Friday 19 October 2012

What's in a name?

Lashings of Ginger Bee TimerPosted by Lashings of Ginger Beer Time

This week's blog post is something a little different - below, a number of Lashers share the story behind their Lashings names! We figure that regular readers might find it interesting, and that potential new Lashers might be find it useful when it comes to thinking of their own stage names...


When I’m feeling particularly dangerous, I perform under the full stage name ‘Galatea Gorgon’. I acquired the first part of the name from an appallingly creepy story in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which we’ve performed as a dance piece from time to time -- the sculptor Pygmalion, disgusted by the lewdness and crudeness of human women, decides to make himself a perfect girlfriend out of ivory and sleep with that instead: a bit like an Ancient Greek version of a RealDoll. He ends up falling in love with this beautiful inanimate statue which never talks back, and eventually the goddess Venus makes it come alive so it can marry him. Bleargh. I think that in 21st century culture, a lot of women are encouraged to be our own Pygmalions, shaping ourselves into perfection for other people’s benefit while keeping as quiet as possible; shoving any inconvenient messiness or imperfection out of view. The Gorgons, meanwhile, were completely the opposite -- they’re female monsters from very early Greek mythology, and so outrageously fierce and ugly that one look at them will turn you into stone! Put together, I think these two names speak to a really interesting tension, particularly since most of my performance is dance-based and I rarely speak directly to the audience. I like the idea of playing around with the gaze, looking and transfixion -- when I dance for you, is it about beauty or about horror? Who is being brought to life, and who is being turned to stone?


This is a name I’ve been using for at least ten years, now. It’s a feminised form of Sebastian, as in Saint Sebastian, who’s been a site of deeply queer and kinky imagery for some centuries. He’s generally portrayed bound at the wrists and bleeding, pierced by phallic objects. Ahem. Anyway. After leaving prison, Oscar Wilde used the name ‘Sebastian Melmoth’, in what I’ve always considered to be a nod to posterity - to the idea that he might be (as he now is) considered a queer martyr. “Sebastienne” was only ever meant to be one half of my psyche, the other part being designated “Alia”.. but we don’t hear from her much, any more. (That’s not quite true; I’d say there’s been a reintegration. Alia’s still around in my gender identity and my politics; but I have Sebastienne’s sexuality and sense of style.) The divide was a necessary consequence of my adolescent inability to reconcile my belief in social justice and the importance of truth (Alia) with my Wildean conviction that “pleasure is the only thing one should live for” and the importance of artifice (Sebastienne). Lashings is where I learnt that it is entirely possible to embody both these things.


at some point in my anorexic early 2000s, i dropped to 2 1/2 stone and ended up in hospital, in starvation psychosis. seeing my reflection in a hospital mirror in my delirious state, i thought i was a goblin. And then, as i recovered, it kinda stuck - still, a significant proportion of my friends call me Goblin. Like a number of anorexic girls, i used to adore the symbolism and images of angels and elves, their effortless perfection - for me, referring to myself as Goblin, implying all my skinny gawky pudgy glory, is part of embracing my many imperfections instead of striving for impossible perfection. Also, it suits me, and i think the ears are cool. ;-) 

I’m a singer; my first language is German; and I’m decidedly political. And the deliberate misspelling of the German “Kabarett” - a word that is suggestive of cabaret as political satire? Well, that’s for reasons to do with my wallet name & a slightly unhealthy love of anagrams: so my stage name comes from the handle I invented for commenting on political blogs. In news that will surprise no-one who’s ever met me, I am indeed entirely too delighted by my own cleverness, at least when it comes to multilingual puns.


I took my stage name from the eponymous hero of Virginia Woolf’s 1928 novel Orlando. It was actually CN who suggested I use it, after reading an essay I wrote about the novel, but it fit so perfectly that I now can’t imagine using anything else. The character Orlando is born a boy in the Elizabethan era: the book follows them through a surreal and dreamlike version of history, during which they age very little over several hundred years, undergo a mysterious change of sexed morphology, and begin presenting as female, male, and neuter in different contexts. Orlando is openly gender-fluid and bisexual - they ‘changed far more frequently than those who have worn only one set of clothing can conceive… and enjoyed the love of both sexes equally’. The book has a lot to say about the cultural construction of gender, and I feel that the gender-fluidity of the main character speaks a lot to my experiences, despite the fantastical nature of the story.


I turned my surname, Valentine, into my stage name! Valentine came from my looking for something that sounded awesome that also went with my blog’s name, Silicone Valley, and is extra-excellent because it’s also the name of the villain in Mortal Engines, which is basically one of the greatest books ever. Yay! My name rocks.


This is my full real-life name. Natch. I’ve almost never used it in English-speaking day to day life, it feels a lot like a best Sunday dress, too much for everyday use. Plus, it’s a mouthful. (In GREEK it sounds fine.) I’ve wanted to be on stage for basically for ever and at some point my best friend and I coined the idea of keeping my full name for a stage name, so when people started telling me to pick a Lashings name there was never really any other choice. (Plus, I am a Classics nerd so it has that going for it too. Galatea was rooting for Patroklos based on this. ;))

Nigel Newt
I'm a
Nigel - that friend, relative, partner or other close acquaintance, who seems to understand enough of the principles of feminism to not be completely unbearable.  I make some contribution for the easy stuff, like the housework, or generally progressive causes.  But I also get something of a free pass - I'm shown more patience when I inevitably show my privilege. Newt is a female character in "Aliens", who gets to talk to Ripley (another female character) about monsters - fulfilling all three requirements in Dykes To Watch Out For's "The Rule" .  As my first role in Lashings was the increasingly grumpy recipient of all the token female roles from popular sci-fi & fantasy, this seemed an appropriate aspiration.


   It has two famous uses as a name for characters in classical music. First, it is the surname of heroine, Leonore, and her imprisoned, starved husband, in Beethoven's opera Fidelio. She disguises as a man (called Fidelio) and rescues her husband from political prison. I like having a name that belongs to both male and female, being somewhat genderqueer, with the female displaying strength. 
   It is also a name used by Robert Schumann, a brilliant composer who experienced quite complex mental health issues in his short life. He often wrote words and music signed with the names Florestan and Eusebius, who represented contrasting aspects of his personality. Florestan was the exuberant, passionate and - in my imagination - slightly out of his own control side.
  So we have a heroine/boi, a man she saved (both all-singing), a fictitious wisp of borderline personality disorder and a source of wild, imaginative music and musical philosophy; Florestan.

... so there you have it! Readers who have chosen their own names, whether for the stage, the internet, as a new legal name, or in any other venue: is there a story behind yours? We'd love to hear it!


  1. It occurs to me, reading over this, that we come across as a terribly intellectual lot! People might be interested to know that the discussion at an average Lashings meeting is actually at least as likely to contain references to Disney cartoons, children's television, 'Buffy' and 'My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic' as it is to be about Ovid, classical music or Virgina Woolf... :D

  2. I love this! What a great idea to share these motivations :-)

    I chose my name because it was the name I would have been given if I had been "born a boy". It's also a family name: my middle name is my Mum's maiden name, and my Mum's middle name is her Mum's maiden name - and that's my name now :-)