At some point, later in the Sherlockian life, one begins to feel a bit like a career criminal.
"Brad Keefauver, alias James Phillimore, alias Winwood Reade, alias The Birlstone Railway Smash, alias Frank Moulton, alias Something Hunt, alias Sherlock Peoria, alias The Jabez Wilson, alias . . . ."
And those are just the aliases I will admit to. Upon first entering the Sherlockian community with my first Sherlock Holmes society at the tail end of the 1970s, I was asked an innocent enough question: "What would you like for your Canonical title?" Modelling themselves after the Baker Street Irregulars of New York in that respect, many a new Sherlock Holmes group decided that their members should all have pseudonyms chosen from the Sherlockian Canon.
Back in those pre-internet days, one would even sometimes see folk whose goal seemed to be getting the same alias staked out in every possible Sherlock Holmes group, like intellectual property gang turf . . . only it was before "intellectual property" became a thing. (We just called it "copyrights" once upon a time.) Back then, though, it was mostly a Sherlockian affectation. One didn't usually have a lot of non-Sherlockian friends with contextual nicknames.
But then, along came Twitter. And tumblr. And Gmail. And all those other web networks that suddenly made personal branding a thing. And people started to get creative.
Which was a very good thing, because we were going to run out of Canonical names very quickly in the recent boom, just like the Baker Street Irregulars ran out of the sixty stories when they originally gave their members story titles for their club investiture. (Which kind of implied one might become an expert on that particular story -- a cool idea actually, having a sixty-person encyclopaedia of knowledge on the sixty stories. Somebody should organize a new secret society based on that concept, if there isn't a secret one out there already, being all secret and stuff.)
These days there are probably more people out there with aliases just based on "Cumberbatch" than there ever were Baker Street Irregulars at any given time. To some they are masks, to others they are name-enhancers, serving all sorts of clever purposes. But nailing one down to claim completely as your own across the board has become harder than ever. Luckily, as that earlier statement implies, I've never become too attached to any one Sherlockian pseudonym, and I kind of like moving from persona to persona in that bit of verbal costumery.
And in an ever-changing Sherlockian landscape, aren't we, like Jim Moriarty, the most changeable things of all? 'Tis very hard to draw up a deed on ground that moves beneath your very feet.
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