Viewpoint: We all need a little help with name recognition



    Last week I ran into a classmate whom I shared several classes with the previous semester. As I approached him, a tweaked, confused look briefly scrolled across his face that soon turned into a half-limp smile.

    Searching for the words he said “Hey … man! What’s up? Wow! Long time no see. Well, hey, we’ll see you around … dude.”

    What was missing in our conversation (besides his brain cells)? My name. He obviously forgot it.

    This doesn’t hurt me. I don’t mind if you forget my name. It happens to me all the time (meaning I forget other people’s name, not my own). What hurt was the fact he did a lousy job covering for it.

    However, worse cover-ups are possible:

    “You know, I forgot how to spell your name.”


    “Oh. Sorry. My parents are cousins.”

    A friend of mine to this day still calls me Darren. I don’t have the heart to correct him. For over a year now he has called me by this name. How can I politely tell him he is an idiot?

    We all love the sound of our own name ringing through the lips of other people. Our own name serves as dessert for our ears after hours of meticulously wading though thousands of other words and names throughout the day.

    Yet when it comes to other people’s names our brains shut down. We are able to recite all the lyrics to R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World,” backwards, forwards and in Chinese. But trying to remember a one- to two-syllable identifying word of a fellow classmate seems more torturous than passing a stone.

    Remembering names does not come as second nature to me. I only wish.

    Last semester I had an entire conversation with a girl whose name had slipped my mind. Somewhere along the conversation she had figured this out. She soon asked me if I had seen Kristin Kesler around. “Kristin Kesler?” I thought. “Kristin Kesler who?”

    In a desperate attempt to cover up my stupidity I said, “Yeah, she’s doing great,” and our conversation ended immediately.

    “That’s me,” she said. “What are you, an idiot?”

    “Yes … I mean no … I mean, um, what was the question?”

    A teacher once told me that a physical action helps your brain focus. Whenever you hear someone’s name, draw it with your finger on the side of your leg. Oh, now that’s a great first impression. “Who’s the spaz with the twitchy finger?”

    Someone else once told me to rhyme the name with a familiar word and draw familiar connections with physical characteristics. This can be risky:

    You are introduced to two football players with acne named Bart and Chuck. Later you see them walking on campus and your “memory tool” slips.

    “Yo, Barf. What’s up Chuck?”

    Six days later you might be released from the hospital.

    So, what do the cold-hearted name impaired do to overcome embarrassments in this socialized name-oriented society? Honesty? Right.

    “Hey, Deric. Wow, it’s good to see you. You are looking as good as ever. I was thinking to myself the other day, ‘Deric C. Nance is my best friend.’ I love you, man.”

    “Um, what is your name?”

    This is cold, hollow, tasteless and rude — unfortunately, my four best friends.

    Do we take a stab in the dark?

    “Yo, Steve.”

    “It’s Dave, you pimple brain.”

    We could all wear name tags. OK.

    “Hey, Jim. How’s life?”

    “It’s Tim, you moron. Try wearing your glasses.”

    I have no quick solution for you, but I can tell you that any effort put forth in remembering someone’s name will make a difference.

    So, then “what’s in a name?” Well, it’s a representation of who a person is. It’s one of the initial key identifying features that separates you from all the other “zoobies” who walk the halls of BYU. It’s that tiny bridge that connects the chasm between mere acquaintances and friends. It’s the small effort you make to make a difference in someone’s day. It’s one word you can remember to let someone else know that they are different, unique — or even noticed.

    Two semesters ago I happened to remember someone’s name I briefly met at a party. Ever since then I’ve called him by name when I see him so he can feel popular. I doubt he knows my name or even remembers who I am, but I know it makes him fell cool when I do it — especially when he’s talking to some girl. What can I say? I’m a nice guy. I mean, hey, I’d want someone to do the same for me. We need all the help we can get. Well, I do.

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