Uncle Hyena (unclehyena) wrote,
Uncle Hyena

Why a Hyena?

I have been using variations on "Uncle Hyena" as an online handle since 1998 (back when people still used online handles), and someone recently asked me where the name came from. I know I have told the story several times over the years, but I don't think I have ever written it all down, so here we are.

Regarding Hyena

There is an ice breaker exercise that I have been subjected to on a number of occasions, that goes, "If you were an animal, what kind of animal would you be?" The intention is to choose something that is descriptive rather than aspirational, but most people cheat, as is the nature of such things. Since I was still under a vow of absolute honesty the first time I was subjected to this, I gave an honest answer: "I have no idea." But the question resonated, and went on the long list of things my sub-conscious used to torture me at odd moments. The question came up occasionally, and I gave various answers, and none of them really fit.

There came a day in 1998 when I was working desktop support with a group that communicated via overhead page; if you wanted another member of the group, you found an unoccupied desk, called reception, and asked the person you wanted to be paged to your number. It worked well enough, al least until the day when the temp at reception could not seem to pronounce "Haynie", and a co-worker, in desperation, asked her to page "Paul Hyena". The name landed on me like a bolt of lightning, but I managed to return the call anyway.

To begin, "Hyena" is a near-anagram of my surname, but, in all of the verbal-torment-rich years of childhood, no one had ever tried to apply it to me. And then there is the fact that hyenas are far and away the largest and fiercest creatures to have a legitimate Trickster aspect, and in fact are the only creatures I know of that also have a strong Warrior aspect in addition. And the voice in the sky had just called me a hyena. It was a pretty awesome moment.

Regarding Uncle

At about the same time that I picked up "Hyena", I also first had access to an internet connection that was fast enough to make on-line activity something other than an exercise in frustration. Handles were standard in those days, but simply using "Hyena" seemed too BIG for me; I had no wish to be THE hyena, just AN hyena. So I needed some kind of modifier, and chose, "Uncle". The title has a certain amount of slipperyness that appealed to me then, and still does. In addition to the strict definition, the brother or brother-in-law of a parent, the title can also be applied, indirectly, to someone to whom respect is owed but not really given (a good natured but incompetent supervisor, for example) or, directly, someone to whom respect is given but not necessarily owed (a friend of one's parents, or occasionally even a stranger of an appropriate age). Given that I was a bit older than most of my online contacts, the name seemed to fit me fairly well.

So there it is. Nineteen years later, I remain the first "Uncle Hyena" that Google finds, and I am still quite happy with the name and all its implications, so it seems to have been a good choice.

Uncle Hyena
  • Post a new comment


    default userpic
    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.