I was not intending to be known as “MJD”. It happened by accident.
When I got my first full-time job, as a Unix system administrator, my
boss, Mark Foster, asked me what username I would like. He had
At college I had had
(The first time I chose my own username I was unprepared for the
question. I sat there staring at the screen for two minutes, unable
to think of anything good, and finally, wanting only to move on,
What I wasn't expecting was that people would start calling me that. For a long time I resisted it. “That is not my name,” I would say. “It's just my email address.” On chat systems I would always choose something else because I didn't want to encourage the trend of people calling me “MJD” to my face.
But I didn't want to change it, and eventually, I gave up. Now, many years later, it seems very natural for people to call me “MJD” and I am sometimes startled when they don't.
My first Unix username was
One day I was trying to type
But I usually prefer to use my real name. I don't (usually) want to be pseudonymous, and I think “Mark Dominus” is a great name. I often find nicknames silly, pompous, or juvenile, and I often find myself feeling embarrassed for people who use them. It is tempting to insert some especially painful examples here, but one of the rules of this blog is: no mockery of any specific and identifiable private persons. But maybe you can imagine me cringing when I think of someone who goes around calling himself “Elrond”.
On Math Stackexchange I originally used “Mark Dominus” but then I found to my distaste that Google searches for my name turned up my SE contributions and nothing else, so I changed it to “MJD”. The SE thing reminds me of something related. There is a certain class of SE user that chooses as their avatar a picture of David Hilbert or Georg Cantor, which I would never dare do. It seems conceited and vainglorious. I make plenty of dumb mistakes and I do not want to make them right above a picture of Niels Henrik Abel. I chose my own avatar specifically to get as far as possible from that:
I think this is hilarious.