Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Power of Wielding Names

I'm not crazy about my name, but I don't hate it either.  I love my sister's name, Shannon. It rolls off the tongue like a soft whisper. My name uses harsh, very unsensuous sounds...the sort of hard syllables that babies are able to babble early on because they are easy to pronounce.  It's one of those in between names.  It's not a beautiful name, like Cadence or Serena, but it's not as plain and uninspiring as Joan or Sue (if there are any Joans or Sues who read this blog, I hereby apologize!). 

Yet despite my indifference towards my name, I absolutely love it when people say my name.  For example, if I'm walking past a colleague at work and he or she utters out a quick "Good morning", naturally I will reply back with a cheery greeting, but the brief exchange will have already been forgotten in a matter of minutes.  Yet if this same colleague greets me with "Good morning, Jodi," I will remember it for the rest of the day, if not longer.  Something about having someone use my name makes even the most casual greeting seem so much more personal.  It's strange though, because hardly anyone is bold enough to regard acquaintances directly by their names.  It's almost like you have to cross a certain unwritten threshold before regarding others by their names, and if you haven't reached this point yet, using their names too soon is like some kind of violation of personal space.  I people feel invaded on some level when someone they barely know uses their name?  I hope not, because I am a massive name-user.  I make it a point to learn others' names as soon as possible, and I am often calling people by their names before they even know who the hell I am.

I remember back when I was a waitress, I would have the occasional complete stranger--usually a male--call me by my name (having read it from my name tag).  This would generally throw me off a little.  On the one hand, I would admire this person's boldness in being willing to look me straight in the eye and use my name.  That, from my perspective, takes some confidence.  But on the other hand, hearing my name roll off of the lips of a stranger could sometimes create a very subtle, unsettling feeling...perhaps because it almost felt like the balance of power in the situation was shifted to his advantage.  He was now able to use my name freely and command my attention, but the same was not true for me.  Maybe that's why people, in general, are reluctant to use others' names.  Maybe it's a subtle way of wielding some kind of authority over that person, and people lack the audacity to do that.  Maybe I should stop doing it myself.
On the other end of this spectrum, it doesn't matter how long I know someone--if he or she fails to call me regularly by my name, I simply feel no closeness with this person.  I have a few coworkers who fall into this category.  We're great friends, we get along famously, we laugh a lot; but they don't call me "Jodi."  They walk up and say "Hey, how's it going?" and such, but they don't regard me by my name.  I feel like telling them "Grow a pair, will ya?  The planet will not suddenly spin off it's axis if you call me by my name."

And then there are others who, when they do utter your name, it almost makes your heart beat perceptibly faster.  Those are the smooth ones who know the power of saying your name, and they aren't afraid to brandish that.


  1. One's name, like fingerprints, like handwriting, their words and images are complete ports to who they are, the soul inside of them.

  2. I love it when people use my name. Although until this moment, I was unaware that it rolled off the tongue like a soft whisper...LOL I always lovd your name more because it was uncommon. :)

  3. I like your name!! I feel really lucky that I have a good name. I like both of my sister's names, but I love mine, and have been sure to tell my mother thanks for giving me such a good name!

    Like you, I like it when people use my name, but it always makes me feel a bit narcissistic to smile when people use my name, like I shouldn't be happy that they were able to do something as simple as say "Kristyn."

    Also, I find that I really, really love to hear my husband say my name. Now, normally when he's using my name we're arguing and he's trying to drive his points home, but when he says my name in a nice way I love it. It's so rare that your spouse uses your name, at least for us, so to hear it always makes me happy... well, almost always. :)

  4. Now that you mention it Kristyn, I don't think Clinton EVER says my actual name. He calls me "Jo" or "Jojo" or "Wiener Women" (yeah, I don't get that one either, but he claims it is a term of endearment, LOL) or "Juju-bee," but never "Jodi." It would sound really strange to hear him say my actual name--I think I would be worried that someone just died or something.

    Good point about the is a little egocentric to delight in hearing our own names so much. I was thinking, too, that the same is true about seeing your name written out on paper or what not. If an instructor scratches "Good job, Kristyn" on one of your papers, isn't it such a little thrill?

    @Perry, so poetic. If you really believe that, then that's a lot of pressure on you and Jewls when you start to pick out Pumpkin #2's name.

    @Shan, true...I do have FOUR Shannon's on my FB friend's list. But you're the only Shannon that rolls off the tongue like a whisper. ;-)

  5. We already have the names on hand. Long story on that one but I can dig back to notepads and sketchpads from about 2004 which contain name list for both female and male.

    I would have to say that I rarely use my wife's name when addressing her. Baby, Honey, sugartits, many of the proxy names though are used on a comedic foundation.

    To be fair, it is nice hearing others use one's name. It identifies specifically that no one else but you is the intended receiver of that message, very flattering indeed. On the other end of that spectrum, you have the space where formal communication is replaced with body language, facial expressions, sighs of breath, and changes in behavior. The things that while in general, anyone can pick up on, the small complexities can only be read by the few, or even only one.

    I suppose a balance sounds like a decent progression. This will be tough, the word 'Reow' is used so much here that it begins replacing multiple words.

    BTW, if you ever need to explain to anyone, here is the official usage for description:

    "What are they doing Jodi?"

    -"They're reowing each other."

    This was a good post Jodi, dosen't everyone else think so? Shannon, do you agree? Julie, do you agree? =)

  6. I am laughing so friggen' hard right now Perry! Well aren't you just Mr. Witticism tonight?

    I actually don't think the whole name dynamic applies to spouses. I mean, yes, it is flattering to hear the day-to-day people in our lives say our names, but it comes across as strangely formal when your spouse uses it--almost akin to your child calling you "Ryan" instead of "Daddy." Nicknames, or pet names, are practically a must in marriage. Using nicknames in general requires a deeper level of familiarity (and, in marriage, a certain level of intimacy), putting them in a completely different class. Only three people in my life have ever called me "Jojo," and those people are: Clint, Shan, and your wife. Just that little tiny fact always made Jewls feel like a more important friend to me in highschool. How could I not feel warmly toward someone who would greet me with "Hi Jojo" every morning? So I guess, in this sense, nicknames and pet names are actually more superior as far as the impact they make.

    Sugartits?! I can't take it! SO funny!

    By the way, the context by which you used "reow" brings up more questions than answers. "They're reowing each other"...that could mean anything from "They're roaring like lions at each other" to...well, I won't go there. ;-)

  7. Thats Doctor Witticisim. I didn't go to 8 years of evil medical school to be called mister thank you very much. =)

    no, no, no....reowing, as when we say it to each other and people notice it. Some people picked up on it and said "what are you doing?"
    "we're reowing"

    As you can tell, i like spending alot of time in Boobtown.

  8. Okay, I have changed my mind, and decided that I do NOT like my name to be used. Perry's use of my name in his comment made me feel obligated to reply even though I am feeling lazy.

  9. You're probably tired from putting away groceries...50lbs or so! =)

  10. I'll remember to yell your name across campus when I say hello!

  11. Cinda is actually Niecy. I am on my sister-in-law's computer.


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