With all the awful name-calling during this political season, it got me thinking about the importance of name.
T.S. Eliot’s beautiful poem “The Naming of Cats” is one of my favorite songs in the play “Cats.” It contemplates the importance of a name.
The great self-improvement guru Dale Carnegie once said, “Remember
that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important
sound in any language”
I couldn’t agree more. One little thing that matters to me greatly is
for people to remember my name. Maybe it’s important because I’m just
so bad at remembering people’s names. I try those tricks you learn in
leadership development classes – find a feature of that person to remind
you of his name. But if I look at someone named Ernest and try and
remember his name by the fact his hair looks like a bird’s nest, I
probably end up calling him something like Jay or Robin next time I see
A name is everyone’s most personal possession. It’s your label, your
identity, your brand. In today’s world, it can also apparently be your
URL. I recently heard someone say her favorite baby gift is to buy the
URL of the baby’s name when he’s born to ensure it can never be used by
anyone else. Who knew?
Growing up, I didn’t particularly love my name. It was unusual which
meant I was frequently noticed in ways I didn’t want to be noticed. In
first grade, my teacher insisted no one use nicknames. So Chip became
Charles and Libby became Elizabeth. It didn’t matter that’s not what
their parents intended; that’s the way she wanted things done.
So when the teacher kept trying to call me Rebecca, I had to keep
saying “It’s just Reba.” For a very shy first grader, that was an awful
way to have attention trained on you. All I wanted was to have a name
like Ann or Mary that wouldn’t be questioned.
When I went with friends to the Gay Dolphin at Myrtle Beach to buy
keychains inscribed with every name you could imagine…mine was never
there nestled between Reagan and Rebecca.
there’s the Reba who everyone has heard of … the tall, red-haired
country singer. Back in the days of collect calls, I placed a collect
call “from Reba.” I heard a small gasp from the operator. “So are you
the real Reba?” she asked softly. “Would you sing something for me?”
While I didn’t want to disappoint her, the minute I opened my mouth
to sing the voice would have been a dead giveaway I wasn’t “the real
Reba.” So I just laughed and told her no, but I’d love to have her voice
or her height (although I do have a cool Reba McEntire concert poster
framed in my office).
But as I grew older, I no longer minded my unique name. I was named
for my mother and her mother, which I think is pretty cool. I’m proud
when people said, “You must be Reba’s daughter.”
So with this unusual name, it lands deep when someone remembers it.
Recently I arrived at a yoga class I’ve attended three, maybe four
times. The instructor who was checking people in called me by name and
welcomed me to the class. Small gesture. Whether she saw my name on the
list or remembered it from a previous class really didn’t matter. She
used my name.
It was a hands-on class with the instructor working with us
individually. She called each of the nine of us by our names whenever
she approached us. This told me she was paying attention not only to our
poses and alignment, but also to us individuals. She didn’t know
anything more about most of us than our names, but that mattered.
I find myself judging places I visit often by their “Cheers Factor”
as the theme song used to say … “where everybody knows your name.”
There are a number of people I randomly see over the course of a week
or two who always call me by name. Caroline at Public House she asks if
I want my usual order. Sally greets me at her Nana bag booth at the Soda City Market
. Laura at Yoga Masala welcomes me to the studio. Jamie at Jamie
Scott Fitness asks about my bum elbow. Stephanie at Eggs Up brings me my
half and half tea. Sean at Drip asks what’s new. Anne at Yoga Flow says
she’s noticed I’ve not been there for a week or so.
Sure it’s good business to call someone by his name. But it’s also
personal. It’s face-to-face. It’s a connection that can’t be replaced by
a Twitter handle or an Instagram user name. Whether by intention or
just plain good memory, these folks pay me a kindness every time they
call me by name.