Once upon a time, only a generation or so ago, the most popular names for girls were Mary, Susan, and Linda. Top boys names included David, John, and James. Nowadays, the variety in baby naming is mind-boggling. Of course, the infamous celebrity baby names stand out as a prime example of the shift in naming trends from subdued to hyper unique - Apple, Blue Ivy, Zuma, Pilot Inspektor, and Blanket - but the sheer lack of consistency in naming and, of course, uniformity of spelling is really awe-inspiring. Parents (and I will likely be one of these) seem to think that the name they bestow upon their child indicates their (the parents’, I mean) creativity, intelligence, and socioeconomic status and guarantees certain life outcomes for said child - pretty, skinny, talented, successful, driven, high-achieving, smart. As such, names just keep getting more and more “inventive” (“wacky” may be a better descriptor).
Yet we all know that. We also know that names like Ashley, Courtney, Tammy, and Kimberly may very well be spelled 14 different ways from those that I just laid out. And let’s not even get started on truly ethnic names (particularly those inexplicably given to WASP children). These days, due to creative naming trends, there can’t be any comfort in sending a letter or email without being sure of the spelling of the recipient’s name. Thankfully, if you already have an email from the person with the complicated name, the spelling issue is easily resolved with a little Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V action. Even if he or she hasn’t yet e-mailed you, business cards, Facebook, LinkedIn, or simply knowing his or her email address can often resolve the issue. So how can people just go about misspelling others’ names willy nilly?
It’s usually the hold-outs with the “average” names that are the biggest offenders. No one ever misspells their names, so either they don’t think to take a closer look at anyone else’s, or they just feel some weird sense of superiority over having an “easy” name and, thus, don’t feel the need to go out of their way to accommodate those of us with “hard” names. First time offenders - you guys are fine. We all make mistakes. But if you don’t learn from them, well then you’re an asshole. If I regularly correspond with you, if you’ve spelled my name right 60% of the time, if we’re sorority sisters, if we work together (particularly in the same group), if we’ve made out on more than one occasion, if you are responding to an email I’ve just sent that has my name in the “From:” field and at the bottom of my note - you have no excuse to misspell my name.
But what does one do with these offenders? In Sloane Crosby’s book, I Was Told There’d Be Cake, she suggests that, in response to others regularly excluding the “e” from the end of her first name, she should drop the final letter from the first names of all offenders. But that seems awfully passive aggressive, especially if these “offenders” are clients or co-workers. Do you just tell the other person directly? Or would that make them feel uncomfortable and/or make you come across as being anal and uppity? Should you try to create some humorous story about someone else’s name being misspelled and then casually mention that people do that to you all the time?
Frankly, why am I even pondering these various ideas? Why do I have any anxiety over this issue? I have a legal name, given to me by my parents and on record with the Social Security Administration, and I should feel fully entitled to ensure that others use it properly. When job applicants misspell a name, whether it be that of the company they are applying to work for or the person with whom they met with / are meeting with, they automatically get tossed out - so why should anyone get a pass for not caring or paying enough attention to the spelling of another’s name?
Yes, the crazy names popular in our society today are a bit absurd, but it looks like this trend is here to stay. We don’t live in the 1960s, and we’re going to actually have to care about getting others’ names right. So, one of these days, I’m just going to have to say to a couple of you - “Hey, I just wanted to let you know that it’s actually spelled with an -ar, not an -or.”