The Name Game
By Denise Winterman
BBC News Online Magazine
Prince tried it and was laughed at, Muhammad Ali had more luck. Now footballer Paul Gascoigne wants to change his name in an effort to break from his past. But is moving on as easy as getting a new name?
Paul Gascoigne hopes to be a football manager
His patron saint succeeded in doing it in his 30s and Paul Gascoigne is keen to follow in his footsteps. St Paul successfully ditched Saul of Tarsus when he converted to Christianity and now the 37-year-old ex-Newcastle, Spurs and Lazio midfielder wants a new name.
Gascoigne says he is no longer the practical joker and boozer people associate with him and needs to make a break from that image.
"I'm a different person now. I'm not Paul Gascoigne and I'm not Gazza," he told the Sunday Times. "A new name will help. It'll stop people thinking about what I was then and think about what I am now.
"It's important because I have to get my reputation back up. I need to get respect again. That's why I think the Paul has to go."
Anyone can change their name for as little as £25 on the internet, but is it that easy to move on emotionally?
"Our names are really important to us," says Professor Helen Petrie, who has studied the link between names and identity.
"When someone asks us who we are we rarely say 'a British person' or 'a female', we say our name. But a lot of people feel trapped by their name, even if there is nothing inherently wrong with it - like Paul."
BEEN THERE, DONE IT
Elle Macpherson - Eleanor Gow
Frank Skinner - Chris Collins
John Cleese - John Cheese
Woody Allen - Allen Konigsberg
Tom Cruise - Thomas Mapother IV
Demi Moore - Demetria Gene Guynes
Professor Petrie says changing your name can be a positive way of changing your life, but that's the easy part.
"It is a big thing to do, but can be very positive. However, for people like Paul Gascoigne, dealing with the demons that have prompted the decision is the hardest part. But marking the fact that he is trying to change his life by changing his name is a good start, it is like a rite of passage for him."
She says Gascoigne stands a good chance of getting the public to accept his new name.
"The public can get irritated by celebrity parents calling their children bizarre names, Gwyneth Paltrow calling her baby Apple being a recent example.
Trauma for family
"But when someone has a sensible reason, like Paul Gascoigne, they might get public sympathy."
While names are important they ultimately say more about the parent than the person, says Dr Martin Skinner, psychology lecturer at Warwick University.
"People do have relationships with their names, they are about as personal as you can get. But ultimately they say more about your parents as they are the ones who named you.
"Changing your name is about seeking a new identity. While that might be achievable for the average person, for a public figure it's harder.
Gascoigne says he is remembered for his drink binges
"You can't tell the public what to call you or what to think of you, it is up to them if they accept the change."
Gascoigne will decide on a new name after speaking to his family. It is a wise move as they are often the ones who are most traumatised when a person decides to take a new name, says Professor Petrie.
Her advice for selecting an alternative is not to go for anything too unusual or too common and to choose a name that can be shortened, so you can have a different version for different occasions - William being an example.
Whatever name Gascoigne comes up with, it could have unforeseen consequences.
Take football fan Kelvin Pratt, who changed his name to Paul Gascoigne in honour of his idol. At the time he said the decision was easy as it sounded a lot better than his original name, but he might face a tough choice about what to do when Gascoigne's new name is announced. Have you ever considered changing your name? Have you ever actually gone through with it? Either way, was the idea a way of helping get past problems from the past or have you considered it simply as a Satanic indulgeance?