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What's in a Name?

By Andy Warren,

Today we have a guest editorial from Andy Warren as Steve is speaking at SQL Intersection today. 

We all have names. Our parents decided on them in a variety of ways. Maybe we were named after a relative somewhere in the family tree, maybe it was to honor a friend of the parents, maybe just because it sounded good, maybe one of a hundred other ways that a name became our name. Names define us in a way no number could, even to ourselves. Somehow being “7 of 9” just doesn’t seem ok!

Getting names right at the office can be a trying experience. We start by assuming that the first name in the email address is their first name, or at least what they prefer to be called. It’s often true, but not always true and leads to mild confusion. It could be that way because that the rule is to use your ‘real’ name, or it could be the real name was taken by someone else (John Smith, anyone?).

Even when the name is correct there are traps to fall into. One that I’m prone to is shortening their name to a diminutive, using ‘Andy’ instead of ‘Andrew’ – not always appreciated by the name bearer. It can work the other way too. I have a friend named Frank and people tend to call him Franklin – being more formal than less – but his real name is just Frank!

I have another friend who has an uncommon name that looks like an incorrect spelling of a common name. Not only do people call him by the wrong name, they often ‘correct’ the typo in his name, which leads to problems of all sorts including ones related to credit reports! I have another friend who has a last name that is a first name. It’s interesting to be on a conference call and hear someone call him by his last name using the tone that is normally used for the first name. I’ve even run into people that look like someone else I know, so I end up calling them ‘Larry’ even though their name is Kevin!

Even the simplest names can get mangled. Another friend has the easy – easy! – last name of Ring. How hard can that be to spell? Yet I couldn’t could the number of times I’ve heard him spelling it “R, I, N, G….RING!” on the phone. It does make you think about the value of numbers on days like that.

Commonly used names can be a challenge if you want to be found easily by a search engine, or on LinkedIn, or Twitter. Common names can be a good thing if you prefer to be more private and hide in the noise. I wonder if in the years ahead we’ll see more and more unique names as parents try to ‘help’ us by giving us a name that is searchable?

Have an interesting story about a name? Share it in the attached discussion forum. I’m looking forward to hearing them!

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