Writer Jennifer Ouellette on Her Twitter Handle, @JenLucPiquant


The roots of my Twitter handle date back to the early days of the Internet, when AOL ruled cyberspace. I was living in New York City and decided to sign up with an electronic mail provider called Mindspring (later swallowed up by Earthlink). Having a cutesy email handle was all the rage, and after a few attempts that were rejected as already claimed by other users, I settled on "lucrezia," in honor of Lucrezia Borgia, who I always felt got a bad rap as a smart woman in a powerful family who was denied much of that power for herself. Also? She owned fabulous poison rings, which are awesome. I bought a few cheap knockoff rings from the vendors on St. Mark's Place, filled them with salt (instead of the more historically accurate arsenic), and would sometimes offer to sprinkle some on a date's food. If he laughed, he was worth a second date.

Fast forward many years later. I had moved to DC, and my upstairs neighbors took to calling me "Jen-Luc" -- a clever mashup of my name (Jennifer) and email handle (Lucrezia). When I started my Cocktail Party Physics blog in 2006, it just made sense to name the moody little avatar at the start of each post "Jen-Luc." I added the last name "Piquant" as a nod to Captain Picard of Star Trek fame, of course, but also to capture something of the flavor of the blog.

So the name started out as a joke, but then Jen-Luc Piquant took on a life of her own, becoming a full-blown character in her own right. She's smart, snarky, and a bit pretentious, sprinkling bon mots en francais randomly in blog posts. Cropped purple hair, a beret, and black turtleneck are her trademarks -- very faux-French -- although she's occasionally appeared as a vampire, a ninja, a pirate, a princess, and once as the cartoon character The Tick. She has a penchant for gourmet cuisine, high fashion, celebrity gossip, and existential angst, and dabbles both in amateur scientific research of questionable import, and in Lacanian literary criticism. Over the years she's acquired a middle name -- Marie-Evangeliste -- and a rumored ex-husband (Crackle of Rice Krispies' Snap! Crackle! Pop! fame) following a wild weekend in Vegas, although she claims those are lies, vicious lies.

When it came time to pick a Twitter handle, Jen-Luc Piquant was the obvious default choice. I think she is far more interesting than I am, but here's what we have in common: an insatiable curiosity about the world, and an eye for quirky, science-y things on the Internet that we then share via our Twitter feed. I really couldn't ask for a better online alter ego than Jen-Luc Piquant. Salut!

See the stories behind @otolythe and @pomeranian99.

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Jennifer Ouellette

Jennifer Ouellette is a science writer. Her work has appeared in The Wall Street JournalThe Washington PostDiscover, and Nature, and her science-and-culture blog, Cocktail Party Physics, is hosted at Scientific American.

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