What’s in a name? More than you might think

  • Greater than 2 minutes

    Do you call people by their names when writing emails, leaving comments, and so on? I usually do. Why? Here’s a story.

    My mother wanted to call me Ilya. But when my father went to the registry, he suddenly decided that I would be better off bearing his own name. And thus, through his deceit, I followed in the footsteps of Mayakovsky, Nabokov, and, more recently, Putin and Klitschko, and became Vladimir Vladimirovich.

    Deception or not, I always considered my name pretty wicked. Its stems — “Vlad” an “Mir” — mean “rule” and ”world,” respectively. This fueled this little boy’s ambitions big time. And though with time the aspirations for world domination somewhat faded (which might or might not have something to do with another Vladimir Vladimirovich’s taking the lead here), the love to the name remained.

    I was also always fond of its shortened form, Vova. Although it was initially “reserved” for friends and family, I came to enjoy using it in business contexts. It was not so heavy or obligating as Vladimir, and I felt more homely using it — and seeing it used by others. It is also versatile — its O is round and deep; the two razor-sharp V’s are always on the lookout lest anyone hurts it; and A is the powerhouse fearlessly carrying the whole carriage forward.

    So why would I tell this story, which you probably don’t care about?

    Because I do. And for the same reason I think there’s a lot in a name.

    When someone calls me Vova or Vladimir or Vlad during our first contact, all these stories — each different but all precious to me — fire up in my mind, and I subconsciously share them with that someone. When they hear their name in response, they — just as subconsciously — share their stories with me.

    And when we greet each other with plain Hello’s, we’re just two strangers talking about the weather at a bus stop (which is not necessarily a bad thing, by the way).

    So, to me, calling someone by the name is not about curtsies. It is about creating a link — a bridge, if you want — between our stories, one that could turn into its own story over time.

    And the real question is not whether you need to call a person by their name — but whether you want to start a story with them.

    If you do, their name will be its drop cap.

    And if you don’t, are you sure you want to write to them at all?

    Want to call me names? Do this on Ab Hoc!

    Vladimir Zakharov

    About Vladimir Zakharov

    A translator with 15 years of experience, now Head of Community at http://SmartCAT.ai — a platform that will change the translation industry and give the power back to translators.

    4 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

    1. I think if you call somebody by his or her name, it means that you´ve made an effort to find out how the person is called or even learn the name, which is very important. My opinion is that an email starting with Hello and the name draws much more attention than just general Hello to “anyone”. So the names are important, and even more in our job where we communicate a lot with different people every day.

    2. Hi Natalia 🙂 Yes, the effort spent matters, too. Even if it’s just 10 more seconds compared to a plain “Hi,” I love to know that the person on the other side has dedicated these 10 seconds for me personally. Thanks for that note, and welcome to The Open Mic! 😀

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