(Because I haven’t done one of those in a while)

So, it’s no secret here that my dissertation research involved fieldwork with, um, people. Y’all heard me bitch enough about it while it was going on. But here’s something that is continuing to baffle me as I try to deal with writing this all down:

How the hell do people choose pseudonyms?

I have to use pseudonyms for everyone involved, especially (needless to say) any kids. I had a space on the consent form for people to choose their own pseudonym, if they wanted to, and a similar space for parents to choose on kids’ forms. Despite my particular research population being people who really, really like to play with names, very few people chose their own pseudonyms.

Which is okay, for the most part. In most cases, I look at lists of popular names, and choose pseudonyms that are close in popularity to people’s real names. (Clever, eh? I think so, but maybe I’m missing something.)

But what happens when the names aren’t on popular lists? For instance, I’m trying to write a long-ish piece that involves a kid with, let’s say, a distinctly Russian name. Kid’s parents aren’t Russian, but lived in Russia awhile back. I can’t decide whether to choose another, random Russian name, or to choose a totally different name with a similar meaning (I looked up the meaning, which I’m sure was significant to the parents), or what? And yes, this is the kind of thing that takes up hours of my time.

The problem, essentially, is that I think names are really, really important.  In fact (to complicate things), there’s a section in the chapter I’m trying to write where I’d like to talk about naming styles among this group of people…but how do I do that without compromising anyone’s identity?

This is the kind of thing where having an Actual Advisor would be useful. But I don’t have one. I have a blog, though. Any suggestions?

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