Archive for the ‘Name’ Category

Service of Pigeonholing: It Divides Us

Thursday, November 19th, 2020

Photo: sciencenews.org

Here’s one reason the country is so divided. We reiterate immaterial distinctions about each other which amplifies differences and serves no other purpose. When a doctor approaches a sick patient the only relevant information is her/his experience and intelligence. Where the physician’s mother was born or whether the person is religious doesn’t matter.

Here are some recent headlines to further prove my point:

  • “Miami Marlins hire Kim Ng as general manager. She’s the first woman and first Asian American GM in MLB history” — cnn.com
  • “Joe Biden to become the second Catholic president ever, following JFK” — cbsnews.com 
  • “Kamala Harris Makes History as First Woman and Woman of Color as Vice President Ms. Harris, the daughter of an Indian mother and Jamaican father, has risen higher in the country’s leadership than any woman ever before her.–The New York Times.

Kim Ng Photo: yahoonews.com

Each of the people in the headlines above have distinguished careers and all are Americans. Why does it matter that they are men or women? What does their religion or heritage have to do with their accomplishments? Why not headline their achievements and performance?

We’re better than we once were. At the end of an interview with a woman from a Louisiana historical society decades ago she asked me “how did someone with a name like yours get the job you have?” I was managing editor of Art & Antiques and my last name, that of my then husband, was Polish. At about the same time he called the president of a corporation in Texas and the secretary didn’t put him on hold when she yelled to her boss, “There’s a Pollack on the phone for you.” The president may have winced when he learned that the caller was from Fortune.

I maintain that we’ll go a long way in closing the gaps that divide us if, when we talk or write about a person, we stop underscoring differences of no consequence and focus on relevant facts. What do you think? What do we have to lose?

Photo: nature.com

 

 

Service of A Name III

Thursday, October 22nd, 2020

Photo: startsat60.com

It is objectionable when a person uses a name to demean or to signal something supposedly nefarious or suspicious about someone of when they deliberately mispronounce a name.

Do you know who these middle names belong to: Diane, Walker, Earl, Jefferson and Hussein? The answers: Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton, George Walker Bush, James Earl Carter, Jr., William Jefferson Clinton and Barack Hussein Obama II.

Photo: pinterest.com

How many times did you hear someone use the middle names of the Clintons, Presidents Bush or Carter?  Don’t many of those who include “Hussein” when referencing President Obama have a reason that has nothing to do with being accurate because these folks never include the II?  They want you to think he’s Muslim, “not that,” as Jerry Seinfeld would have said in his TV show, “anything’s wrong with that.”

For a public figure to deliberately mispronounce an unusual name, such as Kamala–which Kamala Harris says should be “‘comma-la,’ like the punctuation mark,” is offensive. Every neophyte speechwriter spells out phonetically an unusual word or name. When president Trump mispronounces Kamala, for example, he signals its foreignness and makes fun, implying that the person isn’t “one of us–a real American.”  He did so three times in a row at a recent rally to the mirth of the audience.

Good for Kamala: She didn’t succumb to the Americanization of her name–she might have been Kam for example. [To her stepchildren she answers to Momala.] President Obama, like his father, was known as Barry. He reverted to his given names in college.

I deep sixed Jeanne-Marie in first grade. Nobody pronounced the first half the way my parents or a French person did–“jhanne”–and anyway it was too long compared to most others–Mary, Liz, Ann, Polly etc.

Can you share examples of attempts to deliberately disparage or imply something about a person simply because of their names? Isn’t it a relief that increasing numbers of Americans stand by their foreign names?

 

Photo: englishlanguagethoughts.com

 

 

Service of a Name II

Monday, July 6th, 2020

Photo: redbubble.com

I’ve written a few times about names on this blog but not about names chosen to identify a storm and more recently, to describe a style of person. I wrote the first “Service of  Name” in 2012 about Rupert Murdoch’s proposing a name change for The Wall Street Journal. He didn’t.

We’ve been naming storms for people since the 1950s. Hurricane Jeanne caused floods and mudslides killing more than 3,000 in Haiti in September, 2004. Memorable storms such as Katrina, Sandy, Rita, Wilma and Ivan in the 2000’s alone wreaked havoc.

I have never been called out or teased because I share a name with a deadly natural event and I doubt if the Katrinas, Wilmas, Ivans or Sandys have either.

Yet Karen is a different story.

Karen meme. Photo: dailydot.com

Of late I keep hearing and reading “Karen” used in derogatory ways. According to Wikipedia “Karen is a pejorative term used in the US and other English-speaking countries for a woman perceived to be entitled or demanding beyond the scope of what is considered appropriate or necessary. A common stereotype is that of a racist white woman who uses her privilege to demand her own way at the expense of others. Depictions also include demanding to ‘speak to the manager’, being an anti-vaxxer, or having a particular bob cut hairstyle. As of 2020, the term was increasingly being used as a general-purpose term of disapproval for middle-aged white women.” [An anti-vaxxer refers to people who won’t take or give vaccines to their children.]

Wikipedia continued: “The term may have originated as a meme on Black Twitter used to describe white women who tattle on Black kids’ lemonade stands”. It has also been described as originating with black women but having been co-opted by white men.”

The coverage attributes the origins to characters from movies Goodfellas and Mean Girls, a sketch by Dane Cook–“The Friend Nobody Likes”–and “a 2016 Internet meme regarding a woman in an advert for the Nintendo Switch console who exhibits antisocial behavior and is given the nickname ‘antisocial Karen.'”

I dislike people who act in insufferable ways. I question trashing a name because a person with that name or powerful destructive storm acted inappropriately or killed, respectively.

Do you think storms should be named after inanimate objects or birds or animals rather than people? If your name matched that of a deadly storm did you hear about it? What about taking a name from a demanding, irritating, nasty person and turning it into a generic one: Is it appropriate? Will the Karen storm blow over after we identify other malicious behavior perpetrated by Frieda or Gerry or Philomena or Frank?

Hurricane Ike September 2008 Photo: weather.gov

Service of Leaving Well Enough Alone: Why Change a Good Name?

Thursday, October 11th, 2018

Photo:boldmatic.com

I’ve written about name changes before. There have been a bunch of bridges in New York: the 59th Street Bridge aka Queensboro Bridge to Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge; the Triborough Bridge to the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge and this summer the Tappan Zee Bridge became the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge. I wonder if map makers use both old and new names and if there have been so many changes lately because maps are rarely printed these days and digital changes are easy to do.

Ed Koch Bridge. Photo: nyc.gov

I have frequently griped about NY Now because it in no way describes the trade show that was formerly the New York International Gift Fair.

Some years ago Rupert Murdoch considered changing the name of The Wall Street Journal, the paper he’d bought from the Bancrofts, and he wasn’t the first. In the 1940s some names being looked at were World’s Work, The North American Journal, Business Day or Financial America. They all left well enough alone.

This wasn’t the case at the Tribune Publishing Co. that changed its name in 2016 to Tronc. The company owns the Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun and New York Daily News and sold the LA Times this summer.

This week it’s back to Tribune Publishing Co.

Photo: commons.wikimedia.org

Lukas I. Alpert wrote about it in The Wall Street Journal: “When the new name was announced, the company’s then-nonexecutive chairman and largest shareholder, Michael Ferro, said the phrase was a British term for the box in which tips are collected at a restaurant and are later doled out to staff.” Nice to know—but who but anglophiles here knew the word?

Alpert continued: “The Tronc name soon became the subject of jokes on late-night TV and online. Comedian John Oliver said it sounded like ‘a stack of print newspapers being thrown into a dumpster.’”

Photo: logos.wikia.com

In addition to selling the LA Times, since 2016 Ferro stepped down as chairman just before sexual misconduct charges were made public. In addition, Alpert reported that the Tribune Publishing Co. has put the remaining papers up for sale.

Should well-known companies change their names? What do you think of cutesy names for corporations? What about selecting what amounts to a foreign word for a company that does business largely in the US? What other name changes—or company names, for that matter–make little sense?

Photo: thesellerslawfirm.com

Service of Name Changes, Deliberate & Not

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

Photo: yelp.com

A recent weekly conference call began with many admitting that they were often called by other names, Roberta for Ramona; Maxine for Francine and for me, a mispronunciation: Gee-Anne for gene. I’ve previously written that some call my husband Homer, Horace.

But some change their names on purpose–my aunt, for example. She had been known as Lili until she was in her 70s when out of the blue she insisted on Elisabeth, also a nice name, but hard for friends and family to get used to. I never learned why the change.

Photo: poshmark.com

Maybe the itch has grown up as 70 seems to be the magic number. Coach, at 76, is Tapestry now. Execs at the company that began as a high end handbag manufacturer [vintage bag at right] said it wanted to change its corporate image to reflect the luxury brands it had acquired–Stuart Weitzman and Kate Spade.

According to a Reuters feature I read in the New York Post, Coach chief exec Victor Luis responded to criticism of the change and choice of name on social media by saying: “At the end of the day some of the social media reaction is misplaced because people think we are changing the name of the Coach brand, which we are not doing. It’s really about creating a new corporate identity for Coach as a house of brands.”

The Reuters article continued: “Coach, however, lost some shine in recent years in part due to the financial recession and increased online shopping. The company is trying to regain its former glory by buying new brands, keeping a tight lid on discounting and pulling back from department stores.”

As for that tight lid on discounters, I just bought a classic pair of Coach-brand loafers at T.J. Maxx at a very comfortable price.

I kept thinking of the $millions spent over decades to make the Coach brand familiar and admired by many. It, Spade and Weitzman will still appear on shoes and fashion as Tapestry is the corporate umbrella. Wise minds in the C-suite had clearly lost faith in the power of the Coach name. Some reporters covering the Coach story reminded their audiences that Google’s new corporate name is Alphabet. Have you heard anyone call it that?

Photo: youtube

Reminds me of some of the bridges around NYC—I think “59th Street” and “Triborough” not “Koch” or “Kennedy.” I adapted well to the Met Life Building taking over for what once was the Pan Am building, no doubt because of the Met Life’s Snoopy dog connection. [That they deep sixed the spokesdog is another matter.] Met Life no longer owns the building but is a major tenant so its name remains.

What do you do when people call you by the wrong name? Do you know adults who have changed their names [and I don’t mean through marriage]. Do you think a venerable name in fashion should change its corporate name—does it show lack of faith in the brand—or that it doesn’t matter as the public’s memory is short? How long will it take for New Yorkers to remember the changed names of buildings and bridges?

Photo: stuartweitzman.com

Service of Discomfort to Correct a Situation or Person

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

In a recent “Social Q’s” column in the Sunday Style section of The New York Times, reader D.H. shared a problem with Philip Galanes: She’d given a longtime manicurist a $50 instead of a $20 by mistake. She didn’t “want her to think I want the money back,” D.H. wrote, “But I also don’t want her to think the huge tips will continue (almost twice the cost of the manicure). What should I do?”

Galanes’ advice was sage: “Say: ‘Doris, I realize I gave you a $50 tip last time. I hadn’t intended to, but I’m delighted I did in light of your many years of excellent manicures.’ Otherwise, you will be on pins and needles every time you get your nails done, afraid that your ordinary (but still generous) tip is signifying some unspoken complaint.”

I agree.

This situation is a first cousin to someone calling you by the wrong name and how the situation exacerbates when you let the misnomer continue especially if they introduce you to others. I’ve heard it happen quite often to my husband Homer. Some people call him Horace. And although I don’t recall what name folks have given me, the discomfort in correcting them when what they’ve said is nowhere near Jeanne makes me squirm the longer I let it go.

I find it hard to speak up even when I know that not doing so will make things worse in future. Does correcting people under these circumstances bother you? It’s not like advising a client, which I don’t find nearly as hard to do. How do you push yourself to do the smart thing?

Service of Nameless Friends

Thursday, December 22nd, 2016

Craft Santa 2016 turned

I love traditions and one I’ve kept for 15+ years is to visit the Dutchess Community College Foundation annual craft fair in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Thanksgiving weekend. I arrive by 9:45, after a stop for coffee and munchkins at Dunkin’ Donuts, to get a good parking spot—it starts at 10—and to stand at the door when it opens to be among the first at an exhibitor’s booth. Stephanie Stillwell has a fan club and sells out of her best pieces early. [See an example in the photo above.]

A mother with grown daughters—also Stillwell fans—usually wait with me. We recognized each other the second year and enjoyed chatting ever since.

Last year they weren’t there.

Stephanie told me that one of the daughters, [in her 50s], had suddenly died and that the family was having Thanksgiving out of town. She promised to send me contact information so I could offer my condolences—I don’t know their names or where in Dutchess County they live.

Again this year they weren’t at the entrance so I rushed to Stephanie’s booth with others. The first thing Stephanie said, even before saying “hello,” was that she couldn’t find the mother’s address and apologized for not getting back. I started to pick some wonderful quirky gifts when the mother appeared. We hugged for a long time and spoke for a short time. She said she was OK.I still don’t know their names.

When I was a kid, my mother said “hello” to countless people on the street and in the grocery store in our Manhattan neighborhood. She was better than I at names but often she’d respond, when I’d ask, that the person she’d greeted was Miss O’Reilly’s friend or someone she saw repeatedly at Mr. DiMaggio’s deli and that she didn’t know their name.

Are there people whose paths you cross of whom you’ve grown fond and/or are happy to see whose names you don’t know?

Nameless

 

Service of Nicknames

Monday, January 18th, 2016

Nickname

My friend Helen is known as Auntie Mame or Mame by a swath of her family, for the character Patrick Dennis created in a play and movie about an independent woman. My husband, whose full name ends in III, was known by his family as “Terzo, third in Italian. He was born in Naples.

My father got a kick out of gangster names, especially Greasy Thumb Guzik [photo right]. Then there are famous criminals like the Boston Strangler, Teflon Don or Birdman of Alcatraz. In show business there was ‘Ol Blue Greasy Thumb GuzikEyes—Frank Sinatra and Satchmo, Louis Armstrong [photo below, center].

Americans tend to shorten names [which I don’t consider is quite the same as a nickname]. They think it’s friendly. A friend who once told me he preferred “Robert” was called Bob by most. Another friend, Nancy, used “Nan” in her email address so many call her Nan, not her favorite.

I’m known as JM by much of my family. I suspect someone on the American side started it when I was small as Jeanne-Marie was too long and difficult to enunciate, especially in a world in which “Mary,” “Jane,” and “Polly” resonated. In addition, my parents intended folks to pronounce the first word like jahnne, not gene. It must have seemed unnatural. Eventually the French side of the family picked up the initials.

We still shorten names a lot, but I don’t think we use nicknames as much. Would you agree? Is it because we’re not creative, that nicknames tend not to be PC, or that they are simply out of vogue? Do you have favorite nicknames?

 louis armstrong

Service of What’s in a Name

Monday, November 2nd, 2015

Hello my name is

You may have read that a state judge ruled that Paul Smith’s College in the Adirondacks could not change or alter its name to Joan Weill-Paul Smith’s College. The 1,000 student private college hoped to overturn a 1937 bequest by the son of Paul Smith which stipulated that the college would “be ever known” as Paul Smith’s College of Arts and Sciences. Mrs. Weill, the wife of financier Sanford Weill, was planning to pledge $20 million to secure the name change. She knew about the college because she’d owned a home nearby. 

Paul Smith's College of Arts and Sciences

Paul Smith’s College of Arts and Sciences

“While the college has argued that the stipulation ‘nearly fatally impedes the ability of Paul Smith’s to seek large gifts from a single donor in order to make the investments it needs to remain viable,’ Judge John T. Ellis of State Supreme Court in Franklin County ruled that Weill’s pledge did not give the college license to violate the provision in its founder’s will enshrining his father’s name on the college in perpetuity,” according to Philanthropy News Digest.

“Disputes over naming rights have become more common in recent years and include the transformation of Avery Fisher Hall in New York City into David Geffen Hall and the renaming of the Miami Art Museum as the Jorge M. Pérez Art Museum of Miami-Dade. ‘This decision is a big, big deal,’ said Doug White, an adviser to philanthropists and nonprofits who teaches at Columbia University. ‘It’ll help define what the court system thinks of the idea of changing the name of an organization like this.'” 

Maimonides

Maimonides

According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, this year only nine of the top 100 gifts from Americans have been anonymous so Mrs. Weill is in good company. Anonymity, wrote Lorne Manly in “Privacy Matters” in The New York Times, is the choice of those who don’t want to be bothered by others looking for support, don’t like publicity or who believe, as did Maimonides, that such obscurity is a good thing–sixth in the eight levels of giving.

I wrote in an earlier post that promoting a high profile person who gives a large donation helps draw in additional money far better these days than a heart-wrenching story. For this reason, do you believe that the law should be changed to help a small institution like Paul Smith’s modify its name? If your college had a new name, would you care? Is holding to some 78 year old bequest ridiculous? If you were Mrs. Weill would you give the money even if the college can’t modify its name?

Changes coming

Service of What Doesn’t Have to Be

Monday, January 6th, 2014

slipping on ice

Walking around Manhattan a day after last week’s snowstorm some sidewalks were so clean they could have been in Arizona and others slippery and treacherous; some crosswalks had six to eight inches of ice water and slush that stretched into the street more than a healthy leap, [with slick pavement ahead], and others are merely moist.

There was no reason or consistency for the inconsistency, but the danger doesn’t have to be. Which got me thinking of similar instances.

Observant Waiters

waiter in dinerMy nephew eats out a lot. He’s easy-going, a generous tipper and he remembers names of restaurant owners and wait staff and they know his. 

However, when a waiter tries to take away his plate too soon–or that of his guest–his teeth grind. When he asks the waiter to leave the plate alone it’s obvious that he’s aggravated.

Waiting until everyone is finished before clearing may not be the kind of etiquette taught at a neighborhood diner, but pleasing a regular should be tops on the lesson plan. Watching the reaction of diners is an efficient training tool so customers need not be irritated.

Take Back that Name

Cook your ass offDan Barry wrote a very funny “Loose Ends” column, “One Cooking Show You Shouldn’t Try at Home,” in The New York Times. The name of the new show that gave Barry a chance to share a bunch of guffaws: “Cook Your Ass Off.”

Wrote Barry: “Now, to be clear, we are not talking about one of those community-access channels featuring an endless scroll of the local senior center’s lunch menu, or a man interviewing himself in his paneled basement.” The show is on HLN which is part of Turner Broadcasting Systems’ Cable News Network.

Turner’s spokeswoman told Barry “It is really supposed to be a playful, entertaining spin on the cooking competition concept…It’s a little tongue-in-cheek.”

I think it’s sophomoric and the result of lazy writers.

Cop Traffic

traffic jamI was caught on a NYC Third Avenue bus in tremendous traffic on a Thursday afternoon during the Christmas rush lugging very heavy packages. A 10 minute ride took over an hour as the bus cooled its heels, along with hundreds of cars and taxis, near no handy subway stop.

Anyone who has been to the city at Christmastime is thinking, “So???? What’s so surprising?” This traffic jam should not have happened. It occurred because people from all lanes on the wide avenue were turning right onto 34th Street and the traffic policeman at the cross-section seemed oblivious to his job—to control the flow. An illegally parked car on the avenue right in front of him added bottleneck to the paralysis.

There are so many things that don’t have to be. Can you add some?

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