So. HarveyNick.com is the name of this website. It’s also my Twitter handle, and my username or moniker on Hacker News and various other sites. Sometimes it’s not available and I end up using something like “TheRealHarveyNick”, or I just don’t create an account at all (Hello, Reddit). I use it in several professional capacities, as well. Where am I going with this? People keep asking me why, and I keep having to repeat a story. The story I’m going to tell you now.
During a lot of my education, I also worked in catering. All through my A-Levels1 I worked as a wok chef in the kitchen of a food court Chinese takeaway. A real quality establishment. Then, at university, I earned beer money by working in the kitchens of a couple of cafes. At some point, I didn’t have a job and my good friend Pete (who’s, like, a journalist now or something) reached out and asked if I wanted to come and work at a restaurant which was just starting up; for a chef he’d been working with for a while.
I need to make a slight diversion here for context. You see, my name is Nick, and I’m kind of a film nerd. But Pete also has another friend called Rick, who’s also kind of a film nerd2. Every once in a while He gets our names back to front.
So it came to be, that when Pete first introduced me to Chef3, he introduced me as “Rick”. He corrected himself almost immediately, but the damage was done. From that point on, Chef had trouble with my name, to the extent that more than once he made my pay cheque out to the wrong name, and I couldn’t actually cash it. One day I walked into the kitchen to find him fixing me with a steely look. He spoke:
This is a problem. I’m going to give you a new name, and then I’ll be able to remember your real name when I need to. From now on, I’m going to call you… Harvey. Harvey Nick. Like the department store. I won’t forget that.
…or words very much to that effect. Thus: Chef started calling me “Harvey” in the kitchen, and before long so did everyone else I worked with. At first with traces of amusement, but soon it became normal. For my part, I actually kind of liked it. It was distinctive. When life gives you nickname that you like, it’s just good sense to start embracing it. So I started using it as a username whenever I needed one, and it became the obvious name for this blog.
I’m still pretty happy with it. I mean… it’s pretty common for people I work with to get confused about my name, and mistakingly refer to me as “Harvey” during meetings or company wide tech-talks. But, generally speaking, everyone seems to know who they talking about. Which, ironically enough, might not be the case if they referred to me as “Nick Johnson”4.
Those are sort of like SATs if you’re reading this in America. ↩
When I tell this story, people tend to ask me “What was the name of the chef?” I always reply: “Chef”. “No, but what’s his actual name”, they counter. And I repeat: “Chef”. If you’ve worked in a kitchen, you’ll understand. But if you’re really curious, look here. ↩
There are at least two other Nick Johnsons working at Google. If I stand up, I can more or less see one of them. There’s was also one in my year at university, and when I tried searching for myself by name in the electoral role for my district, sever hundred results came back. ↩