What if…? My online handle

February 2, 2024

Yesterday I was running an errand to deposit some checks into the bank. As I was driving down Hixson Pike, my attention was drawn to the car in front of me that had the license plate, “ACP8PCT.” I believe that it was a personalized plate but I had trouble working out what it was trying to say. (In all fairness, I probably don’t have all the letters correct as I write this now so it may not make sense.)

I started thinking about personalized plates and thought about when I was a teenager. I had a personalized plate that was “JEFFKU.” That was the college that I wanted to go to and had personalized that onto my license plate.

I started thinking, what if the Internet had been conceived much earlier in my life? What if we shifted the online generation to about 15 years earlier? What would my online handle have been if the Web had become mainstream in the world much sooner?

The first thing I thought about was “JEFFKU.” One of my friends used to refer to me as “JEFFKU” when I was going to school in Lawrence. It makes sense that if I had an online handle back in those days, it probably would have been “JEFFKU.”

Later in college, I gained the nickname, “Come hither.” It was the shortened form of “Bridgforth, come hither!”, which I can thank Eric Knodel for. I spent the summer of 1989 in San Diego on a Campus Crusade for Christ summer project. I lived in a room with four other guys. We had two bunk beds and one of my roommates slept on a mattress on the floor.

One night when we had just all gone to bed but were still a bit restless, Eric started saying things in an English accent. “Bridgforth, mount the ponies.” And eventually, “Bridgforth, come hither!” One of my other roommates picked up on it and for the rest of the summer when we were gathering in large group meetings at a church, I would occasionally hear Griff yell, “Bridgforth, come hither!”

When I got back to KU in the fall, I was asked to share my testimony at a Campus Crusade weekly meeting. The student that was emceeing that night was new to the group. When he introduced me, he somehow got my last name messed up.

So I said in front of the group that an easy way to remember it is to think, “Bridgforth, come hither!” Needless to say, Brett never had trouble remembering my last name again.

And it stuck with one of the other staff members. And he ended up shortening it to “come hither” and he would often refer to me with that nickname.

So I wonder if online handles were a thing in my third or fourth year of college, would I have chosen the handle, “come-hither.”

Later in college, I got the nickname of “Mix.” It was a shortened form of “Bridge Mix” since my last name is Bridgforth (Bridge-forth without an e in the bridge). I personally liked “JB”, my initials, though no one else ever called me that without my prompting. I went by “JB” when I was on that summer project in San Diego because I lived in a condo with three other Jeffs. I got tired of turning my head every time someone said Jeff and made it known early on that I would only answer that point forward to “JB.” But that never stuck past that summer. So add “mix”, “bridgemix”, and “JB” to the list of possibilities.

Maybe I am glad that there were no online handles when I was younger. As I mentioned a week ago, I am pretty happy with the handle “webcraftsman” and it has become part of my identity.

I am just glad that I never picked up a nickname that I didn’t really like. Oh, wait. I forgot about high school soccer and the year I got called “duck” because one of my teammates said I ran like a duck.

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