It doesn’t matter what your name is


How not to behave when you forget someone’s name

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. October 28, 2014

A large portion of my job involves networking, performing cold calls, attending events, and introducing myself to strangers. Naturally, names and faces will scramble in my brain and leave me uttering, “Nice to meet you,” or “Hey, big guy!” or “You look familiar,” more than once. I’m not immune to misremembering names, few are; however, when I do forget, I like to believe that I know how to behave properly, not make a big deal about it, and simply move on and have a genuine conversation.

Too often I’ll be approached by someone who I have met numerous times with no inclination of who I am. Of course I feel a bit insulted, being so forgettable and all. But that is not what bothers me. What bothers me is that some egotistical people will deem me so unimportant that they will just quickly brush me aside. Instead of talking to me or even addressing me, they just saunter off feeling more recognizable. As I watch these people disappear into the mass of humanity, I know that we’ll meet again, but the scenario will not change. They’ll say hi, do a few memory reps to remember when we last interacted, get exhausted, and mosey on.

If you cannot remember people’s name after an initial introduction, it’s because you weren’t able to associate something memorable with them. Ask for their name again, then inquire about something unique, not just work, school, or interests, but what plans they have for the near future or what projects they are working on. You must dig deeper than the forgettable surface questions. Show that you’re not a self-centred prick, and give a shit about someone who took the brain space to remember your name. Then when you meet them again, you can ask how their life went with a checkpoint to start from.

I get it—sometimes names just slip your mind or hang at the tip of your tongue. Don’t make a big deal out of it. However, nobody looks good when they forget someone, especially after multiple introductions. At some point, you better get it right or you’ll just look silly, and depending on the person, you might also appear offensive.

My name is Elliot, an uncommon name to say the least. There is something about it that causes people to substitute it with another male name that begins with the letter E. I’ve been called Eric, Ed, Emilio, Ethan, Eli, and maybe a few more that I too have forgotten. It’s understandable—many people have names that sound different. Some people even have names that come from another culture or have a distinctive spelling. What annoys me is when someone says, “Oh whatever, it doesn’t matter what your name is.” Fuck you! Not only is that disrespectful, but it’s also confusing.

Every name represents a human being, every human being is as important as the last regardless of their social class, seniority, personality, or overall attractiveness. And it doesn’t matter what your traits are either; if you can’t remember someone, you’ll always appear a little snobbier.

What’s in a name?

Opinons_Bad namesA bad name lasts a lifetime

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor

Formerly published in the Other Press. October 9, 2014

Like a birth defect, poor name choices can be an everlasting nuisance to a person’s life. Although, I don’t know the formula for perfect naming, I do know that certain words have a particular connotation that may evoke emotions that you wouldn’t necessarily want to have associated with a person.

When I was growing up, I didn’t like the name Elliot. I thought it had too many syllables, too many variations, which would lead to incorrect spelling, and of course, it rhymes with idiot, if the person could even pronounce it properly. Elliot is an uncommon name, but it grew on me, and now, I can’t imagine my life with any other name. All in all, I’m sure glad my parents didn’t give me a name that was the first noun they heard when arriving in Canada or a direct translation of a name from another culture or language. Elliot fits me; it fits my environment.

Naming is a big responsibility, and parents should not mess around with it and try to be original or clever. Allow your children to be unique by giving them a blank canvas to work with, rather than imposing a name that they’ll have to explain every time they introduce themselves at a party. Believe me, the story of why your kid is named after your favourite patio furniture will not be enjoyable to tell when they’re at a job interview.

There is nothing wrong with reusing names that have been around for generations. Some of my best friends are people with the same names as each other. I’m talking about the Ryans, the Stephanies, the Michaels, and the Erics out there who actually have a personality that doesn’t play into having a particular name.

Your Instagram user name can be witty, but your real name—the one you have on your birth certificate—should not. And if it is, you should really ask your hipster parents why they decided it was a good idea. You deserve an explanation.

Liberal naming, such as hyphenated surnames, are cool and all, and have come to the fore in this generation. I’m meeting more and more people with two last names and a couple of middle names in addition to their first name. As someone with only a first and a last name, I’m a bit befuddled as to why so many names are needed to represent a person. Can it be that having more is better? I don’t think so. I think all that having extra names does is add to the confusion: a small identity crisis.

I’m happy with my name, and I’m sure many people who have “bad” names are happy as well. But we’ve all met someone or overheard a conversation where we leave saying to ourselves: “What an unfortunate name. His parents must have hated him.” For those thinking of having kids in the future, please heed the name.