#331: What’s With the Names?

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #331, on the subject of What’s With the Names?.

People get confused about my name, sometimes calling me “Mike” or “Michael”, sometimes “Joe”, and quite a few other variants.  It’s my own fault, though, and there’s a story behind it.

The name on my birth certificate is indeed Mark Joseph Young.  From my youth into my twenties everyone called me Mark (except for those who had more perjorative designations for me).  I signed my name Mark J. Young, and still do on legal documents, because my mother said that “Mark” and “Young” were both common enough that there would be other “Mark Youngs” out there and I should use the middle initial to distinguish me from them.  It turns out that there are other “Mark J. Youngs” out there, too, but of course not as many.  In college the Mark J. became something of a gag.  My college career started at a very small school, Luther College of the Bible and Liberal Arts in Teaneck, New Jersey (no longer there) where the unofficial slogan was “At Luther you’re not a number, you’re a rumor.”  I think there was one teacher for every ten students, and there weren’t as many as twenty teachers, so it was difficult not to know almost everyone at least by name.  The girls–the on-campus girls all fit in the same dorm–started calling me “Mark J. (fill-in-the-blank)”, sometimes complimentary, sometimes perjorative, always a bit embarrassing.  But the J seemed to be a permanent part of my name.

Then following college (my second undergraduate degree, from Gordon College, Wenham, Massachusetts) I landed that job at WNNN-FM.  I got it partly because my background in music gave me some technical experience and some familiarity with the Christian contemporary music field, partly because my two degrees in biblical studies suggested I was a good fit for a Christian radio station, and partly because they were desperate, having lost the entire on-air staff in a mass exodus when new management bought the station but for the new guy who had just relocated from the midwest to take the job and couldn’t afford to leave.  On the air I was simply Mark Young, easy to remember.  I also used the name when I sang, and on one occasion a pastor actually asked if it were my real name and suggested that it was an excellent name for a singer.  I guess that was because it was simple.

After a couple years at the station someone decided we should launch a station newsletter.  We had built a sizeable mailing list through a fundraiser we had run, and needed to send these people something more than just a thank you note.  I became the editor and principle writer, with some of the other staff contributing.  We were getting the thing printed by a local newspaper, The Elmer Times, and I would meet I think monthly with the associate editor there to go over copy and layout.  We were friendly, as one is in such relationships, and talked about other things, and one day we talked about me writing something for his paper.  I had taken a course in creative writing (fiction) at Gordon, and had some ideas for some political satire.  I remember writing three, but publishing two; I don’t remember why.  I have them somewhere in the bottom of a drawer of a dresser that went into storage (the basement) a few years back when I was hospitalized.  Maybe one day I’ll dig them out and publish them online for nostalgia purposes.  Anyway, because I was on the air in the county five or six days a week, sometimes on both the FM and AM stations, we agreed that the name Mark Young ought to be dissociated with the articles, and I suggested that I should publish them as M. Joseph Young, which we did.

Fast forward a decade, and that name lay dormant in a dresser drawer somewhere, but Ed Jones was trying to make his role playing game work.  I don’t think it would embarrass him for me to reveal that he really wasn’t a very good writer back then.  He also had problems with the mechanics.  (He was brilliant with concepts, and had far broader experience with the role playing game world than I.)  I partnered with him, and there are several long stories there but along the way I mentioned that I was already published as M. Joseph Young and thought I would keep the moniker for this.  He agreed, and said he wanted to be listed as E. R. Jones, which was fine with me.  I still use the name on most published books, and autograph books that way.

It took five years to get Multiverser into print, and then I had to promote it.  I had just gotten on the Internet and was pretty clueless about what to do there, but the Internet Service Provider included a bit of web space for a web site in their standard service, so I started building one.  Then I discovered GeoCities and several other free web space places and started creating other web sites, all linked to each other and all one way or another feeding back to the game.  (Most of these have been gathered at M. J. Young Net as the other sites have closed down.)  One was the temporal anomalies site, another Dungeons & Dragons™ related, another dealing with Bible, another with lyrics from my songs, another doing character creation for AD&D™, another covering martial arts in role playing games, another dealing with law.  These went up quickly–but the thing is, they went up under different names.  It was obvious that the Multiverser stuff had to be M. Joseph Young, because that was the name on the cover, and since the time travel stuff was directly connected to that (the original presentation of the theory was in an appendix in the Referee’s Rules) that also got the nom de plume.  The music and Bible stuff, though, was much more connected with Mark J. Young or Mark Young, so that’s how that was listed.  For some reason I did the D&D stuff under that name as well; I can’t now remember why, although I had lost touch with some of my early players and perhaps hoped they would find me (still looking for Bob Schretzman, with whom I lost touch when I was in law school).  So I had both names on the Web, relying on hypertext to connect them.

I had been invited to join a game designers group, and Gary Gygax was in it.  He dropped a note announcing that there were these guys trying to launch a new role playing game site who needed articles.  I thus wrote and sent my first article published on someone else’s web site, republished now as web log post #237:  Morality and Consequences:  Overlooked Roleplay Essentials, and it appeared within a couple days under the name M. Joseph Young on Gaming Outpost.

In order to get feedback on the article it was necessary that I sign in to their forums.  That meant I needed a user name, and I think for the first time I realized the problem I’d set for myself by using three different iterations of my name online.  If I made my screen name MarkYoung or MarkJYoung it would be dissociated from the Multiverser and time travel stuff; but if I made it MJosephYoung it would disconnect from the AD&D, Character Creation, and Martial Arts stuff.  Yet I thought MarkJosephYoung too long for a screen name.  Thus, pretty much on the spur of the moment, I created the screen name MJYoung.  It was at the time just a way to encompass both of my online “identities”.  Unexpectedly, though, it became a third identity.  There are people I know from my internet interactions who know me as M.J., and I’ve been to conventions where that is what they printed on my name badge.  It took me a while to get used to being called that, but some who are very dear to me use it, even some who are not gamers, so it’s become the nickname.

Funny, I always wanted a nickname.  I noticed as a kid that if your name was James your friends called you Jimmy or Jim, but you got called James when you were in trouble or there was some formal reason for it.  Roberts were Bob, Richards Rick, Peters Pete, Ronalds Ron.  If your name is Mark, you are Mark in all situations.  My father sometimes called me Marco Polo, which I thought was weird (like the World Wide Web, the nickname is longer than the name).  Kids trying to tease me would sometimes use Marky, which I didn’t like because it was being used as a derogation, and I had a babysitter once who called me Mighty Joe Young, which didn’t stick and really wasn’t very descriptive.  I know that people who call me M. J. are being informal and friendly; it’s my nickname.  Either that or they’ve forgotten my given name, which happens more often than I would have expected.

So that’s how I got all these names.  As someone has said, call me anything you like, just don’t call me late for dinner.  Or as Merlin said when Lauren asked what she should call him in Old Verses New,

“Whatever you like,” he said.  “Merlin, sir, Pendragon, lord, sire, teacher–it would be better for our relationship if it were something respectful, but so long as I know you mean me I’ll answer.”

Oddly, although I’ve been Mark Joseph Young all my life, I was in my forties when Multiverser artist Jim Denaxas asked if I’d ever noticed that my name was a sentence.  I never had, and probably I would not have done had he not mentioned it.  My reaction was that that would certainly be a good way for people to remember my name.  Thus I’ve started using Mark Joseph Young in a lot of places, such as my singing, and that’s why you’re reading the mark Joseph “young” web log.

So that’s the story.

I guess I left out the parts that most people include.  Mark was the name of an older man who worked in the office where my mother worked, who told the boss he should go easier on her as far as the physical activities (like digging through boxes on shelves in the file room) when she was pregnant.  I was named for him, sort of, and not for the apparently popular soap opera character (or actor?) of the time for whom so many of my peers were named, propelling what had been an uncommon name into the top names of the generation.  Joseph is the name of my mother’s father, who was an Italian immigrant as a boy so I don’t know if that’s an Americanization.  Everyone called him Joe.  Young is of course a rather common English name, and I have English blood but am really a thoroughbred mutt.  I get asked if I’m related to, and I usually say no before the question goes much further.  The Youngs to whom I am related were in Mississippi, and with the death of my grandmother they’re all descended from my Aunt Francis Potter, so if there are any Youngs in that branch (descendants of a late nineteenth century preacher named Cornelius Bryant Young, my great-grandfather) they’ve never contacted me and they didn’t show up when one of my sons did one of those genetic find your relatives things.  (I do have two brothers, a sister who retained her maiden name when she married, five sons, and three daughters-in-law, with at present one and a half grandchildren, and my one brother has two married sons and a recent grandchild, so there are more Youngs out there related to me, they’re just not living nearby.)  Those parts probably aren’t important, but they are part of the name.

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