What’s in a name?

My friend Suzanne posted this on Facebook and it got me thinking (I’ll use her real name since she uses her real name when she comments on the blog and because it’s key to the point):

When people call me “Susan” after I have actually said my name in the conversation, what I hear is, “You are so low on my priority list I can’t be bothered to remember even basic information about you.”

Isn’t that the truth? The other middle has a name that has a million variations on it, none of which she answers to, yet some of which old coworkers have called her. Who knows why? The husband has a name that is easily nicknamed but he goes by his full name, always. Yet even when he introduces himself as Full Name, people immediately shorten it, “Nice to meet ya, Nickname.”

The brother-in-law’s last name is also a first name and he has been called that name AS a first name sometimes. Come on, people.

Why don’t people hear a name, double-check if they think they may have misheard “Suzanne” as “Susan” and carry on in conversation, doing their best to remember the name of their coworker or new acquaintance? Forgetting a name is one thing, ignoring it is quite another.

This week I was referred to as both Francis and Lauren, after telling constituents with whom they were speaking. By no stretch of the imagination could my name ever (EVER. E.V.E.R.) be misheard or misunderstood as either one of those names. Like the other middle and the husband have experienced, I feel like these instances showed a lack of attention. Like Suzanne vs. Susan, I feel like they also show a lack of respect.

The husband and I have chosen a name for the little oyster, and it’s a name we love. Not a name either one of us grew up loving (do boys even do that?) and not even a name I thought would be just perfect with our new last name when we got married lo these almost-four years ago. The name will be hard to nickname (but I’m sure people will try, much to our frustration) and her initials aren’t even catchy like people initialed AJ or CJ or JT.

But we love this name, first and middle, and it’s what we have chosen for her. We believe it will suit her, set her apart in a good way, and be <fingers crossed> hard to forget when people meet her and she introduces herself as Full Name. And anyone who mispronounces this one is a moron, plain and simple. There is no variation on this name. Unless you want to count Francis and Lauren.

Me: Erma is an Amish name??
The mother in law: A popular one, too. I take it you didn’t name the little oyster something Amish.
Me: No, we sure didn’t.
The mother in law: You were looking at Gaelic names anyway, right?
Me: Yes but the one we chose is British, actually.
The mother in law: Is it a popular name?
Me: No. I can’t think of anyone famous named this. Certainly no one contemporary.
The mother in law: <silence>
Me: <silence>
The mother in law: Did you make it up?
Me: Ha, no. It appears in literature but that’s not where we got it.
The mother in law: <silence>
Me: And it’s not Hermione. Don’t worry.


4 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. I often – OFTEN – get called by my married last name (as a first name) at a doctor’s office. I usually sit there and feign deafness while the person looks around the waiting room, tries again, and then I say, “Do you mean [my first name]?” Not like they shouldn’t be used to reading names in reverse order; I am sure every patient’s chart puts names in the same order! Never was a problem with the maiden name.

    • i know. but it’s not like we just met you and decided that you would prefer a nickname, or rather, that we would prefer a nickname for you. plus, as the youngest, you only get so much of a say in the matter. 😀

      • Ah, that’s true…but when they almost put your nickname on your business cards (yes, I had to specify), you know you’re in too deep. 😉

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