: The seventh book.
Gretchen Six or seven? It's seven. There's actually a tracing spell on the name so Harry has to actually not say it.
Amanda: I think that was an example of people were scared of it and so Voldemort took advantage of an existing phenomenon and as people were trying to get through a war, be more confident, give themselves something to hope for. And also because Harry specifically was saying it all over the place. He took advantage of that.
Julia: Interestingly, I think that the curse that like would let Voldemort or death eaters, no, that it was, his name was being said was actually called the taboo curse. So I think that's an interesting kind of play on what we've been talking about the whole time.
Gretchen Yeah. And this name Voldemorting was used in a paper by a linguist named Emily van der Nagel to talk about an internet kind of taboo. And so this is when ... Do you know how people ... Sometimes people will search their names on Twitter just to see what people are saying about them.
Julia: Yeah, definitely not something I've ever done.
Amanda: Yeah. You mean inviting death?
Gretchen Not that any of us healthy and well-adjusted people would ever do this.
Amanda: No, I don't know what you're talking about.
Gretchen So people sometimes search their names and if they find you saying something about them then that's ... They'll come after you or they'll send their fans or their troll army after you.
Amanda: Oh, no.
Gretchen And so people sometimes replace the names, like the little letters in someone's name with some asterisks or they respell it or they talk about them obliquely so that when you do the search or if you will put the taboo spell, on them by doing a keyword search, you don't return anything.
Amanda: That's so fascinating and it's a matter of safety a lot of that time.
Gretchen Yeah, exactly.
Amanda: Example a politician or an internet figure whose fans are known to detractors unsafe. You don't want to put yourself in harm's way.
Gretchen Yeah, exactly. So if you don't want Taylor Swift fandom come after you, you might not want to criticize her like by her actual name. You might want to say something different. That's probably not an example because I imagine a lot of people say the name Taylor Swift, so probably it's hard for them to find someone to go after, but you're like-
Julia: You'd be surprised who knows?
Amanda: Or the politician.
Gretchen Who knows? Or like snitch tagging somebody in ... If I criticize someone even by name and then somebody comes by and says, "Oh, well, this person should know that you're mad at them."
Julia: That's the worst.
Amanda: I've never heard that term.
Julia: It's so accurate.
Gretchen This is called snitch tagging and people have been complaining about it on the internet recently.
Julia: It's the worst.
Gretchen Even more subtle version of that is don't use the person's actual name because they can keyword search for that. Use some sort of variation that's transparent to your audience, but because there are infinite variations, people are going to put those asterisks in different places. People are going to put those creative re-spelling slightly different ways so they can't search for all the possible variations and they probably won't find yours.
Amanda: Yeah, which also throws a wrench in if you're trying to blacklist a certain word or avoid triggers, like if somebody's obscures the word in a way that is different and you didn't capture in your filtering then it's imperfect.
Gretchen Yeah. I have a lot of prominent politicians names muted on Twitter because it just keeps-
Amanda: Me too.
Gretchen ... Twitter reasonable for me, and then if people are Voldemorting them, I'm like, "I didn't have to see this person's name, but I did have to see what you were saying about them and I actually didn't care."
Amanda: I remember this being kind of a fandom blame more topic too on Tumblr, specifically, where people whose work is being discussed would do this and kind of go down the rabbit hole of searching their terms but there's sort of an argument to be made to say like, "Hey, fandom has a right to talk privately about a thing and if someone doesn't tag you or tag the work, or if they are talking about a ship but they don't want to tag the post with that ship's name so that the people who want to just see good pure love posting won't see the meta discussion.
There's a whole kind of etiquette there that I feel like I'm so glad that people like you, Gretchen, are talking about in documenting because otherwise, it would just have died in my brain and now in this post Tumblr world RIP, like we would never talk about it again.
Gretchen So I don't know if Tumblr is completely RIP right now because there's another interesting connection to that because one of the things that's been going on with Tumblr recently is, of course, there's been this ban of non-work safe "content", which has this very broad spectrum of what they constitute as non safe, non-worksafe or pornographic or related to sex or whatever.
Amanda: What is this? LiveJournal in 2006 people?
Julia: It's all very questionable.
Gretchen But one of the things that I've been seeing recently on Tumblr is because you can't tag things in NSFW anymore because that tag is blocked. People have been reviving some old-fanish terms such as lemon and lime and orange to tag this.
Amanda: Oh man.
Julia: Such live internet flashbacks.
Amanda: I'm blushing right now.
Julia: Oh my God.
Amanda: Yeah, tell the people what this means.
Gretchen I grant not really part, delete very loosely part of my own internet experience. But from what I've heard of in the lore is a lemon is used for kind of a like PG-13 fic where you have some sexual content and then align is like more than that. It's more R-rated and then you also have an orange, which is totally safe and then a grapefruit, which like maybe has kink in it or something. But I think there may be less agreement about what some of the more obscure fruits actually indicate.
Amanda: I assume the fruits would go in size order, but they do not. They go in sort of like potency.
Gretchen I think it's like acidity potency or else.
Julia: Oh my God, that's so great.
Gretchen And so anyway, so there's this newly popular post on Tumblr that's got hundreds of thousands of notes. It's reexplaining this citrus scale to the new generation of people on Tumblr to say, "Well, I guess if they're going to block our NSFW tags, here's what you can tag stuff with instead. Let's bring it back."
Julia: Oh my gosh.
Amanda: Oh my God. So amazing. Internet's incredible.
Gretchen Here is your fandom lore people.
Julia: Thank you. Thank you for that. I don't miss those days, but I also kind of do a little bit.
Amanda: Man, thinking about LiveJournal versus Tumblr, in particular, reminds me how startled I was to learn that on Tumblr you could change your username. Back on LiveJournal, it would be like the event of the century. If somebody were to change their journal or like to deactivate one journal, then start another one. Unless I'm incorrect, you could not change the name of your blog or if you did then all your URLs broke. And so the way we used the internet back then, kids, is I chose a handle that I went by and that was my handle on all the sites because, otherwise, how would my friends find me?
That would be, I decided on it, it was mine. It said something about me and my identity. And then when it got to Tumblr and I was like, "Wait, these kids are changing their names. They can change their name and their avatar, and I would have no idea that this blog was the blog that I want saw unless they had something like tagging conventions or just a style that I recognized." So I realize too that the idea of searching a real person's name on Twitter is kind of level one of the exploding brain meme.
But when you get all the way up to these intricate layers of choosing and then discarding and then remixing your identity, I don't know. I'm sure smarter people than me have written a lot about this, but if it's something-
Gretchen I have, actually.
Amanda: Well, tell us all about it.
Gretchen I have actually talked about this in my book, which is coming out in July about how ... This is also related to internet history as a whole. So in the early days of the internet, there was this assumption that you had a pseudonym on the internet and most people didn't use their real names on the internet or if they did, they might use like a real first name, but something that was very common like, "Oh, I'm Mat, you can never find me among the millions of Mats."
Gretchen I never used my real name on the internet in the suit anonymous days because there are not that many Gretchens and you can track people pretty quickly from that. I didn't get to disappear in the anonymous Matts and Rachel's.
Amanda: I never use my birth year either because people would know I was like 11 and be ... I knew that that was like personally identifying information and I lied a little bit. I was like, "Oh yeah, I'm from Vermont" instead of New York.
Julia: Why Vermont? Why Vermont?
Amanda: I always wanted to grow up on a farm and Vermont was pretty.
Julia: There we go. That's what I was wondering.
Amanda: That's it. That's the one.
Gretchen My sister used her real first name, but she used the last name Smith.
Julia: Fair, you got it.
Gretchen She was like, "Oh, my last name is pretty distinctive" but no one recognize her being Smith. So this is very early days, you had the pseudonym, but it's your handle and it's how your friends are going to recognize you from one social network to another, and from one chat room to another and these kinds of things.
People had these fairly persistent handles and in the subtly later generation of people who joined the internet primarily as teens, interacting as teens, I'm thinking of this especially in the Instant Messaging days where people would change their usernames on Instant Messaging, but it was okay because you knew who people were because they were all people that you'd already met offline pretty much or Friends of friends. And so if you change your IM name, then you still know this is this person that's in your English class.
Amanda: Yeah, it's like another version of changing your away message or changing your profile or just like saying something new and interesting about your identity/your crush.
Gretchen Exactly. So usernames, even though they look superficially similar to people who are outside of the internet culture, change from becoming a way of like naming your identity too with performing identity in a very fluid sort of way. And so when I saw people changing usernames on Tumblr and they tend to be the younger users changing the names, I was like, "Oh, this is like back when we used to change our usernames all the time in Instant messaging days because you're still working through your identity is, and you're declaring your allegiance to this fandom or to that fandom or to this type of thing or did that type of thing and you're working out who you are.
And you're trying to create a relatively deliberately obscure trail for people who know you offline to potentially follow you because let's say your parent bookmarks your Tumblr blog because they find it, but then you've changed your username and they come back six months later trying to creep on you again and they can't find you anymore because the bookmark, it doesn't work.
Julia: Ha ha ha.
Amanda: Oh man, and that was-
Gretchen But your friends who have used the interface to follow you, that following relationship is preserved so you don't lose your friends, but people who don't understand Tumblr lose you really quickly.
Amanda: That's so fascinating. And my first when I learned people could change their names was like, "Oh my God, what about all the links? What about all the URLs?" Because I guess in my era of coming up on the internet, which was early aughts like forums and fandom, someone deleting their blog was the worst case scenario because their work was posted in one place. It was friend walls or something and you couldn't get it elsewhere.
Julia: You mean it's internet death.
Amanda: Exactly. Yeah. And so, I learned very early on. People think that I have like a weird style of preserving and bookmarking everything I love in Evernote, but I was like, "You never know what it's going to be deleted." And with the internet archive and stuff that's not as true as it was anymore, but I guess there's this kind of like scarcity or preservation-minded generation, like microgeneration of us, where that would just be kind of unthinkable to me.
Gretchen And instead you have this. So Tumblr preserves the re-blog architecture even when your URLs change. So links that you create in a post might break, but links that you create, but your friends who know what you're using it has changed too can just sub in your new username and it'll still work because the post ID number doesn't change, and your re-blogs all still work and Tumblr will automatically resolve all of those. So it breaks some stuff, but he doesn't break as much as it would have under a LiveJournal or earlier type of blogging model when you change your name on Tumblr.
Amanda: And I guess this does kind of hearken back to this idea of like a true essence, like a true identity. Even though my username may change, my friends or my neutrals, whatever, they're good. They're going to know who I am. Even if they don't know my IRL, name on my driver's license or my social security number or whatever, they know that there's like a true and constant person under all of that kind of changing of the artifice.
Gretchen Well, and because usernames are used to perform identity, picking a username is a way of declaring allegiance to a particular fandom or particular thing, and that helps other people in that fandom find you. But if you decide, "Oh, actually, I'm not a fan of One Direction anymore," or like, "I'm not a fan of this TV show anymore," you don't necessarily want to use a name that's still associated with that just so people from that fandom confined you. You now want to use her name that's associated with your new favorite fandom.
So people from that fandom can know that you're a fellow fan and because you're declaring who you are through these various kinds of pop culture allegiances. Whereas if you're going to keep the same username, you want something that's less transient and less specifically tied to a particular fandom because you think, "Okay, then I'm going to be stuck with this for the next 20 years."
But revealing someone's offline name, if you will, or social security number or these kinds of things is also this weird way of having this power over them. Like doxing someone is a similar kind of like magical power you can have over someone on the internet in the same way that like, "Oh, if I know Rumpelstiltskin's name, I had this kind of control over him." Releasing someone's name on the internet is this ... I think it also speaks to that sort of tension in between knowing someone's true name or knowing someone's to write entity can give you that kind of power over them.
Julia: Yeah. No, that's absolutely true. And like you said, the online name is very transient. It can change with your interests and just what you're into at the moment and how you are identifying at the moment, while a legal name does carry implications and carries certain strengths and weaknesses that come with using that, and what society dictates is important.
Gretchen Yeah, and you can change it, but you have to go through a lot more paperwork than just going into the settings page and putting in something different. And revealing someone's name that was previously their legal name but they've chosen to be a different legal name is also a way of kind of exerting a sort of power over them and a malicious power over them.
Julia: Yes. I agree.
Amanda: I was just going to ask and kind of a Rumpelstiltskin scenario, in that tail it meant something because he offered it up like a wager, and if the protagonists found out then there would be clear consequences. And so it was going to ask you, if we know the ferries true name or something, what does it actually mean? But then I realized the potential to control someone and actually controlling them is almost the same thing. Whether or not you could convince someone to do whatever you want just by saying their name. Whether or not you do is almost inconsequential because it's that like just a threat that is akin to controlling someone directly.
Julia: Yeah, the threat of control.
Gretchen It's a sort of blackmail with personally identifiable information and it's one of those ... Like middle names also have this weirdly secretive status where they're not ... There's an inherently anything particularly secret about them but a lot of people are like, "Oh I don't want to reveal my middle name." When I was in grade school, telling someone your middle name was one of those things you did to like bond as a friend. You're like, "I'll tell you my middle name and then we'll have a shared secret." It's only secretive because we assign it that secretive quality.
Julia: Yeah. It's more likely to be old fashioned. If your parents chose like a more of the moment first name for you and then a family name as your middle name, that's so funny.
I was just reading recently about how middle names, some people speculate came out of royal tradition in England, at least for the kind of English speaking from England tradition in the US, where having like a family name and an ancestry or multiple families of status combined to this new line, you had multiple names to signify. It was like a very posh thing and then people without that necessarily started just adding them on because is aspirational or is now possibility for whatever reason.
Gretchen Yeah. A lot of people who give the mother's surname sometimes as a middle name or another family name or something that you use to show a family connection. There's also, I know in Chinese and Korean they have a tradition of generation names. So you have your family name, you have your generation name, and you have your actual given name and the generation name is shared by everyone that's also at your generation. So your siblings and your cousins of the same generation and so on and there's a generation name poem that your family has that you cycled through to get those names.
Amanda: That's amazing. That'll be very useful in my family instead of being like the parents, the cousins, now the cousins have kids. We call them the babies, like they're going to be 10 soon, what do we do?
Gretchen Yeah, exactly. So you have those and those are like part of someone's name.
Julia: One of the other things I'm forgetting if it's either middle names or community names in Catholicism, but one of those I think was speculated as fairy tale related thing where it is, if you are meeting someone and you don't want to give them the power of your name, you would provide either ... If it's the community in one, it's like the devil. But if it's just middle names, I think it might have been some fay related incident, but I'm pretty sure that it's like, this is the name that you would give to someone if you don't want them to exert power over you.
Gretchen I thought about using my middle name is like a Starbucks name or something because a lot of people who have less common names also have a Starbucks name that's like easier to spell. And I also find it really personal for someone at a cafe to know my actual name, like, "We're just engaging in a customer service interaction. We're not friends here." Or like when I have done customer service jobs and people will read your name off your name tag and start calling you that and you're like, "I didn't give you permission to use this."
Amanda: Excuse me.
Julia: It's the instinct then is like, "Oh yes, it's nice to meet you. Please tell me your name now."
Gretchen Yeah, exactly. But requiring it someone's name just to buy a coffee also creates this weird social situation or like, "Oh, what name should I put it on the cup?" A lot of people have Starbucks names that are, "Okay, I'm just going to use this pseudonym."
Amanda: Yeah. Or all kinds of complicating things like a gender presentation and the names versus names that you use and choose for yourself or your immigration status or heritage or something about what your name says and the context in which you're using it. It is really powerful and it does have a ton of signifiers in some cases about the person.
I love the idea of the Starbucks name. It's not always great that you have to use it. It's often a name of last resort or an adaptation to a culture that isn't necessarily friendly to you, but in this discussion of usernames and different ways that we present ourselves to the world, there's just so much power in it. It feels like so in scope for a Spirits' discussion.
Gretchen Yeah. I have a Starbucks name in French, but not in English because I live in Montreal. I'm often buying coffee in French. English speakers do fine with Gretchen and there's only one way to spell Gretchen English speakers. Like recognize it as a name, they know it's not very common, but they generally have an idea of how to spell it. But speakers of European languages that aren't English or, of course, German are like, "What the heck is this name?"
Amanda: What letters go into this, please?
Gretchen They are like, "Do you mean Greta or Gretel?" Because a lot of time they've heard of those names but not Gretchen. And so in French Starbucks I say Rachel or Rochelle because Rachel is the name that people miss here Gretchen as because it's got a ch- in the middle and there's like an R at the beginning and if the G kind of swallows the R, which especially with the French R, it kind of swallows. So in the French context, I have a Starbucks name, but then when I go to the US which is not my native country, I then get to use my real name because I'm interacting with anglophones again.
Amanda: That's so funny, man. It really is like code-switching in a super applied context.
Gretchen Yeah. Whereas if I forget and order a drink in English in Montreal, I can use Gretchen again because a lot of people are bilingual, but I like to use French because-
Amanda: I'm one of you.
Gretchen ... it's a better for solidarity and it's more interesting for me as a linguist to practice my French and so on. But if I want to do that, I can't actually use my real name, not In a transactional customer service context.
Amanda: Do you guys want to know an embarrassing secret?
Julia: Yes, please tell me.
Julia: Right into the microphone, please.
Amanda: Yup, exactly. To the ears tens of thousands of people. When I was a kid, we would go to stay with my grandparents for several weeks at a time in rural, upstate New York. And sometimes when my brother and I will be allowed to like go into town on our own to buy candy at the nickel and dime store or whatever or go to the movies. I would use a British accent because I was obsessed with Harry Potter.
Julia: I love you.
Amanda: And just like watch The Parent Trap or something, and I just really wanted that fantasy of being from somewhere else and just like being very ... Just like, "Oh, yes, I'm summering in like faucet" or whatever. My brother, bless his heart, thought it was really fun and played my cousin Tom or something, and it was very sweet.
Gretchen That's so pure.
Julia: I love you so much.
Gretchen I actually shifted my French accent when I moved to Montreal because I had been taught European French in schools, even though they were schools in Canada because it's more prestigious. And then I moved here and I was like, "I'm Canadian. I'm going to be living in this city for who knows how many years. There's no reason why I shouldn't have a Quebec accent," except for the fact that through snobbery, I haven't been taught it.
So I tried my best and now these days I pretty much have a Quebec accent without thinking about it, but I consciously shifted my accent over to the accent that I should have from a historical perspective rather than the accent that I should have from a prestige perspective.
Amanda: Yeah. There's so many layers here, right?
Amanda: Like the one that you're taught want to have versus, "Oh, you can only acquire this accident by being really of the people in growing up here." There's so much. I love names. Oh my God, names are just great.
Gretchen But while I was incompletely acquiring a Quebecois accent, people really had a hard time figuring out where I was from and they'd be like ... They could tell that I didn't quite have like a Parisian accent, but they'd be like, "Are you from Belgium? Are you from Switzerland?"
Julia: Where could you possibly be from?
Gretchen It's not quite the one we're used to, but it's also not quite up here. I was like, "Oh, yeah, I know."
Amanda: I think that's cool. It's like a fascinating ... I guess for someone with the privilege of like having a place where they belong, having that kind of mystique or like misdirect is interesting. I've never been in a position to really need to be accepted as being where I'm from, which is just its own context, but that is just really real and like a thing that people reckon with every day of like, "Am I being seen or am I presenting myself as being homogenous to this place?"
Gretchen I feel a lot more like a fake if I'm changing my English accent because I do speak English, all growing up and so on, and I do have a proper history for that. And I've changed it subtly depending on where I've lived, but I haven't changed a whole bunch very consciously. But for the French accent, I had no particular allegiance to any particular accent anyway.
And so I was like, "I should just pick a different one because I will ..." In the future, having now lived in Montreal for ... What? Like 8 years, I now have a very good reason to have a Montreal accent, but I started developing it before I had a good reason to have it.
Amanda: Yeah. I have friends who were raised somewhere by families in diaspora and made the choice to assume or to retain the accent of their family culture, even though it's different to the one where they were being raised because that is an important link and kind of identifier for them. Where I don't see that as being like artificial or put on at all. Some people make a choice, some people just kind of grow up and then they have to kind of reckon with or decide how their natural "environment" jives with their identity. But I don't know, to me, that's totally in fair game deciding how the world sees you is a choice you get to mate.
Gretchen And there's linguistic research about this actually where a lot of cases, people's attitudes have this big effect on their accent. And sometimes people use the word rootedness to describe whether people have a particularly like pick on accent that's close to a local identity or close to a particular culture. So if you feel a sense, the sense of rootedness in particular identity, you're more likely to have that accent was, if you don't feel rooted in that identity than you're likely to reject that accent and do something that's maybe more common in the mainstream culture.
Amanda: Wow. So good. Well, Julia, let's go use our Starbucks names in the kitchen as we grab a refill.
Julia: Sounds good. Amanda, this week I'm going to talk to you about Stitch Fix. I have some great outfits and it's nearly springtime and Stitch Fix is 100% to blame for the fact that I look great this spring.
Amanda: You really do. You looked great in the winter. You looked great in the fall and the summer before that, but springtime, something about it to me is just like you can mix any fabrics. You can wear lace and leather, and linen all in the same outfit and any other El fabrics and you're going to look great.
Julia: I have this great yellow floral shirt that Stitch Fix sent me that I rock with a leather jacket and I just look at myself in the mirror and I'm like, "Damn girl, damn." And you too can look in the mirror and say, "Damn," when you see yourself by going to stitchfix.com/spirits.
Amanda: Exactly. Stitch Fix is the online personal styling service. You write them notes, you give them your sizes. You say like, "Oh, shirts are always too big on me," or "The armholes too low," or "The waist is too high," and then they send you thing that are picked exactly or you. Fits your body, fits your lifestyle, fits your budget and if you don't like the things, you can send them right back and shipping is free both ways.
Julia: And when you go to stitchfix.com/spirits and you signup and you keep all five items in your box, you get 25% off. So that's stitchfix.com/spirits to get started today. Again, stitchfix.com/spirits.
Amanda: Julia, I love it a lot and I actually stressed out a lot over what to wear in my Skillshare course for which I filmed several videos over the course of one very cold, cold day in the Skillshare studio and I ended up going with a Stitch Fix shirt. So this is just midroll crossover event of the millennium.
Julia: I love it. Tell me about that Skillshare class though.
Amanda: Absolutely. I was actually on a couple of different podcasts this week talking about my idea of what marketing is, and I think marketing is just storytelling. It's just knowing how to articulate your project, what you want to do and who you want to reach. So in my Skillshare course, which is titled Podcast Marketing, I walk you through an exercise where you try to figure out who specifically are you making your stuff for because it's not useful to just make art that you want everyone to enjoy because it's not actually useful to make art for everyone.
Everyone is never going to like anything. So knowing specifically who you're doing this for, whose feedback you care about and where to reach those people online, that's what I try to teach people in my course. So you can go to skillshare.com/spirits2. That's the word "spirits" and the number "2" to get two free months of Skillshare premium. You can then take my course. You can take any other courses. It's unlimited and there are like over 25,000 classes. So plenty there for you to enjoy. That is skillshare.com/spirits2 for two free months of Skillshare premium.
Julia: Skillshare.com/spirits2. And Amanda's class is podcast marketing. Take it, you will enjoy it.
Amanda: Thanks. Now, let's get back to the show.
Gretchen Well, this kind of reminds me of something from the Odyssey because I was reading that recently and there's this gorgeous new Emily RC Wilson translation of the Odyssey.
Amanda: Emily come on the show.
Julia: Anytime, Emily, please.
Gretchen She is so cool. I follow her on Twitter and she's so interesting. he talks about how she translated the epithets that are used for the characters in the Odyssey. So most of the recurring characters in the Odyssey have a particular set of adjectives or short way that they're used to describe, and one of those is rosy-fingered Dawn.
Gretchen So every few morning, you get rosy-fingered Dawn.
Amanda: Kind of sexy.
Gretchen A rose from her couch and so on and so forth because, of course, the Dawn is often pink and they personify dawn as a character or Rara, and so on.
Julia: Just fan myself, a little bit of seeing the imagery. It's fine, very sexy, as Amanda said.
Gretchen And you have bright-eyed Athena-
Amanda: Like the lemon sexy though, like maybe orange sexy. It's not that bad.
Julia: All right.
Gretchen And you have bright-eyed Athena and Odysseus who is often described as polytropos or many turning, which some versions translate as cunning or the ... What I really like about RC Wilson's translation is that she translates him as complicated.
Julia: Yeah. He is. It's not even a question.
Amanda: Brooding Odysseus.
Gretchen Which is cool because complicated has this entomology which is kind of a Latinate version, which is very similar to the Greek, many turned or many turning and complicated is calm with and plicare, which is to fold. So like with folded or folded together.
Amanda: Oh, that's so freaking cool.
Julia: That's amazing. Yeah, many-layered.
Gretchen Yeah. Many layered. Exactly. But of course, it also brings back to me Avril Lavigne like, "Why do you have to go to make things so complicated?"
Amanda: Oh, 100%.
Julia: Oh God, this is just like a flashback back to the early 2000s, isn't it? This whole episode.
Amanda: I like how much somebody else gets me frustrated.
Gretchen Yeah. And this is kind of what Odysseus is doing in the story of the Odyssey. He's complicated. He's many turned. He's turned about and prevented from getting back home, but he's also not necessarily unambiguously the good guy.
Julia: No, he is not. He does some not great things in a lot of the parts of the story.
Gretchen Yeah. And a lot of the English translations treat him, foist him more into this unambiguous hero narrative because we're used to our protagonist being heroes, and yet thinking about him as more complicated is a more interesting version of this story and also a more authentic version of this story.
Julia: For sure. For sure.
Amanda: So does Emily used that same complicated to describe him every time?
Gretchen Well, no. And so that's also what's interesting is that in the Greek version of the story, because it's originally an oral poem, and one thing we know about oral language is that it relies a lot more in repetition because your working memory is only so long. And so it's useful to repeat things more when it's produced orally than versus when it's produced in a written sort of way. And so the epithets in the Greek are very consistent.
Dawn is always described the same way. Athena's always described the same way. Odysseus is always described the same way and it's a way of kind of providing an anchor for the readers to remember who the characters are and to contextualize themselves and find themselves. And these repetitive elements are really useful in oral poets. But, of course, Wilson's not writing for an oral audience. Although, let me be real, I would totally have a reading out loud Odyssey party, if anyone wants to come over and have one.
Julia: Whenever it happens, we are there 100%.
Amanda: Listen, my single favorite thing to do while drinking is to recite poetry/read Shakespeare.
Julia: It is so.
Gretchen I think I need to roast some sun gods cattle on spits and then have a lot of wine and olive juice, the olive oil.
Julia: I love it. I love it so much.
Amanda: That's very good, and I only ever going to describe all the olive oil as olive juice from now on, but it makes sense. It's like when you read song lyrics or start listening to the song, it's like, "Okay, we get it. We repeat the chorus. Okay." But when you're listening to it, it makes total sense.
Gretchen Exactly. So Wilson's posted about the fact that she decided to make things, not as repetitive in the English version because it's more of a reflection for reading audience and she knows that's what she's writing for, but she does write the whole translation in inverse. So it's all in Iambic pentameter, which, again, reflects as ... It's subtly different than the original Greek verse but is a more Englishy verse and really creates this gorgeous rhythm in the translation.
Amanda: That's awesome. Those are my favorite kinds of adaptations or translations, one where it preserves an effect and not necessarily the precise device you use to achieve that effect originally.
Julia: Oh man. In this house, we stand Emily Wilson, on this podcast.
Amanda: I'm sorry to really intimately just call her Emily, but I just find her to be a friend. I should actually probably say, Dr. Wilson. She probably has a Ph.D.
Gretchen I'm trying not do the thing. Here's the names again where when you're referring to a woman, you call her by their first name and then when referring to a man, you call them by their surname.
Amanda: Oh, the thing I just did because I want to be her friend?
Julia: Yap, no. I knew exactly what you-
Amanda: No, I apologize, Emily RC Wilson, Dr. Wilson. I'm sure you're a doctor. Thank you for your wonderful work.
Gretchen Yes. And then, of course, the classic story about names from the Odyssey is this moment where Odysseus is in the cave of the Cyclops and he's trying to trick the Cyclops, and he gets trapped in this cave. And when he's tricking the Cyclops and think he stabs him through the eye.
Julia: Sounds right.
Gretchen And Odysseus cries out and says, "Who's done this to me?" And Odysseus claims that his name is effectively no-man, the Greek equivalent of.
Amanda: Okay, John Doe.
Julia: It's like no one.
Gretchen But like nobody. Polyphemus, the cyclops is saying, "No one has done this to me. No one has done this to me."
Julia: No one stabbed me in the eye.
Amanda: Oh no.
Gretchen And so the other cyclops are like, "Well, no one stabbed you in the eye-
Amanda: Stop hitting yourself.
Gretchen ... stop hitting yourself." Like, "You fool, you stabbed yourself in the eye. We're not going to help you."
Amanda: Oh my God, they're rude.
Gretchen Odysseus is like, "Haha, I'm so cunning. I'm so Polytropos." But then the problem is, then once Odysseus escapes, he brags about having done this with his true name.
Julia: You dummy. You dummy.
Gretchen Amateur move, which Polyphemus overhears and curses him and calls upon his father Poseidon, the Cyclops father, to take revenge by sending a storm to destroy it, as is his ships. And this is what causes the whole set of problems in the Odyssey. This is why it takes him like, what? Two decades to get home because he's-
Julia: Yeah, I think like 30 years or something.
Gretchen ... he's been cursed by Poseidon because he was foolish enough to announce his name to the Cyclops after having so nearly gotten away with it.
Julia: Yeah. And the only reason that he doesn't actually parish is because he's under the guardianship of Athena, and Athena is like, "Okay, he can get lost, but you're not going to just kill him with a storm."
Gretchen Yeah. And so I think announcing a name or signing something with your name or claiming something with your name can have a power for yourself, even though it can also send people after you.
Amanda: Yeah. It's claiming responsibility and making a connection to a thing like torrenting something at your parents house without a VPN. You tie the crime to the person. I'm so sorry. I did indeed torrent a copy of paper towns when it came out because I was proud of my friend John and I did get a DMC noticed.
Gretchen Oh my gosh.
Amanda: I'm just confessing all my sins here, my internet sins.
Julia: You are. This is just like a wild Amanda Sin podcasts now.
Gretchen Well this is the other thing that I was thinking about trying to make the familiar strange, like do you call your parents by your name? We also have a whole second alphabet that's primarily used for names.
Amanda: Like capital letters?
Gretchen The capital letters.
Amanda: That's true.
Gretchen And you use them for proper nouns or for names effectively to make something more name-like.
Amanda: Ooh, talk about Puritans. Those motherfuckers love putting capital letters on any virtue.
Gretchen Yeah, virtue. Well, and not all languages do this, right? So German puts capital letters on any noun.
Julia: That's just wild.
Amanda: That makes more sense.
Gretchen Plenty of languages don't have capital letters at all.
Amanda: That makes sense.
Gretchen So I've recently seen people complaining that like, "Oh, if I'm typing in Arabic, if I'm typing in Hebrew or something, I can't shout as effectively on the internet because I can't type it the whole thing and capitals to make it shouty."
Julia: Just all the exclamation points afterwards.
Gretchen We're like, "How do you shout in Japanese? They don't have capitals."
Julia: That's true.
Amanda: How do people shout with like underscores or something?
Gretchen So sometimes people use, yeah, underscores or asterisks or something like this. Sometimes I think they also use-
Julia: Oh, okay.
Amanda: I guess emoji now.
Gretchen Yeah, emoji can help or if you can make it bold or something like that, it can help. So, in Japanese, people switch from ... People write a word that should be in Kanji or Hiragana in Katakana instead.
Julia: Oh, okay.
Gretchen So they also switched from one of their writing systems to another and that creates this effect of emphasis in a way that's kind of similar to using capital letters. Someone told me that.
Amanda: So do they switch from informal to formal, vice versa or is that like too reductive of the system you're talking about?
Gretchen I don't think it's informal to formal. I don't speak Japanese, but we were talking about this like, "How do you capitalize things," or, "How do you shout about things when you're in a writing system that doesn't have capital letters?" And somebody who spoke Japanese was telling me like, "Oh, well if this word would normally be written in Kanji, then I can write it in Katakana instead, and that has some sort of similar shouting effect."
Amanda: Okay. That's fascinating.
Gretchen But of course, if you want to just make it longer, you can also use the tilde or the wave dash.
Julia: I love the wave dash.
Amanda: Oh yeah.
Gretchen But that's more like repeating it in English. You can use that to make it longer.
Amanda: I really hate that the tilde makes a strike through and I think Slack and a couple of places.
Julia: I hate that. I hate that so much.
Amanda: Again, my internet microgeneration uses the tilde to have emphasis.
Julia: It's like-
Amanda: Something like, "I'm going to see a boy later." I'd put tildes around the boy and it just gives it some kind of italicizing.
Gretchen I also hate that. I think Slack and WhatsApp both do this. When you put asterisks around something, it changes it to bold and it's like, "This is not marked down, this is chat." I'm not in a document where I'm trying to compose a text, I'm in a conversation where I want to emphasize things and pick other way.
Amanda: I have so many beef with-
Julia: I've been using the sparkle emoji in those instances instead because it adds that same nuanced emphasis to a word there. It's like, "Ooh."
Gretchen The sparkle movie is really good. Sometimes I just put it an extra space in between that and the word and it won't auto format.
Amanda: Or the spaces in between each letter to really drag something out similar to a tilde effect and we're completely just talking about like writing on the internet now, but I love-
Gretchen All of my conversations turn into writing about the internet, that's what I do.
Amanda: This is a occupational hazard. But I love emoji. As somebody who has trouble identifying and articulating my feelings, having emoji code with my friends and my partner is so helpful to be able to be like a sun with a big cloud in front of it like I'm feeling kind of shy and withdrawn today. It's so useful, man.
Gretchen I feel like I want to say so many things about this, but I also feel like I wrote them out in far more articulate detail in my book. So I want to like, "Hold on for that."
Amanda: 100%. Please, buy because internet, starting in July 2019 and if you're listening to this in the future, good for you. You can get the book right now.
Julia: Buy it. But it right now.
Gretchen There's a whole chapter about emoji and another whole chapter of a punctuation.
Julia: I'm so ready.
Gretchen So you're going to love it.
Amanda: Anything about names and their power and the way we talk about them that we didn't get to cover in this wonderful jam-packed episode?
Gretchen I think the only example that I had that I didn't get to bring up was the weird way names are used in houses of parliament.
Julia: All right. Tell me more.
Amanda: Tell me everything.
Julia: 1776 is my favorite movie of all time.
Gretchen So, if you think about how people talk to each other in House of Commons has a parliament, senates and so on, there's often a rule that says only the speaker may be addressed directly. So you say, "Thank you, Mr. Speaker," or, "Thank you, Madam Speaker," and then you say, "As the honorable member for so and so said," or, "As the senator from wherever said, blah, blah, blah." And you don't get to say, "As you said, you fool."
Amanda: You absolutely idiot.
Julia: As Ben said, Ben.
Gretchen As my dear friend and colleague has just said, and so there's this rule where you can't address people directly in the second person and you can't even necessarily said their names as like, "Joe Smith, the senator from whatever said." You're often saying, specifically, this third person epithet. And I think it's originally supposed to be to minimize the chance of people having bad tempers and insulting each other and deliberately saying, "Unparliamentary language."
Julia: Ooh, yeah.
Amanda: I feel like it did the opposite of that.
Gretchen But it's was like this subtle disdain.
Amanda: No, intentions find a way. It's very cheeky. I didn't know this was a rule and I thought they were just saying it. So that they were just being ironic or something like using the most "professional language" to express complete disdain toward the person that was just speaking.
Julia: Amanda's assumption is everyone is an asshole.
Gretchen Yeah, no, I think-
Amanda: Kind of.
Gretchen For what I can tell, this is actually a real rule and now it's become associated with disdain because of course, they're still going to insult each other.
Amanda: Oh man, that's beautiful.
Gretchen And I used to do this back when I was in school and I was on the debate team and you had to address like, "As the honorable prime minister has said."
Amanda: As the opposition, yeah.
Gretchen Or, "As the opposition leader has said and we did this and this was just what you did, but we were kind of imitating a parliament."
Amanda: It's so funny.
Gretchen Yeah. And you could be really cutting.
Amanda: Yeah. I am a real fan of politeness as aggression, particularly in business emails.
Gretchen Oh my God, yes. Like sending an email with sincerely when you are like really annoyed.
Amanda: Oh, my favorite is warmest regards.
Amanda: Warmest regards, aka your stone cold bitch. Love, Amanda.
Gretchen Aka, F-off or like, "Per my previous email."
Amanda: Oh, my favorite.
Julia: My genuine favorite if someone really has made me angry is just to copy the exact text of the previous email and send it again.
Gretchen That is stone cold. I love it.
Julia: It's best done really sparingly. I think I've done it twice maybe, but it really gets the job done.
Gretchen That's really good. I like analyzing, speaking of names, how people are thinking about me in terms of how they address me in an email, especially when it's the first email they've ever sent to me. It's like a cold email. My email address is on my website. I get lots of cold email. Some of them are better than others.
Julia: That's very, very polite of you to say.
Gretchen Some of them are really fantastic. I've come across a lot of really interesting stuff from them and some of them were like, "Wow, you decided to do that. Okay." A couple of my favorites are the ones from really young people who obviously have no idea how to address me and so they're not gonna take any chances and they're just like, "Hello," and I'm like, "Oh, okay."
Julia: Oh, sweety.
Amanda: Sweet summer child. I get what's going on.
Gretchen And my other favorites are the ones from people who are clearly native speakers of European languages, which are not English and have clearly learned that the equivalent for Madame or Frau or Senora is Mrs.
Julia: Mrs., oh no.
Gretchen In most of those countries, there has become a reaction against Mademoiselle and fräulein and seniority, and adult women don't use those anymore. Those are for your maiden aunt and they've been popularizing this pair of senora senora, frau, mademoiselle. Those are becoming normalized and you don't use the diminutive version anymore.
Amanda: Yeah, they don't mean Mary, they just need grown.
Gretchen They just mean grown up.
Amanda: Yeah, probably that was the signifier original.
Gretchen Yeah, which is fine. And if I'm asked to give a title in French, I will say, Madame, I'm not married, but I will say madame because I am a grown-up woman and Mademoiselle is for little girls. And they've also learned that Mrs. is equivalent to them. So they will send me emails addressed to Mrs. McCulloch.
Amanda: You're like, mom?
Julia: And you're like, where is Mr. McCulloch?
Gretchen I'm like, "This is like my grandmother maybe." My mom didn't even really use this that much. I'm like, "Who is this person?" And of course, I knew exactly why it happens and I find it very amusing.
Amanda: That's so funny.
Gretchen I haven't found a way to say on my website like, "You don't need to address me by title, but if you feel like you need to address me by a title, the correct one is definitely not Mrs.
Amanda: I know.
Gretchen And and Ms. is not necessarily in the repertoire of what people are being taught in English as a second language classes, especially or-
Amanda: Or even English lessons in the US or Canada or other places. It's just a weird sticky thing and until Mx becomes the title for someone for whom you don't know their specific title, we're going to have to sort of have these funny encounters.
Gretchen I've never gotten Mx. Mx, it's very versatile.
Amanda: I love it.
Gretchen I think it's great.
Julia: I do like it.
Amanda: And makes you sound like a wonderful David Bowie style space alien rock star, and I will love it.
Julia: Yeah, it does.
Gretchen And there was this controversy about Ms. Back in the '70s and now it's pretty generically applied generally when I get an email with a title, it isn't Ms which I'm fine with.
Amanda: Meaning Ms.
Gretchen Ms. Not Miss.
Julia: As of Miss.
Gretchen No, I don't think I've ever gotten ... If I've gotten Miss, it's very rarely and I would not encourage people to use it.
Amanda: I am so excited for listeners to tell us their association stories, questions with names and everything you've discussed in folklore, in their cultures, in their lives because this really is so personal.
Gretchen Yeah. It really touches on so many personal stories and what ... The story of how you got your name, and the kinds of names you get called and the kinds of names that have power, there's so many great stories about this.
Julia: Speaking of name's Gretchen, why don't you tell people where they can find you on the internet.
Gretchen You can find me at gretchenmcculloch.com, if you want links to everything that I do and link to the book and so on. You can also find me on Twitter @GretchenAMcC.
Julia: All right. Fantastic. And Gretchen, thank you so much for coming on the show and talking about this. It was such an interesting topic.
Gretchen Thank you for having me. This was so much fun.
Julia: It was our pleasure.
Amanda: And remember, stay creepy, stay cool