Write about your first name: its meaning, significance, etymology, etc.
First eighteen years
When I was born, my parents named me Daniel, possibly as a result of Elton John’s influence.1 I wasn’t given a middle name, and – ignoring nicknames, some of which are too crude to republish – I went exclusively by Daniel for my entire childhood.
The name comes from a Aramaic and Hebrew roots – din (judge) and el (god) – meaning “judged by god”, but I can’t imagine my parents knew or cared. They’ll probably have been aware of its Biblical significance, where Daniel2 interprets dreams for the king, gets promoted a whole lot, but then because he prefers worshipping his god to worshipping his king they throw him to the lions3 before getting rescued by an angel and going on to have a successful career predicting the end times (long before John of Patmos made it cool).
Next eight years
When I went to university in 1999 I started volunteering with Aberystwyth Nightline.4 They already had a Daniel, so for convenience I introduced myself as Dan. By the time I was going by Dan there I figured I might as well be Dan in my halls of residence and my course, too, so Dan I became.
People occasionally called me Dan prior to my going to university, but it was there that it became cemented as being my “actual name”. “Other” Daniel graduated and moved away from
Aberystwyth, but I’d settled pretty well on Dan. I updated my name in my email
From: line to reflect the change in circa 2003, which felt plenty official enough, and I
didn’t do well at maintaining many of my pre-university friendships sufficiently that I’d hear “Daniel” from anybody at all.
Last seventeen years
Eventually, my then-partner Claire and I got to that point where we were talking about what we wanted out of it in the long term. We agreed that while marriage wasn’t a good representation of our relationship, but we quite liked the idea of having the same family name someday. And so we started, on-and-off, talking about what that surname could be. Neither of us wanted to take the other’s and double-barrelling was definitely out: we decided we’d far rather come up with a completely original name that was just ours.
It took us years, because we were pretty indecisive, but we eventually cut out choices down by committing to a single-character surname! When we chose ‘Q’ as our new surname and wrote out some deeds poll I took the opportunity to change my legally-recognised first name to just Dan, at the same time. That was what everybody5 called me by now, anyway.
It didn’t take long before I’d updated it on my ID and everywhere else (although some government organisations made a fuss about it). Now nobody could deny that I was, for all legal purposes, Dan.