Friday, 13 April 2012

It's All In A Name

This week, Graham's post about names reminded me of a thread I had started years ago in a forum I hardly ever visit anymore (you know, the usual thing - it fizzled out, but it was great fun and very interesting while it was active).
So I decided to revisit the old forum to try and find my old thread, and use some of what was written back then for this post about names.

When I was a kid, I disliked my name, Meike. I wanted a name that sounded like blonde curls and pink satin, in short: a name fit for a princess, with at least three syllables, such as Felicitas, Victoria, Isabella or Amaryllis. Blonde curls and pink satin? I was anything but! My hair was always kept short, it was straight and brown, and since I loved climbing trees and fences and walls and playing in the woods and with animals, none of my outfits was pink satin; instead, I usually ran around wearing jeans and t-shirts, and often wellies.

Today, I feel comfortable about and in my name; with my current surname, it makes a very nice symmetrical sound, and I have no inclination to call myself Felicitas or Graziella any longer. Somehow. though, I have never lost my dislike for the mono-syllable German names for boys, such as Lars, Ralf, Rolf, Gerd, Bernd, Heinz and so on, while some of my friends who I care a lot about have such names, and I certainly do not like them any less for that. I have no children, but I would never have chosen a mono-syllable name for a boy or a girl. My favourite female name is, by the way, Mathilda, and I would NOT shorten it to Tilly! As for a favourite male name, I don't actually have one.

In fact, in the south of Germany, where I live, Meike is not a very common name. You find a lot more Meikes (sometimes spelled Maike) when you go up North. It is an ancient Friesian name (nothing to do with cows), meaning Maria. Now, I know few people who have less Maria-lish qualities than I, but I don't think my parents had those qualities in mind when they named me, since our household has never been particularly religious (and definitely not Catholic).
My sister was my parents' first child, she was born 14 months before me. Her name (which I am not going to reveal here, sorry, she wouldn't like me to) is also of Friesian origin and quite melodious. Had I been a boy, they would have named me Kai. Both our first names match our family name, since it is one found more often in northern Germany as well (my Dad's paternal side of the family are originally from L√ľneburg, about 60 km from Hamburg).

Often, my name is spelled wrongly. I am used to have people address me as Mike, or Maike, or even Heike (that does not occur so often anymore). When I receive business emails to "Dear Mr. ......", I always, always correct the sender - and it does make me angry that they can't be bothered to read my email signature properly where my first name is clearly given as Meike. I don't blame foreign customers for not knowing that Meike is a female name; they can easily mistake it for Mike and think I am a man, especially if they have not spoken to me on the phone before. But 99% of my customers are Germans and live in Germany, and they SHOULD know that Meike is NOT the same as Mike.
They simply can't be bothered to read properly, and it is that careless, "get it over with quickly" attitude that I dislike. Even if I spell my name out to someone on the phone, they often get it wrong - because they don't listen properly, just as they don't read properly. What ever happened to the attention for detail?
To me, it is a sign of respect for a person to make sure I spell (and pronounce) their name correctly; if I am not sure about pronounciation, I ask, and if it differs greatly from what I thought it was, I add a little note to this customer's file so that I know it next time I speak to them.
Is it too much to ask for the same respect from others? I think not.

Graham said in his post that an incident in 1965 caused him to have difficulties with names. Now, names are always important, no matter what job you do, but maybe they are even more crucial when you work in sales, like I do. Customers want to be addressed properly, and I am glad to have a good memory for names. Back in February at the fair (you can read about it here), I surprised a customer who I had not seen in years by greeting him at our booth by his name. He said he was amazed that I remembered who he was, and was obviously well chuffed.
That wasn't always the case; there were one or two people visiting I knew I'd met before but could not remember their names, but I had no problem in telling them exactly that - I knew I "knew" them but would they please be so kind and remind me again of their name? And of course, as soon as they'd said it, I knew in what context to place them, and I didn't mind admitting my little black-out.

What does your name mean, and do you have a special method for remembering other people's names? Do you have a favourite name?

37 comments:

  1. I unfortunately have a bad memory for both names and faces. Part of the problem with the latter is that my eyesight isn't good. Apparently I walk past people in the street. I don'tike to stare too hard at passeRs by!

    I've realised I don't have strong feelings about names -my likes and dislikes are arbitrary, I would say...

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    1. This is interesting - I have never related my bad eyesight (and believe me, it IS bad!) to not recognizing someone, but you are right, it could have something to do with it.
      Usually I recognize people from relatively far away, by their gait and posture. I can visually scan a crowd of people and find the person I am looking for by their posture and allover shape; quite useful when you want to find someone at a fair :-)

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  2. I disliked my name when I was a child too - because it's not a common name here and many of my schoolmates struggled with it and teased me about it. But I've grown into liking my once I reached my late teens.

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    1. Claudia is a very common name in Germany; in fact, we often had two or three Claudias in the same class at school. It is a beautiful name, and I am glad you like it now!

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  3. Hello Meike:
    Well, our claim to fame is that we are the only Hattatts in Britain!! We believe that the name to be of Middle Eastern origin but we have seen tombs of Hattatts in an English churchyard from the C17 so the Middle East connection must be an ancient one.

    It is, however, really irritating to have an unusual name as one finds oneself for ever spelling it and then it is rarely correctly spelled. In this respect, we can totally identify with you and your name, which we actually think is most attractive!

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    1. Thank you, Jane and Lance!

      Wow, being the only Hattatts in Britain - and possibly in Hungary, too? This just adds to your uniqueness, which I think is most attractive as well!

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    2. Dear Meike,
      Like you, I always wanted a feminine, elegant name...Elizabeth, Catherine, Caroline...and I made sure that I named my son a long name and also that we call him by his first name! I try also to make sure that I get names correctly and I think it is important. Names (and words in general) have always been interesting to me. One question...how do you pronouce "Meike"? I have always thought it was like this..."MIKE-EEE", Richard thinks it is "MIKE-UH". Do tell!

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    3. Dear Kay,
      Richard is almost right :-)
      The first syllable of my name is indeed pronounced like Mike.
      But the last "e" is not an "eeee"; think of how you pronounce the "e" in the word "best".

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  4. I remember names fairly well - but I can't remember faces at all so seem to snub people all the time :-(

    My name (Debbie) means 'the bee' (from Hebrew). My mother's name is actually Bea (which means something else, alas). She planned to name my younger sibling (if he had been a girl) Melissa which also means 'the bee' (from Greek).

    There were no 'bees in her bonnet'- she was unaware of the meanings and it was all co-incidence.

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    1. Hello Debbie, thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment!
      Debbie is short for Deborah, I assume? And Bea for Beatrix?

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  5. I have a terrible time with both my names. Like you, people think I'm a man, and as for Garrood.....

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    1. But... you're not Francis, you're Frances!

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  6. Hey!
    How did I end up as a reply under Jane & Lance? I must have done that this morning before my coffee!

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    1. It doesn't matter, Kay, it all relates to this same topic, so your comment is fine anywhere :-)

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  7. huh! I too didn't like my name, especially the middle name-Ruth. All the Normas I knew usually had the middle name of Jean (like Norma Jean Baker AKA Marilyn Monroe). But with maturity, I grew to love that the Ruth identified me as unique, not like the others.
    Would you do this American the favor of showing me how to pronounce your name? I too prefer correct spelling and pronunciation.

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    1. Funny, isn't it, how many of us did not like their names when we were kids!
      My name is pronounced like this:
      The first part sounds like Mike. The last "e" sounds like the "e" in the word "best".

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  8. My all-time favorite girl's name is Elizabeth and I so named my daughter, not Elisabeth, not Lizabetta, not any of the made-up variations, but the original Elizabeth. I never liked my name, Jill, which was like a nickname because my actual name is Jacqueline, to go with my father, who was Jack. And incidentally I married a Jack!. So I was determined my daughter would be called Elizabeth and she was until we moved to California when she was eleven and she promptly re-named herself Liz and Liz she has been ever since.
    My favorite male name is Ethan just because I like saying it.

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    1. Jill, I have a little story myself about the name Jill: When we started having English lessons at school (I was 9 years old), our English teacher insisted on speaking nothing but English to us from Day One. To make things more fun for us, he made us pretend we were a school class in England, and he made us draw lots with English names on them, so that we were only to use our new English names during the lessons. I ended up with the name Jill, and I liked it, because it sounded like someone cheerful and bouncy!

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    2. Cheerful and bouncy! that's me. Thank you for my smile of the morning.

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  9. I have a favorite name, it is my grandmothers name which is Lucina. My mother hated her name only because she thought my grandmother was a mean lady and hated children although she birthed 11 of them! So being their first daughter my father wanted to name me after his mother. OH NO! she will end up being just like her! NO WAY! we are giving her an AMERICAN name. So Linda it was. Just because they had planned on moving to America. No middle name, nothing. Just Linda. Although I guess it was a good thing because NO ONE in America could spell my maiden name of Schippers. I have always wanted to be called Lucy...but...the name Linda does mean "beautiful" in Spanish! so with that...I am happy! hehehehe I love your name! I even have a cousin that has the same name as you do!

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    1. Yes, Linda-Lu, I am sure there are many Meikes where your family comes from :-) Lucina is indeed a beautiful name.

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  10. That has been a really interesting read right the way through to all the coments. When I did trade fairs I used to rely on my excellent memory for faces and an ability to associate them with a business or place. I usually had time to look a name up before many customers actually reached our stand because they were usually browsing or buying at other stands on the way.

    Had we had a girl she would have been called Gwenneth Margaret. However I can't honestly say that I have a favourite name. I love names that people are happy with for themselves or names that particularly suit a person or just sound right when rolling off the tongue.

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    1. Graham, I was hoping you'd find this interesting!
      Isn't it a truly fascinating topic?
      Gwenneth is a beautiful name. It reminds me of Gwendolyn, a name I came across in a book when I was maybe 11 or 12 years old, and I loved it.

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  11. Yes, names are important. I took a well-remembered incident to leaern that. One of my best friends (back when I was social enough to have a couple of best friends) was named Anthony. For several years, I called him Tony. Then one day, as I was becoming more sensitive about names, I asked him what he liked people to call him. "Anthony," he replied in good humor but with a touch of seriousness, "I've always hated it when people called me 'Tony'."

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    1. But why didn't he ever tell you before?! Between best friends, it should be possible, shouldn't it?

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  12. I hate my real name! Absolutely hate it. It's a very boring, down to earth english kind of name, given to girls in the sixties and seventies. So as well as being boring it also dates me....
    I'd change it, but I could never decide what I'd really want to be called instead.

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  13. I love my name. Actually when I'm thinking of different names for myself, I ended up imagining myself as a different person altogether. You know, it's like I have some stereotypes when it comes to names. Like for example, I find the name Joan as a boyish girl, Alex s a handsome young man, Gloria for an old lady etc. Uhhh! Oh, btw, one thing I didn't like about my name were the times where people pronounce it as "Dennis"

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    1. Yes, I know what you mean about imagining yourself as a different person with a different name. It is a bit like my "princess" names which would, of course, automatically have turned me into a really girly-girl, the opposite of what I was for most of the time!

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  14. I always liked my first name (Monica) but all through 9 years of school there were at least two of us in the same class (at one point three) which often led to us being called by our surnames instead, or even worse nicknames based on the surname, something which I hated. I often wished I had a very common and anonymous surname instead of a more unusual, but not uniqe one. In my grownup life, in both towns I lived there were one or two more women with the exact same name in the phone book which led to confusing situations of mistaken identity. - As for my first name the spelling always mattered to me, when I see it spelled Monika with a 'k' it doesn't feel like me! For many years I worked as a secretary and then I was always careful when we got new staff, to learn the correct spelling of their names. - How good I am at remembering names after meeting someone again unexpectedly after many years depends on how well, for how long and in what context I originally knew that person. I might not be so good at remembering faces but I might remember the name "separately" even if I have difficulties connecting them.

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    1. Interesting point about remembering names separately from faces.
      Yes, we always had at least one Monika (usually spelled with a k in German) in our class at school, but I don't think we ever resorted to calling them by their last names.
      As far as I know, there is nobody else on the whole planet who shares exactly my combination of first and surname.

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    2. That's an interesting point Meike. There are 8 Graham Edwards in the Medical Practice at which I am registered in New Zealand. I am, however, the only Edwards in the phone book on Lewis.

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    3. When I ring my doctor for an appointment, the assistant of course asks my name and then, out of habit I guess, my first name. Sometimes I can't resist to ask her, "How many .......s have you got?", because I know I am the only one in town with that surname :-)

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  15. On Lewis nicknames are very commone because so many people are given the same name. There's another post for me!

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    1. Don't you just love it when someone starts on a topic (like you did some time ago with your post about names), and then it leads to a whole sequence of thoughts, ideas and discussions!

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  16. This was an awesome post. It prompts me to be more attentive to the spelling and pronunciation of the names of people. My name is Oluwaseun; it means "thank you God."

    Keep up the good work!

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    1. Thanks, Olu :-) Glad you followed the link to this post. Names are so important, aren't they!

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