What’s in a name?

Isn’t it weird how we instantaneously and subconsciously group people according to their names? I find this especially true for names from languages and cultures I have very little knowledge of. If you can’t pronounce the name, if you can’t say it out loud (or in your head), there can be a perceived cultural distance between the person of that name and yourself.

Hard as we may try to NOT think or behave like that, unfortunately it does happen. Taking into account that our names are part of our identity, it should be our goal to tune in and listen closely to the way people pronounce their names, to hear how they say it and repeat it until it feels right to them. I’m not saying that this is easy – heck, I know how hard it is for most Americans to say my name – but if people “get” names across cultures they often “get” the people, too.

Please read this excellent post by Dianne Hofner Saphiere who wrote about “Names Across Cultures.”

Cultural Detective Blog

Name ChangesThere are many reasons people change their names: some people have a stage name, pen name, nickname, religious name, or an earned title or name. All too frequently, however, a name is involuntarily changed when someone immigrates, or when a teacher or teammates have trouble pronouncing the person’s birth name.

Many of us work with individuals who have been “renamed” by other colleagues, or who have changed their names to make them more palatable and pronounceable in a new location. Other times people adopt a different name due to a change in circumstance, profession, or age. For example, as a kid growing up in a small town, my father was called “Charlie:’ however, as a middle-aged adult living in a different town, he became known as “Chuck.”

Many people’s names have special meaning or significance. An interesting way to learn about a new acquaintance can be to ask the meaning…

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