Call people by their chosen name or know that you are being a jerk

what is in a name

I have one of those names (Michael) that people like to truncate (Mike) or kidify (Mikey) or even use a far out nickname (Mickey).  Like many Arthurs, Charles and Peters, I took a stand after college and declared that I would only answer to 'Michael."  This didn't go well with 1) older people  2) my friends who were use to calling me Mike and 3) obnoxious asshats.

When it comes to what people call you, you basically get two Camps.  In the  First Camp are the people who ask you what you want to be called or pay attention when you introduce yourself.  These people are naturally smart and sexy.  In the second Camp, are people who:

hear Thomas and think Tom;
hear Peter and  think Pete;
hear Kimberly and think Kim etc.

and substitute the short version for the long name.  These people really need to be eliminated from the gene pool.

This Straight Dope forum post illustrates the many pitfalls quite well:

My name is Elizabeth. I don't like to be called "Liz." At all....I really do not like being called Liz. I have my reasons. Sucking it up and letting people call me Liz is not an option.* ...I've never figured out a way to ask people not to call me Liz without offending them. Nobody likes to be corrected, of course, but for some reason, I've never been able to do this diplomatically.

The thing that prompted me to start a thread about it, though, was from a work email that I received today.*** It's from someone in accounting that I've never met face-to-face, but with whom I've dealt before and will continue to do so in the future. If I was never going to deal with her again, I'd just let it go. But I will have to deal with her again, and I have no idea how to tell her to call me Elizabeth without sounding snippy.

***Why the hell do people just decide that I should be called Liz? I signed my email "Elizabeth." I have a sig with my contact information that has my name as Elizabeth. Isn't it completely obvious that my name is Elizabeth?? The woman in question's name is Joeanne. With an extra "e" in the middle. I'm tempted to call her "Joe!" And how much you wanna bet that she gets pissed off if people call her Joanne or Jo-ann or whatever?

We get it.  You were taught at a young age that certain names are synonymous with their nicknames or you couldn't pronounce Aunt Barbara so you were allowed to say Barb.  And now it is second nature and no one likes to be corrected or made to feel bad.

By the way, it can work both ways. There are people who want to be called by a nickname because they have a name that might be hard to pronounce and just gets butchered by American tongues, or is too formal or just because. I know a lot of Ursulas who only go by Ula.  And I know Kates who hate being called Katie.

whats in a nameI got one of my friends to change her tune with the following argument:

Me: I prefer to go by Michael now. Mike just doesn't cut it.
Her: Nope, I cannot do it. You have always been Mike, that's just the way it is.
Me: There was a time when we didn't let women vote. That was the way it just was until someone said "hey, let's try something here."
Her: I hate you Michael.

Of course it doesn't help to have goofballs like this guy writing articles with very little beyond empirical evidence that nicknames name you rich.

My advice:

  1. Ask someone what they want to be called, i.e. do you go by Elizabeth or Liz?
  2. Pay attention to how they introduce themselves or sign their messages.
  3. Pay particular attention when someone else introduces them.  If someone says "this is Alex" and they cringe, it's a good chance they prefer Alexis.
  4. Call them what they want to be called.
  5. Repeat Step 4 always and forever.

I cannot stress this enough. when someone introduces me as "Mike" i immediately say "Michael" but some people don't get this.

if someone specifically asks you to call them "Michael" instead of "Mike". That's it. Game over. You don't get to use excuses like "but all the Michaels' I know go by Mike."  That's like saying all the blondes I know are sluts so why won't you sleep with me!

If you have been told explicitly by someone to call them a preferred name and you still insist on calling them your own curtailed truncated version of that name, know that you are offending them.

Each week ChicagoNow bloggers, such as myself, are given a theme from which we can write a blog post interpreting the topic in any way that we want. It’s called “This Blogger’s Life”. This week’s theme is titled “What’s in a name?”  I'm surprised none of the other more talented bloggers beat me to this one.

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