Names shape our daily lives in an endless variety of ways. Kaplan and Bernays (p.22) state that names are profoundly linked to identity and to an individual’s portrayal of self-image both in public as well as privately. Thus, names have considerable power in influencing a person’s approach to oneself, and consequently to others. In contemporary society, naming is related to class structure, ethnic and religious practices, manners, and other factors. The historical importance of naming is underscored by Wilson (p.12), who states that names have never been given accidentally. They are chosen and bestowed along culturally acceptable guidelines reflecting core features of the society and culture of the people. The social history of ancient civilizations to the societies of the present day reveal different naming practices related to identity formation.
Kissling and Defrancisco (p.29) present their own personal case studies and discuss their drive to change their names according to their preference. Comparing their stories of naming, it is evident that there is a common theme of identity concerns which manifested in different ways. Both considered it important to form their own identity by renaming themselves, but seeking identity through name also made the process more difficult. Most of their anxieties were centered on what people would say. Though both ladies were white feminists in the protected, liberal world of academics, they went through a stage of apprehension regarding their intention to change their names. They realized that the attachment of a name to identity is culturally specific and strongly constructed. Despite the sense of ownership and identity closely associated with the naming process, it is contradictory that people are not free to change their names whenever they so desire.