As Shakespeare wrote in Juliet’s soliloquy, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet.”
Sorry to say it, Juliet, but you’re 14 (and imaginary) so you don’t get it, but names are kind of a big deal.
If you’re sitting there saying to yourself, “This is why I just call everyone ‘dude,’ (or whatever the hip terminology is now),” then stop it. You’re just contributing to the issue.
Not sure what I mean? Keep reading.
The name game
PT Barnum put it bluntly (though there might be some question around the true origin of the quote), “I don’t care what the newspapers say about me as long as they spell my name right.” And he’s right. To an extent. The idea of all publicity being good has some merit, but is part of a larger discussion for a different day.
All of my life, people have been misspelling my first name. Part of the danger of being named Lindsey in the mid- to late-80s, I suppose (the A variations have us Es outnumbered), but as a result I’ve always been particularly sensitive to spellings around names. After I got married, pronunciation became a big deal, too.
Seriously, for being such an easy looking last name, I’ve gotten a huge variety of pronunciations over my 13+ years of having it. It’s Leesmann, like lease and man, for those who might be wondering. And don’t even get me started on the misspellings I’ve seen!
So, you might say I can get a bit – um – passionate about all things name-related.
That’s not my name
As someone who has had to help choose the names for 2 little boys, I can say with confidence that it can be really fucking difficult. Y’all know I use *language*, so #SorryNotSorry to anyone who may be new. There are just so many things to take into consideration.
- Does it sound good with the last name?
- Does it pass the yell test?
- Did you know anyone with the name who’s an asshat?
- Do the letters in the first, middle and last name make a word that could get the kid made fun of?
- Has a friend or family member called “dibs” on it?
Etc., so on and so forth.
A name is usually one of the first things we’re given as a person. It impacts our identity. Sometimes – sadly – it’s about all we have. A name is a big deal!
It’s the same for a business. Seriously, you have no idea how long it took me to even name this blog when I first started playing around with the idea of it.
This is why if an org chooses to undergo a rebrand, it’s usually not a decision that was made lightly. It’s not a cheap or easy process! They didn’t do it just to throw off the consumers or to be annoying, so maybe – just maybe – try to call them by their right moniker.
I speak from experience.
We rebranded at work several years ago, and (admittedly) our name is a mouthful. But we did it, we released the logic behind it and we spent the money to put our long name on a lot of big, shiny things. The problem is, you wouldn’t know that listening to local media or people in the community.
Because a lot of people still try to connect us as part of a university that’s kind of a big deal in the area (and responsible for inventing an entire sport, but that’s neither here nor there).
Cool, cool. We like them. Some of our docs teach for them, but here’s the thing: we aren’t them. Period.
One of the biggest differentiators in our names is that the word “The.” It’s actually a part of our name. Remember what I said about putting our name on big, shiny things? Yeah, “The” is included, because it’s our name.
Shocking, I know.
Hi, my name is…
This is where I try to do my part as a “brand advocate,” if you will.
I haven’t done PR for more than 6 years now, but I still have the mindset of that profession that it’s okay to ask for corrections when something is wrong. Especially something as important as a name. And so I’ve been known to do just that. Most recently on a COVID vaccine tracker website.
For the most part, people are pretty cool about making the correction. Because getting names right is a big deal. And to the one editor who pushed back, I reminded them that AP rules about university names didn’t apply in this instance because THE is part. of. our. name. AND we aren’t the university.
Anyway, asking people to address you (or your org) by the correct name is something I will always encourage anyone to do. There might be the random one-offs who will refuse (they suck, BTW), but for the most part people will feel pretty bad when they realize they’ve been saying something incorrectly. So don’t be afraid to speak up.
There’s never any harm in asking. Especially since your name matters.