The origin of JoelKatz

Few people know the reason I use the pseudonym JoelKatz. It’s an odd tale.

It goes back to my high school years, when I went to George W. Hewlett High School in New York. My friend Jonathan Nowak was setting up a bulletin board system (geeks over 30 will know what that is) and offered to create an account for me.

He asked me if I wanted to use my real name, and I said “Hell, no” — who knows what I was going to do. He offered to make one up for me, and I accepted.

The TV show Ren & Stimpy was somewhat popular at the time. Jon decided to take Stimpy’s full name, Stimpson J. Cat and “humanize” it into Stimpson J. Katz. And that was my name.

I had built up what I considered a reputation, so when I got my first personal Internet account (at Panix, the world’s third ISP), I kept the name. But after a while, I started to realize I needed a more human-sounding name.

I could have just abruptly changed my name. But that would have caused some disconnect, and I wanted continuity. So a rebranding was in order. My plan was to gradually morph Stimpson J. Katz into something more professional.

My first move was to change my name to Stimpson Joel Katz. The “J” had to stand for something, right? So why not Joel.

A few months later, I changed my name to S. Joel Katz. Lots of people prefer their middle names to their first names and so that seemed perfectly reasonable.

A few short months later, I executed the next step in my plan. My name was changed to just Joel Katz. Soon after, I started using JoelKatz as a short name.

I ceased being anonymous when I started publishing a series of philosophical essays with Paul Vixie and Jimmy Wales. But that’s a subject for another post.

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