Ask HN: How do you guys pick your usernames?

Ask HN: How do you guys pick your usernames?
Written by Techbot

Way back before the World Wide Web the dialup world had Bulletin Boards. Everybody wanted you to create an account “handle”. I tried to use first initial and family name, but found that my name was common and I had to think of different “handles” for different sites which became a memory problem. So I decided to come up with a unique handle that wouldn’t be used by anyone else. I put three Z characters between my initial and family name. I still use that today as my account name here shows.

An OP on a 90’s IRC channel I hung out in used to find it hilarious to forcibly change my username from banana to plantain with /sanick and I got bored of changing it back.

banana was originally picked because it was an adjacent object at the time.

In 2007, I wanted to start a blog to release some of the software and videogame side projects I had begun developing in college (at the time, a Kernel Panic Screen Saver for the Mac and Cursorcerer, a Mac system tool for hiding the cursor with a hotkey) . A friend of mine sent me a piece of php code he’d written that would spit out a huge list of 2-word pairs chosen at random from an English dictionary.

I scanned through this huge vertical list of word outputs, and the pair “doom laser” instantly stuck out to me. That sounds cool! A few hours later, was born, and I snagged as well. I’m still updating Cursorcerer. It continues to run in macOS Ventura, and it has been downloaded on the order of a hundred thousand times. People are still downloading it from the same blog entry I wrote for it in 2007 🙂

The friend who wrote the word pairing program is one of the co-founders of Rogue Amoeba, though I’ve never asked if it was the source of the name of their company.

I have used 20+ handles so far, some still in use, and this particular handle originates from an era where gmail was still invitation only and I had to come up with some cool name. I chose a mythical name for some reason but lifthrasir (note one i) was taken, so I doubled the vowel and it was available.

For a while, when I slept I made sounds that sounded like a creaking wooden staircase. I obviously had no clue but my wife told me about it. She recorded the sound and I played it to my doctor. The doctor had no idea how that could happen. I was pretty healthy so nothing came off it and I don’t think I make that noise anymore.

My dad chose it for my first windows account when I was about 7yo.

It stuck with me ever since, because it’s actually pretty unique on the internet !

I never found someone using the same username.

I have 2 methods: When I am an early adaptor, I use my standard (since 30 years) username.

For everything else I pick something that randomly comes to mind. Username here, loosely based on Get Shorty (the movie). I was probably watching that while registering at the time.

import string
import random

if __name__==”__main__”:


    print("login: ", end="")
    print("".join(random.sample(s, 12)))

Randomly generated for every website (except this one paradoxically even though it looks random), avoiding characters that lead to confusion (i vs l, O vs 0, etc – some websites designed by morons require you to type the credentials).

I got tired of being asked to sign in for services so I created a google account, reallydontaskmetosignin and I think when I tried to create that username it wouldn’t let me, so I shorten it to reallydontask

For HN it’s a character from the Discworld series, but generally I’ll use a partial anagram of my real name.

For example, the name “Jonathan Doe Smith” can be changed to “Damian Jones Thoth”, so I would drop the “Thoth” and just make it damianjones.

Depends on the context. My “real-life” profile is just my firstname + lastname, like many others. This particular username came into life because it was auto-generated when signing up to reddit, where I wanted to post a 3D simulation/physics render I did, so that’s what stuck. Then I started using the same user across platforms and brought the username with me.

Normally i would use my first name (a rare Finnish male first name), but someone already used it.
(Maybe it was me years and years ago, but forgot the password and i have no idea if any email account is associated with it.)

Therefore, no names left and it stuck.

To be honest… no idea. 😀 I think it was inspired some time around the release of the movie “Hackers” in the 90-s. I was writing a short script for something, when the arrangement of letters and numbers made sense together, and still fresh after watching the movie, I came up with it. Been more then 20 years now. Kind of always sticked with it.

My hacker news one is the password that one of our maths teachers used at school for the computers.

I used MrBananas as a test account name (probably inspired by the banana man cartoons) – which is why it’s my Twitter handle… didn’t think Twitter would last when it launched so made a throwaway test account.

As far as I know I am the only person alive with my first and last name combination. So its always available and often use that.

But for gaming and or anonymity I use ‘Tellusion’ which is available most of the time. Its a combination of the words Teleportation & Illusion.

I pick different username / handle for every website because I don’t want someone to be able to follow everything I do with a simple search.

I just pick them as it strikes me fancy, based of something cool I saw that week. This one is a onomatopoeia for a sound of bubbles. No idea why.

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