‘What’s in a name?’ asked Juliet, ‘that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. So Romeo would, were he not Romeo called.’
Well, I hate to beg to differ with as great a man as Will Shakespeare, but when I get called by a name that’s not my own, I’m not anywhere near as sweet.
Names, regardless of how Juliet Capulet felt about Romeo Montague, matter. I’ll confess, I’m rubbish at remembering names, and normally need to be introduced to someone a few times before I catch on. I’m more of a faces person. But, I do try and call them whatever they introduced themselves as. And I try and spell it right too.
Throughout my life my name has caused me some issues. It gets spelt wrong and said wrong. It gets shortened and in the confusion, I’ve been called by a German boy’s name. Why people find it so difficult, I’m not sure, but there are at least two sources of trouble that I can identify.
First, when you write my name it has an extra letter.
I actually love my extra letter. It’s useful because really only people who actually know me know about the extra letter. If I get a random text from a number I don’t recognise, but my name is in it and it has the extra letter in the right place, then I know they’re a friend with a new phone number. If not, they’re just a weirdo with my phone number.
But the extra letter also causes people who kind-of-know me all kinds of confusion – where does the extra letter go? Do you pronounce it or not (in my case, no you don’t)? Is it just one extra letter or two? One year I remember getting a Christmas card where the writer had hedged their bets by throwing in the extra letter after every vowel – so three times – I imagine, in the hope that they might have got one of them right…
Second, my name lends itself to being shortened.
I love the length of my name. It’s got three syllables but that seems to make it an effort to say in conversation. To me when it gets shortened it feels like (and in some cases, ACTUALLY IS) a different name. I’ll answer to it, but somehow you’re not really talking to me, but me pretending to be someone else, somebody who’s a bit more tomboy-ish or who’s a bit more supermarket-check-out-girl-esque (depending on what you’ve shortened it to). A me who is pretending to be someone else so that you don’t feel bad about getting my name wrong.
It’s a problem to me, because there is no way to say, ‘Actually, I don’t like it when you call me that’, without seeming like you’re uptight. I’m not uptight. I just love my name in all it’s extra lettered, three-syllabled glory.
Last night, I was out with one of clients for drinks and as one guy left, he called me something other than my name.
‘Did you hear that last night?’ I said to my colleague this morning.
‘Yes I did,’ he replied ‘And you were definitely prickly with him after that.’
Unlike Romeo, I’m evidently not sweet at all when you call me by some other name.