Saturday, September 15, 2012

What's in a Name?

I visited the folks at The Math Forum (@themathforum) last Friday and during a discussion about professional  learning communities (PLCs) I was encouraged by Suzanne Alejandre (@SuMACzanne) to sign up for Twitter.  I had contemplated doing so for some time and had decided long ago that if I ever did it would be for purely professional reasons and that I would use an alias to keep my friends and family from finding me.  (Not that I don’t love them, but as I used to tell my students – what is acceptable when talking with your friends and what is acceptable when talking in class are two VERY different things.)  Three years ago the students in my last period, seventh-grade Algebra I class used to consistently joke that they were going to write a spoof of High School Musical called Math Musical and it was going to star Polly Nomial.  Ever since then I knew that was the username I wanted, so I was disappointed to discover that it was already taken.  I racked my brain to come up with another “mathy” female name and finally settled on @DeeTerminant.  Imagine my surprise to discover that I needed a name too.  For anyone else out there considering making the foray into tweeting, here’s what you need to know that I didn’t:
  • Your username is unique to you (which is why I couldn’t use Polly Nomial). 
  • Your name is a way of identifying you to family, friends, coworkers, etc. especially if your username is something mysterious (like mine is) – usually people use a company name or their real name.

Technically both names can be the same – there are A LOT of people who do this.  But, that was too “normal” and boring for me.   I was relieved that another one of the “mathy” names that I had considered made mathematical sense when coupled with my username and MayTrix@DeeTerminant was born.  Apparently, though, my mini-stress attack was all for naught.  Here is something else that I have learned that new tweeters will find useful:
  • You can change your username at any time and it will not affect your followers, @ replies or direct messages (more on these will be coming in another post).

In the past 8 days, Suzanne and Annie Fetter (@MFAnnie) have continued to give me “homework” assignments to help me acclimate to, and reap the full benefits of, using Twitter.  I decided last night that I wanted to blog about my experiences.   As I was creating this blog today I realized that I am actually happy that Polly Nomial was not available as a user name.  @DeeTerminant is apropos in more than one way –it both identifies me as a member of the mathematics community and describes what it is that I am trying to do.  I hope that as the days, weeks, and months progress other mathematicians, educators, and tweeters will offer me their comments, suggestions, and assistance.  


  1. I hadn't known that someone could change their username without losing any data. Good to know!

    SuMACzanne was a username that I picked long, long ago when I first had an AOL account. I have always been a devoted Apple (and Macintosh) computer user and so thought it fun to put "MAC" in the middle of my first name. I've continued to use SuMACzanne as my "handle" or "username" whenever prompted to register with one.

    Annie, for the longest time, thought of it as "sumac + zanne" because in the East "sumac" is a very common plant: I'm from southern California and I had never heard of it but I know it well now. Sumac grows along the underpass in Swarthmore (where the Math Forum was first located) and in the fall it turns from green to beautiful autumn shades of red. It's quite lovely.

    1. Your story is both funny and enlightening, Suzanne. Whenever I take those multiple intelligence tests, my "nature smart" is not a very big piece of the pie. I had not heard of sumac, so I found it surprising to learn that I may have eaten it!