What's in a name?

A riff on identity / on becoming the supplanter

A colleague recently asked me about my name. I go by Jim. My given name is James. She was puzzled. James is one sylable. Jim is the same. The difference between the two saves little in the way of either wind or ink.

She remarked that she saw me more as a James than a Jim. I found this really jarring. Janky really.

My response was the typical joke I make about myself:

James is the name that the banks and government have for me. I give them that name so I can tell who is calling me. If they’re asking for James, I’m not there.

Glib. Of course.

Yet, there’s something there.

In my early college days, wrestling with who I was and who I wanted to be in the world, I struggled with variations and combinations of my three or four names. I was struggling with who I was in the world and wasn’t really clear.

As a performer, I came up with countless clown names and couldn’t settle on just one.



What the hell am I supposed to do with that?

Let’s wind things back a bit first.

I share a name with my father.

Same first name.

Same last name.

Same middle initial.

Back in the early days of computers, this caused endless problems with banks and other places. Was I me or was I my dad?

My parents?

They have always called me ‘Jimmy’.

Many family and childhood friends still do.

It’s a great child name and I feel a great deal of affection for those who have been close long enough to use that name.

Sometime in either high school or university, I switched to Jim.

Simple Jim.

My professional certificates have the name James Dalling on them.

My ordination certificates in the Church of The Latter Day Dude and the Church of The Flying Spaghetti Monster? James Dalling

My certificate as a Time Lord? James Dalling.

My registration deed of individual noble title from the Principality of Sealand?

Lord James Dalling.

I see the James thing enough.

What stops me from connecting with my innate nobility?

My first stop was to understand what does James mean anyway.

James means ‘the supplanter’ or the one who over throws the other and takes their place by force.

There are obvious Freudian objections to being James in my family. Kill dad, marry mom is not a moniker to live up to. But then, I checked in with my favourite website.


I can get lost here for days. According to them, to supplant is

early 14c., "to trip up, overthrow, defeat, dispossess," from Old French suplanter, sosplanter "to trip up, overthrow, drive out, usurp,

Now, for someone who prides themselves as being what chaotically good (Dungeons and Dragons term for those of you who don’t speak that dialect of geek) I’ve always been someone who blows shit up.

As a therapist this is a big part of my daily routine. I blow up blockages. I free people from their rules and preconceived notions of themselves. I help people supplant a shitty old way of being by overthrowing their tired old ones.

In that way the title of James or ‘the supplanter’ seems to resonate.

What’s more, it’s carries with it a professional sophistication. James has a whiff of nobility, of power and strength to it.

I’m currently working on making a leap with my creativity, career and income. I’m struggling as Jim to imagine myself successful. Jim can’t see what it looks like.

It’s time for James to usurp Jim.

Maybe if I pretend to be James for a while I’ll have more success. Looking at the world through the James mask might allow me to see the future I’m hoping to create.

Who knows?

Any stories about your name?

Share them with the rest of us. I’m curious about how your name and identity are tied together.