An investigation into the importance of names.
BY GRETA MILLER ’23
Olivia, Liam, Emma and Noah are some of the most popular U.S. baby names of 2022. Mary, John, Dorothy and Robert were popular in 1922. Mary, John, Anna and William were popular in 1822. Humans have been naming their children for thousands of years. A name has obviously been a way to distinguish a person from another, but is it that simple? Is a name just a name, or is there more to it?
A name is actually everything. According to Harvard Business Review, a name is more than a moniker. It is your identity and has great meaning to you. It’s what people call you. It’s what you respond to. From the day people are born, they are assigned this identifier. While some people receive nicknames and others use their given names, the common thread is that whatever that name is, it identifies you. Some might say that your own name is the most important word in the world to you.
Given this understanding of the importance a person’s name is to them, using names can only bring positive results with interpersonal relationships. When you use a person’s name, it shows a greater connection to who that person is. It is a sign of courtesy and a way of recognizing a person. Remembering someone’s name makes a person feel seen, valued and respected.
“I do personally notice it when others use names,” Shannon H. Johnson said, a licensed clinical psychologist in Columbus. “I think it helps to feel more connected and is a more personable approach to interactions.”
Using names in group settings also can be beneficial to everyone involved. People tend to notice when a particular person is good with names. It stands out. Someone who uses names often appears welcoming and interested, especially when that person remembers the individual names of groups of people.
“I have been making a point of learning students’ names since I became a teacher,” Adele Vergis, a UAHS social studies teacher, said. “I know that when people show me that they know my name, I feel more welcome in conversation with them. I hope my students find my class to be a welcoming place for a variety of reasons – one of which is that I know their names. I would also like the students in my class to know each other’s names so that we can build a community of learners where we can all have fun and learn.”
Sometimes a person’s name is not common to a particular culture. Making an attempt to correctly pronounce a name can actually make a difference in that person’s life. Those with unusual names already know that their names are difficult for some cultures, and when they encounter a person who makes a genuine effort to pronounce their name, they notice it. UAHS student Lilja Reynolds (pronounced “Li-li-a”) deals with her name being mispronounced frequently.
“There are people who actually care about getting it right. Then there are others who will just call me whatever they want, which has happened so much I don’t seem to care. But, when there are people who ask how to pronounce it and then ask the heritage of it and seem interested, it makes me feel like they actually care,” Reynolds said.
While human personal names have changed over thousands of years, their importance has remained the same. A name is powerful. It means a lot to a person. Using names and attempting to correctly pronounce names can create stronger interpersonal relationships and more welcoming environments. The benefits of using peoples’ names are endless. So to simplify it: everything is in a name.