Essay: Both names, please.

Think back to the last time you introduced yourself, either in person or on the phone. Did you say, “Hello, nice to meet you, my name is [first name] [last name.]” Or did you perhaps say, “Hello, nice to meet you, my name is [first name.]”

My guess, based on my experiences of late, is that you only introduced yourself with your first name. And I’m writing five hundred words about how I think you should also include your last name in that introduction. Here’s why.

I am paid to be an office manager which means I’m the person most likely to answer the phone at my job. Because I work in a school, a lot of the phone calls I answer are parents calling for a variety of reasons: child is sick, child is leaving with someone different today, child is coming in late, child forgot lunch, you get the picture. Inevitably, when I answer, I hear, “Hello, this is Sara.” Or “Hi, Patricia, this is Bill.” And while I reply with a cheery hello, I’m mentally flipping through my Rolodex to figure out which Sara or Bill this is. Most of the time I can identify the caller by the end of the phone call, either because they give me identifying information (Ah! Sara the mother of Sam! Bill the father of Jacob!) or I eventually recognize their voice. Every once in a while I have to ask, “I’m sorry, but which Sara am I talking to?” It’s quite embarrassing and it would save me the trouble of asking or scanning that mental Rolodex if they would just add one more word: their last name.

It makes a difference in person, too, for that same reason. I had a woman volunteer to do lunch duty in September and unfortunately I had not quite learned her name. I regretfully asked, and she told me her first name. It didn’t ring any bells and I searched our parent database, but she was not there. The next day I made a note of which child she brought in to school and cross referenced her and it turns out that the name she told me was her nickname and I only had her formal name in the database. A last name would have cleared up the confusion immediately.

Once upon a time, some curmudgeonly commentator pointed out the lack of last names a few years ago and I took note that I was following the general trend. I do my best to buck the trend, though sometimes it’s awkward as in the following scenario:

New person: “Hi, my name is Mark, nice to meet you.”

Me: “Good to meet you Mark, My name is Patricia Collins.”

And then I feel like the weird one for using two names. But it’s for a cause I believe in, so I persist.

Why do we do it? My theory is that it is part of the general tromping toward informality we’ve been moving to ever since those darn baby boomers decided they didn’t like all those bourgeois trappings, man. No one my age has EVER referred to me as Ms. Collins, because said baby boomers have pretty much verbally beaten that out of us, “Don’t call me Ms. Parker, call me Ann! When I hear Ms. Parker, I start looking around for some old lady.” A socialite once commented that now that people don’t ever call her Mrs. Socialite, she never gets the shared intimacy of saying, “Oh, just call me [first name].” And I couldn’t agree more.

Since we are not referring to each other as Mrs., Mr., and Ms. So-and-so, let’s at least give ourselves the knowledge of each other’s last name. By letting others in on your last name, you are inviting them to join your circle, and giving them valuable information they won’t have to awkwardly ask for later.

Join me in using both names today!

2 thoughts on “Essay: Both names, please.”

  1. You have an excellent point. After I thought about it I realized that I usually share both names, especially in professional settings.

    Woo hoo! 16 posts read and commented on! I love a Saturday catch up!

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