Archive for the ‘Name’ Category

Service of Honorifics

Monday, February 26th, 2024

Dog Aging Project Chief Veterinary Officer Kate Creevy, DVM, is looking for people to contribute to valuable research into prolonging dogs’ lives by signing them up. Super Pet Expo visitors at the New Jersey Convention Center, Edison, March 1-3, can see presentations by Dr. Creevy who will share highlights of preliminary findings based on 47,000 four legged participants. Her goal: 100,000.

I’m a huge “All Creatures Great and Small” fan as I’ve mentioned here before. I read all the books when they came out and devoured the first TV series in the late 1970s. When this season’s last episode of the current production ended, I thought about what good friends the housekeeper Mrs. Hall and vet Mr. Farnon are and how, after all they have been through together, they maintain the formalities of addressing one another as Mrs. and Mr.–true to the period. The series takes place in the mid-1930s.

After decades living across the hall my parents’ next-door neighbor remained Mr. Schechter and my father Mr. Reiss. At the time, I wondered about it. Everyone called Mr. Schechter’s wife Missy, the name I’d given her when small in my attempt to pronounce Mrs. Schechter.

I called my parents’ friends Ellie and Ed, Alice and Larry, Alice and Charles, etc. My youngest aunt eventually succeeded in prying me away from calling her Aunt.

At my first job out of college at Dun & Bradstreet there was a clerk who was much older than any of us or our bosses. We called our bosses by their first names but I could not bring myself to call him by his although I was told it was OK. He had gray hair.

In North Dakota where I lived as an Air Force wife, I became close to a local family. I was in my early 20s. I never called Mr. McNabb anything else although others did. He owned a secondhand furniture shop. He was my parents’ age.

My mother was called Mrs. Reiss by most and she corrected nurses who’d call her Ruth.  

I suspect most doctors like to be called “Dr. XYZ,” and not Sally or Sam.

I’m still in touch with students I mentored years ago. One, now a father of two with a prestigious job, still calls me Ms. Byington.

Door staff at my apartment call me Jeanne or Jeanne-Marie [!]; porters and maintenance men greet me with ma’am or just say “hello” or “how are you?” and smile.

I scheduled interviews with students recently and signed the email Jeanne Byington. “Hello Jeanne Byington,” and “Hi Ms. Byington” was how two of the students responded. A high school senior dodged the issue and wrote “Good evening!”

The countless fundraising letters I get dive right in with my full name minus honorific.

Do you care if someone calls you by your first name? Do you prefer Ms., Mrs., Mr. or Mx?

Service of “Say What?”

Monday, February 12th, 2024

I have a friend who seems to remember every year, month and day of every event in her life. Not me. If asked by a doctor—or now an online form— “When did such and such happen?” I have no clue. It happened. It’s behind me. Onwards.

Same with sad dates like the death of my parents and husband. I know the months and my parents made it easy on the years otherwise who remembers?

I didn’t inherit my uncle and mom’s memories. My mother’s brother remembered the punchlines of hundreds if not thousands of jokes. My mother remembered poems she’d memorized in middle school and knew them better than I did when, as she made dinner, I’d practice reciting an 8th grade assignment.

I marvel at the memories of Jeopardy contestants. Some of my friends also have Google-like memories recounting book, movie and play titles, authors and actor’s names. My husband was a living fill in the blank. He remembered the contents of countless history and biography anthologies he’d read sometimes decades before, was abreast of current events, opera, and art–especially before the mid 20th Century–football and golf and knew world geography like the back of his hand.

Speaking of which I opened an envelope on Saturday thinking it would be a Valentine but instead it was a mass card from St. Patrick’s Cathedral dated February 25, which would have been my husband’s 90th birthday. I knew the date but hadn’t focused on this round number and that he’s been gone for five years. My friends remembered.

Because of my many lifelong failings in this regard I was appalled that President Biden was called out in the special counsel report for not remembering the years he was Vice President or the date of his son’s death. Ask “What year did you move from North Dakota to Turkey?” or “What year did you buy the house?” and in a tense situation with 1,000 more important things going on [as the President has] many might freeze at the drilling–even, I suspect, the most vehement finger-waggers. And by the way: What relevancy do those dates have regarding boxes of White House documents found in a garage?

Does anyone recall how President Reagan answered almost every policy question? He tossed the ball to someone on his staff. I empathized with Reagan, especially coming after Jimmy Carter who had a most remarkable grasp of all issues foreign and domestic.

Do I exclaim “Aha!” when a young client forgets to do something, or if I need to remind a much younger friend to get back to me about a pending date? Nope. Do you?

Are you one of the lucky ones who is a trivia star?

Service of Remembering a Person’s Name

Thursday, February 24th, 2022

Fred

“Remember people’s names,” said my friend Erica Martell recently, “they’ll treat you better.” She’d just returned from her Honda dealer where she’d greeted the receptionist by name. She’d also remembered that the woman had been gone for a while, further personalizing her conversation. Her car was first serviced.

I wonder if Fred, [photo above], the doorman at my building, gets the biggest and most holiday tips. As I’ve written before, he knows the names of most tenants, their kids and dogs as well as their apartment numbers. There are 510 apartments and most house more than one person. It’s lovely returning home to hear “Hello Jeanne-Marie!” I’ve lived in doorman buildings where a hello barely warrants a grunt in return. [I moved.]

I envy people with remarkable name memory–I know a few. I have always been name lazy and deficient. A basic tip at how-to-network events is how to help others remember your name. Take Byington. I might say “My name is Jeanne Byington, and although the By in Byington is not spelled B U Y, it’s a good name for me because I love to shop.”  But who speaks like that? I never tried it. And people tend to remember my name anyway.

I think we’re born with such talents, like learning languages, being musical, handy or athletic. My husband remembered numbers. He could tell you the cost to the penny of a project that happened years before. He also remembered dates and details from the biographies and history books he read by the armloads full and could identify an opera after the first few notes [even though he was tone deaf].

Do you remember a waiter’s name, if he announces it, if he isn’t wearing an ID? Do you call him/her by name? When you enter a restaurant, dry cleaner or other business and staff remembers your name does it make a difference to you? Do you think you get better service when you call an employee by name?



Image by motointermedia from Pixabay

Service of Unusual Names: Fun to be Different?

Thursday, April 1st, 2021

My husband’s name was Homer and mine is Jeanne-Marie—atypical in the day–so it didn’t take long, in first grade, for me to become Jeannie, now Jeanne–JM to the family. I relish being different now; I didn’t as a child.

Caroline Bologna reported in the Huffington Post that these days parents are naming babies after herbs and spices from Anise to Yarrow. In 2019 most popular were Jasmine and Juniper, the former given to 2,092 girls and the latter to 22 boys and 1,526 girls. Sage did well coming in at 666 boys and 1,164 girls.

Sophie Kihm wrote about botanical baby names on nameberry.com. She identified Aspen, Briar, Nash, Rowan, Sylvie, and Zaria, Acacias, Juniper, Magnolia, Laramie, Indigo and Oak to name a few. We’re used to Lilly, Daisy and Oliver but the others?

Mary [the only name on the post] on wehavekids.com listed 38 earthy boys names some of which are Alder, Ash, Aspen, Aster, Birk, Elm, Jonquil, Spruce and I knew someone who named her daughter–Lake.

I imagine that having a traditional name that is spelled unusually can be a lifelong burden as people would always get it wrong. Jeanne is a challenge.  I wonder if children mind having these unusual names. What about adults? What’s the most unconventional name you’ve heard?

Service of Pigeonholing: It Divides Us

Thursday, November 19th, 2020

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.

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?

Service of A Name III

Thursday, October 22nd, 2020

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.

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?

Service of a Name II

Monday, July 6th, 2020

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.

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?

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

Thursday, October 11th, 2018

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.

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.

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.’”

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?

Service of Name Changes, Deliberate & Not

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

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.

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?

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?

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?

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