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And Your Name Is?

I have a question that’s cropped up a lot for me recently.  I’m in my mid 20’s and have begun attending community college.  I try to make sure I know people’s names, but I often forget so some people go unnamed. My real problem is in making sure I actually have someone’s name right, which I’m fairly conscious of because people often mispronounce my own.

For example here are two situations I recently faced.

I have made fairly good friends with someone from a class I’m taking. We even met up outside of class with some friends of hers. She’s an older lady in her 60’s, named “Rachael”. I knew her name was spelled “Rachelle” and even commented on the unique spelling. She never corrected me, nor did her friends.

Today we were buying some things at a student sale, and a classmate saw her name and said, “Oh! I’m so sorry. This whole time I thought your name was Rachel, but it’s really Rachelle isn’t it? Which do you prefer?”, and she laughed awkwardly and said, “Either is fine”. When I tried to ask which she preferred she bean dipped like a pro and I had to be polite and drop the matter.

In another example, from the same class, one woman was named “Joanna”. I had asked her myself and double checked. I continued to call her Joanna, until I heard another student call her “Juana”. Then I realized most students were now calling her Juana. In that case I’ve been muddling along, either avoiding calling her anything or continuing to call her Joanna. She’s never corrected me.

What do you do when this happens? Do you change to the proper name? This has happened more than twice recently. When someone gets my name wrong I usually correct them off the bat. What is the proper way to go about it? I’m really upset I’ve been calling people by the wrong name, especially people I like a lot. 1207-15

My name is spelled “Jeanne” so I get variations of “Jean” and “Jeannie” with people asking which I prefer.   I don’t really care.  I do correct them if they say my name “Gee Anne”.    You asked both people and they both gave you an answer so you are off the hook and can relax.  I would listen to her in conversations to hear how she pronounces her own name (like when she introduces herself to someone) and then follow that preference.


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  • KitKat January 7, 2016, 10:33 pm

    My given name is Katherine and it’s how I introduce myself professionally. What kills me is the sheer number of people who promptly greet me as Kathy; I loathe that nickname and besides that was not how I introduced myself. I do go by a nickname at work because my residents can’t remember Katherine but they can remember Kat. I’ve also had people spell my name Kathryn on documents which have the correct spelling; I suspect that one is a regional thing because several different people have done it (one was a boss, the other’s I think were at a spa/restaurant)

    • Mary January 8, 2016, 6:40 am

      My mom is Kathleen and if anyone calls for Kathy she knows it’s a telemarketer and says that no one with that name lives there and hangs up.

    • Jessie January 8, 2016, 10:37 am

      My mother sort of has the reverse problem. Her name is Cathy and it is really surprising the number of people that try to use her “legal” name and call her Catherine. She had a long talk with the receptionist at a doctor’s office who couldn’t understand why she insisted on using a “nick name”. My general rule is only use the name someone has introduced themselves as, or has asked me to call them.

      • Kate January 8, 2016, 8:48 pm

        I get the same thing as your mother – I’m just Kate, not Katherine, but sometimes people assume it’s a nickname.

        • AnaMaria January 9, 2016, 11:34 am

          I know multiple Katie’s that have that problem- people insist on calling them Catherine or Kathleen and refuse to believe they are legally just Katie!

        • kategillian January 11, 2016, 7:26 am

          Hey, I’m another just Kate! There aren’t a lot of us out there.

    • Kat January 9, 2016, 6:42 pm

      I am a Katherine that goes by Kat also

      My name is usually spelled with a C or people try to call me Cathy. I nicely say, “oh…I’m not a Cathy, that’s short for Kathleen. I’m a Katherine” and life goes on.

      • @just4kicks January 9, 2016, 7:56 pm

        I’m a Kimberly who prefers that to Kim.
        I introduce myself as Kimberly, but same as you fine people above, it’s amazes me how many people automatically call me Kim…..or Kimmie.

      • Mary January 11, 2016, 7:06 am

        I’ve never heard that. I know many Kathy’s and all but one is named Catherine or Katherine. Only one Kathy I know is named Kathleen.

    • Kat January 11, 2016, 12:39 am

      I’m Kathryn and go by Kat socially. At a former place of work, out of 60 staff, there were 7 Catherine/Kathryn/Katherines. And all but 2 went by Kat. One was Catherine and the other is known by her middle name.
      I also HATE Kathy. Hate it!! But that said, my closest friend is Cathy and she’s lovely 😉

      • @just4kicks January 11, 2016, 6:24 am

        The very funny (in my opinion) comedienne, Kathleen Madigan, has a big Irish-Catholic family.
        She said in one of her specials, her only sister is ten years younger than her, and when her folks brought the new baby home from the hospital, Kathleen said “Oh, Cool! What did you name her?”
        Her parents said, “Catherine”.
        Kathleen said, “well…I already kind of have that name. Wasn’t I living up to your expectations?”
        Her dad said, “Oh….Well they are TOTALLY different names in GAELIC!!!”
        She said, “Yeah, well we aren’t Druids living in the 1400’s, and its gonna get weird for us, George Forman!!!”
        If anyone doesn’t know, Goerge Forman has 8 (I think) kids, and they are ALL named “George” or “Georgina”.
        Cracks me up every time. 🙂

  • Jessica January 7, 2016, 11:39 pm

    My sister’s husband’s name is Panagiotis (Greek) pronounced Panyoti. He just tells everyone to call him Peter because its easier. Except me I call him peetree.

  • koolchicken January 8, 2016, 2:41 am

    I have a very, very common name (Katherine) so I’ve gotten used to nicknames and the like. The only thing is, I don’t like it when people simply chose to shorten my name on their own. To me it’s presumptuous. If I’ve just met you, then we’re not close enough for that, sorry. If I like you or you’re a close friend of a friend I’m probably going to start seeing a lot, I may say something like “Hi, my name is Katherine, but you can call me Kate.” And if someone decides to call me Kathy, I stop them right there, I don’t care for the nickname and I have a choice in what I’m called.

    So I feel like if the OP has asked what these women wish to be called and they’ve answered in any capacity then she is indeed off the hook. I used to be very good at remembering names, until I had my son then my brain went to mush so I came up with a solution. I started writing them down. When I meet someone new I ask them how they pronounce their name and how they spell it, and I write it down in a special place in my phone along with where I met them and the phonetic pronunciation if necessary. Most people actually seem to like that, as it’s clear I’m making a serious effort to remember them and their name even though I now struggle. Some people have even started to steal my “trick”. Perhaps this is something you could start doing? It gives you the opportunity to ask the correct pronunciation that person prefers and spelling, and will help alleviate any awkwardness in the future if you’re out sick for a week and suddenly can’t remember someone’s name cause you have the “cheat sheet” to help jog your memory!

  • Jai January 8, 2016, 5:06 am

    Yes, if you’ve checked with them which they prefer you’re safe! I have a name with a slightly unusual spelling and as such get all manner of pronunciations. I tend to go by Jai (pronounced Jay) but if people have only seen it written down they tend to pronounce it Jay-I, in which case I correct them. The only time it actually bugs me is 1) if they insist on using the incorrect pronunciation after I have politely corrected them a few times and 2) correcting the spelling of my name in replies to emails – yes, I do know how my own name is spelt, and it isn’t like that! Just ensure that if you reply to an email you use the name that they themselves use, and if you get a name totally wrong as in the OP’s case, apologise and / or ask which name they prefer.

    (I called my daughter Jessica in an attempt to get around the awkwardness of unusual spellings, but she still gets mail to Jessika and even Jessyka. Maybe I should have stuck to family tradition and used a more unusual spelling, at least then people have an excuse to get it wrong!)

    • Jess January 8, 2016, 4:51 pm

      I am so glad I’m not the only Jessica who’s met some seriously wacky spellings of my name… that’s happened even when I’ve spelt it out!

  • NRoss January 8, 2016, 10:37 am

    I completely understand this dilemma! My name is Nissa (rhymes with Lisa), so I get all kinds of spellings AND pronunciations when people first meet me. I like that I have a unique name and have always just laughed it off when people mess it up. I always try to correct people, but it never offends me when they do it. It does make me more aware of spelling and pronouncing people’s names right. Even “common” names can have unique spellings these days, so as long as you have put in the effort, I wouldn’t worry about it! 🙂

    • @just4kicks January 9, 2016, 8:01 pm

      I always get a big kick out of the name lists sent home from school with my youngest kids for Valentine’s.
      Some of the “yoo-nique” spellings really crack me up!!!
      …And my daughter has a girl in her class whose name is “Bubble Gum”….I’m NOT joking.
      She carries around a copy of her birth certificate with her after one of the teachers told to “quit screwing around and tell me your REAL name!!! I’m NOT calling you “Bubble Gum”!!!

      • NRoss January 10, 2016, 11:34 am

        LOL! That’s hilarious! In middle school, there were two of us in all of the honors classes that had unique names. Whenever we had a substitute or on the first day of school, and she/he was calling attendance, we always knew the first pause was for her name and then the second pause was for mine!

        • @just4kicks January 10, 2016, 6:00 pm

          Yes, apparently “Bubble Gum’s” mom called and raised holy hell about the teacher being so rude to her daughter….really can’t say I blame her, the teacher was quite rude.
          So now, she carries proof of that being her real name.

          My oldest son’s name is Cameron, which I got from Ferris Buellers Day Off.
          After we watched it the first time, he said “I guess I’m lucky you didn’t like the name Ferris….or Sloane.”

        • Amanda H. January 10, 2016, 9:34 pm

          I had a classmate in grade school who had trouble with his first name and substitute teachers. His name was very unique (he was the only person I knew with that name, and a quick Google search confirms it’s a rare name). The way attendance sheets were printed, it was last-name-comma-first-name in a limited space, so if the name was long enough the first name would end up truncated. This classmate’s name was always truncated by one letter.

          Problem was that his first name was something similar to Sarahn. Not too bad itself, but when just the last letter is taken off…. He basically facedesked every time a substitute got to his name and called out, “[Lastname,] Sarah? Sarah [Lastname]?” and he had to raise his hand and get the odd “but that’s a girl’s name” look from the teacher.

          The pauses on the attendance list were instead reserved for the one Indian kid in an otherwise fairly white-dominated farming county school, because the Indian family had a tricky-to-pronounce surname.

          • @just4kicks January 11, 2016, 8:59 am

            When I was in first grade, the teacher put all of our first names on big index cards all around the room.
            I remember vividly being very confused as to who “Sean” was….not knowing it was the Gaelic spelling for “Shawn”.
            I kept waiting to see who the heck “Seen” was!!! 🙂

  • Tierrainney January 8, 2016, 12:06 pm

    This reminds me of 2 work names I have had problems with.

    One is a colleague from India. Her name is Arati. She tells everyone to call her R.T. explaining it is the closest that English speakers will get. When she pronounces it properly, there are sounds that are just not generally used in English. I can almost hear the difference, but not really, so am very happy she told me what she wants me to call her.

    The other is a colleague who was introduced to me as Karin, accent on the first syllable, CARE-in. After she had worked here for over a year answering to that form of her name, we had someone visit work who knew her from social activities. The visitor scolded me for pronouncing her name wrong, telling me it was accented on the second syllable, car-EEN. I still don’t know which version my coworker wanted as she moved away shortly afterwards.

    I am much happier with the first colleague. She told me how she wanted her name pronounced and explained why. So for the OP, if you have clarified and they still want you to use the names you were using, I’d say you are just fine to continue to do so.

  • Missusmidas January 8, 2016, 1:14 pm

    I love my unique name – Shanie (pronounced Shaynee) and just laugh because it is so often mispronounced and misspelled! I worked with someone for two years who never managed to get it right. I will correct someone once, twice if they forget and ask again. I think the focus isn’t so much that you might be saying their name wrong, they are probably just happy that you remember and even if you might be a little off, at least you’re trying!

  • Elizabeth January 8, 2016, 1:20 pm

    People making assumptions about names, althought not trying to be rude, is rude.

    My husband’s name is Jack; yes, Jack. Too often people assume his name is John.

    Our nephew’s name is Sam; yes, Sam. Too often people assume his name is Samuel.

    An old friend’s name is Bill; yes, Bill Too often people assume his name is William.

    Please focus on how a person introduces him/herself and proceed accordingly.

    • Becca January 8, 2016, 5:18 pm

      I have a relative named “Ish”, my mom foolishly thought it was short for Ishmael. In my uncle’s obituary she used the wrong name. Thankfully the guy in question is good humored even when we were all grieving.

      It’s really a lesson in listening and respecting someone when you’re getting to know one another.

      My bf will correct someone who calls him Jacob the first time, the fangs come out if they disregard that and do it again.

      Whereas my dad will say “call me anything but Jack or late for dinner.” He would get fire in his eyes when someone called him Jack instead of Jake or Jacob.

  • Ginny January 8, 2016, 1:30 pm

    My name is Virginia – but I often go by “Ginny” – it seems that many people hear “Jenny” when I introduce myself, so I usually say “Ginny – as in Virginia” — It doesn’t really bother me when people call me “Jenny” but when they start saying “Jennifer” I will set them straight… Then of course there are always those who get it even more wrong, with variations of “Gina,” “Jeanie” and even “Ginger” — what’s in a name, though? 🙂

    • Samantha January 8, 2016, 9:48 pm

      Well at least now you can introduce yourself as “Ginny, like the Weasely”

    • mark2 January 12, 2016, 6:56 pm

      Jenny and Ginny sound the same, no?

      • C. January 14, 2016, 2:02 pm

        ^In the Midwest I think. I’m from NJ and hear/pronounce theme totally differently: the “e” in Jenny like the “e” in “Mexico.” The “i” in Ginny is like the “i” in “it.”

  • Shoshoni January 8, 2016, 3:05 pm

    My name is Shoshoni, like the Native American tribe, but people constantly butcher it. I had one teacher in school pronounce it Sho-SHAWN, which was really confusing since there was another girl named Sean in the same class. I’ve heard it said Shoshini, Shoshon, and even Sushi. I’ll admit that the last one had me staring at the woman with my mouth hanging open. I always know when I’m being called back for something, like a doctor’s appointment, because they always pause for a moment and then just use my last name. Spelling it aloud to someone is a nightmare as well.
    It’s why I go by Shoni, said just like the restaurant without the S on the end. No one actually calls me by my full first name. My father has a friend that didn’t realize my name wasn’t actually Shoni until he saw my driver’s license one day. He was surprised to say the least. I have one friend that teasingly calls me Joni even though she can say my nickname just fine. My sister called me Shomi as a toddler as did my cousin. The only nickname that absolutely drives me up the wall is Sho-Sho. Just…no.

  • Stephbwfern January 8, 2016, 3:08 pm

    My son is Marius (MAAR-ee-us). I call him MAAR-ee-us. I introduce him as MAAR-ee-us, and even correct people saying “his name is MAAR-ee-us”. Why o why o why do people, even then, insist on calling him “MARRY-is”? Are they trying to correct me on what they think his name should be?

    By the way, admin, I always pronounces your name, in my mind, more like “Joan”, because of the French looking spelling.

  • Tara January 8, 2016, 5:00 pm

    My name gets pronounced both “Tair-rah” (correct) and “Tar-rah” (correct for other people but not for me). I don’t bother correcting people I’m not likely to meet again or get to know well. I answer to both though.

  • Marozia January 8, 2016, 6:45 pm

    I’m not even going to tell you how people pronounce my name…..I just tell them ‘Call me Zia’.

  • iridaceae January 9, 2016, 3:54 am

    My first name has never been common in the US (but is very common in my age group in Finland) and it is phonetic and yet people almost never get it right the first time. My parents meant for me to have the Finnish pronunciation but gave up after about 18 months when they realized even the anglicized pronunciation was too much for most people.

    I get lots of people “deciding” that they will call me by a nickname (not happening) or by a different name altogether (also not happening). Yeah, I can pronounce your name correctly, you can pronounce mine.

    Then there are the people who give up on my first name and decide they’ll just use my surname. It’s a highly unusual and long German name that, unless you are used to German or Dutch pronunciations, will throw you for a loop. They usually decide maybe not after a good look at it.

    • Noora March 4, 2016, 2:58 pm

      I constantly have an O dropped from the spelling of my name, or get called “Nuu-rah”. Except when I’m in Finland.

  • @just4kicks January 9, 2016, 5:34 am

    One of my son’s names is “Collin”.
    He once asked why I chose to spell it with two “L”s and not just one, and I told him so people wouldn’t call him “colon”….to which another one of my kids said, “yeah?!? Well, you’re still a BUTT HEAD!!!” 🙂

  • Katie January 9, 2016, 12:25 pm

    People often get my name slightly wrong (Katie isn’t my name in real life, btw), but the only time I ever correct it is if I get called a completely different name (e.g. if your name was Sarah and you got called Katherine, or something like that). Otherwise, this really doesn’t bother me. I can’t imagine getting remotely upset about this!

    • iridaceae January 10, 2016, 5:50 am

      It’s bothersome when someone unilaterally decides that your name is not worth their while to get correct. It’s a power play when someone decides what your name is going to be. “Oh, Jennifer is too long; I’ll just call you Jen”. “Oh, Sirkka is just too odd to remember ; I’ll just call you Becky.” “Oh, I’ll never remember how to pronounce Kjell. You’ll be Bob.” Anyone who tries this with me-and there have been many- gets corrected. Those who continue to call me by notmyname gets ignored.

      • Alanna March 9, 2016, 5:10 pm

        I had a professor once who KEPT calling me Amanda. He told me his daughter had a friend named Amanda with the same last name. He thought it was funny to keep calling me Amanda – I would try to laugh it off and say “Nope, I’m Alanna,” and humoring him as though he’d forgotten. It started to get really frustrating – this was a person who had some significant input into my education and future, and he thought it was funny to just call me another name because he claimed to be mixed up (I never saw him mix up any other students’ names).

        Just as frustrating (and even ruder) have been teachers (at least two that I can recall) who told me they didn’t like how my name was pronounced when I corrected them (rhymes with banana) and would insist on pronouncing it “A-lahn-ah,” even telling me that it was the “correct” or “more sophisticated” pronunciation!

  • JackieJormpJomp January 10, 2016, 5:06 am

    I admit to bean-dipping the pronunciation of my last name. And I’ll try to explain why, though it may sound odd to some….

    The spelling of my last name is very ambiguous–It’s hard to guess the spelling. So it is fair to ask. But I still hate answering the “How do you pronounce your last name” questions. Possibly it’s because I am Canadian, and the question that follows that inquiry is typically “Oh– what is that?/what are you?” (That question in this country is a common and friendly inquiry about your background. Even if your family has been in this country five generations, you casually identify as “Ukrainian,” “Scottish,” etc. Ask a Canadian “what are you?” and they know that’s a friendly invite to chat about your family history.)

    But –the catch–my last name is my father’s and his family was horrible. Long story short: He was adopted and got minimal love from te people who raised him; after his death his “family” fell away as though he never existed. So pronouncing the name and giving the background is unpleasant for me because I don’t associate that name with my wonderful father or who I am, and its etymology rings hollow when I give it.

    Of course I don’t expect anyone to know that much when they ask me pronunciation. I just give an option and tell them to not worry. But people often push the issue (with good intentions) and I am forced into the discussion a bit.

    It’s not the biggest imposition, but I have to tell you: if someone says “Oh just pronounce (my name) however,” don’t push it. Just accept the request at face value. Names are intensely personal and carry much baggage. If someone instucts you on how to say their name–even if the instruction is “whatever” just follow their lead. Explaining is more awkward than mispronunciation for many.

    • ae January 10, 2016, 10:51 pm

      I suppose you could deflect the genealogically-minded without going into detail, e.g. “Well the name’s Tibetan, but dad was adopted so we don’t really have much info. Now mom’s side of the family is Welsh., but sadly, I didn’t get the musical gene…”
      I don’t ask people about their ancestry, even though the subject fascinates me unless I know them well. Some people have family history that they’d rather not discuss.

  • Mojo January 10, 2016, 10:44 am

    I got more than annoyed at being called ‘Alexandria’ or ‘Alexander’, so I decided to give up and become Alex. Can’t get that wrong, right? Nope.

    Because I have blonde hair and a childish round face, I’m ‘Alice’ one time in four!

    • Lex January 12, 2016, 4:41 am

      I have the same problem – it annoys me no end to be called Alexander when they clearly know I’m female! If I’m being honest, I hate being called Alex – people assume by default that I’m a guy. I actually mind LESS if people call me Alexandria – at least the gender is correct. I wouldn’t even mind if they called me Alice – easy mistake to make – easy to mishear – the gender is correct though!

    • Anonymouse January 16, 2016, 11:25 am

      Another Alex here, but mine IS short for Alexandria. I’m always impressed when people guess right, usually it’s either Alexandra or Alexis.

      Never been called Alexander though…

  • Lex January 11, 2016, 4:00 am

    I don’t think there is ever any harm in being upfront with someone and asking them what they prefer to be called. It’s infinitely preferable to assuming.

    I was at uni with a guy called James. The first time I ever met him, his circle of friends were calling him ‘Jim’. So I did too. Later, after many drinks and his inhibitions were eroded, he turned around to me (quite spitefully) and said ‘Call me James please, only my friends call me Jim’. This was terribly embarrassing for me, but I didn’t know any better (I didn’t even know his name was James until he told me). It was spiteful and nasty of him to make a point of telling me I should call him something different to his friends, which only served to further alienate and ostracise me from others on my course, but it was a valid point (albeit poorly delivered) – you should never assume the name you HEAR people being called is their preference.

    As an Alexandra, I have struggled for YEARS with gender confusion. People who’ve never met me before, and to whom I’ve been introduced as ‘Alexandra’ immediately start calling me ‘Alex’. I’d rather they called me something more feminine because I’ve lost count of the times I’ve sat waiting and waiting for an interviewer after introducing myself as ‘Alexandra $SURNAME’ (the same name as on my CV) and the interviewer has assumed ‘Alex’ and is waiting for a man. I’ve had name badges with ‘Mr A $SURNAME’ I’ve tried so many times to change it – every time I start a new job I introduce myself as either ‘Alexandra’ or ‘Alexa’ or ‘Lexie’ and every single time it’s taken less than a week for people to lapse into calling me ‘Alex’ despite my never once having introduced myself in that way. Very frustrating.

  • Bibianne January 11, 2016, 1:35 pm

    Both my husband and I have androgynous names. Makes it easy to know who knows us 😉 In the US, Mr (my first name) is my father. Back in Quebec, people who didn’t know us, would automatically think HE was me, and I was him. Makes it easy to figure out telemarketers ;-).
    Also, I go by my full given name. (this name used here is my nom de plume) I do NOT go by my nickname. But people here in the US called me by my “proper” nickname off the bat. I do mention I prefer my full name. But I do not have a cow if they continue to use “proper nickname #1”. There is a variation of the nickname I LOATHE and a work colleague used to call me “loathsome nickname#2”. I even told her I didn’t like THAT nickname and to please not call me that. If she WANTED a nickname, use the first one. She did a few times and each time I asked her to please NOT to use that one and that I would no longer respond to said “loathsome nickname #2”. (Oh, were you talking to me? Sorry, I do not like that name so I do not respond to said “loathsome nickname #2”). It took three tries, but the message FINALLY got through. 😉 I was polite about it… but don’t call me THAT name.