The Importance of … Not Being Called the Wrong Name

wrong nameIt stinks to be called the wrong name — but what if it’s your colleague or boss who’s doing it?  How do you correct them?  Obviously, we had to wait to answer this reader mail until we started using our name with the blog…

I’m wondering how to handle correcting people on my name. My name is Diana, and I am constantly called Diane. This seems to happen most often in email of all places, where my name is automatically generated by Outlook in the To line, and where often my signature block is in the thread. Both coworkers, including HR of all places, and opposing counsel get it wrong with some frequency. Apparently this also happens a lot to my friend Julia, who is often called Julie. Diane and Julie are lovely names, but they aren’t ours.

When and how do I correct HR/partners/opposing counsel? This is really starting to drive me up the wall.

As a “Katherine” whose only nickname has ever been “Kat” — never Kathy or Kate — this author feels your pain. For our $.02, the trick is figuring out when to care if someone has your name wrong. For example, that random guy who responded to my e-mail last week “Thanks Kathy” — not a big enough deal to correct him on my name. However, when I started at my old firm, the partner assigned to be my liaison (and help me round up work) mistakenly thought my name was Kathy. (Or perhaps that all Katherines like to go by Kathy? It was never clear to me.) He immediately began promoting me to other partners as “Kathy” — which made me cringe every time, and required correction.  In your situation, we would say that HR is a big deal because they are likely to introduce you to other people — but opposing counsel isn’t such a big deal, because if s/he uses the name in court, the names sound similar enough (Diane, Diana) that no one will notice.  (Or just think he or she is being a jerk.)

Now, when it does matter that you correct the person on your name, it’s difficult to do it in a way that doesn’t come off as conceited, self-important, passive aggressive, or petty.  (At least, it always feels that way.)  Some suggestions for you:

– With a friend or colleague:  Tell a story about yourself, and refer to yourself in the third person.  As in, “My friends were all like, DIANA, stop it, you’re killing us!”

– With an introduction:  “Hi, Diane, it’s great to see you.  Meet my colleague ____.”  Then you turn to shake the colleague’s hand and say, “Hi, Diana __.”  Repeat your full name, even if the person before just said it.

– Through voicemails.  Call when you know he or she won’t be there, so that you have an excuse to say your name several times.  “Hi __, it’s DIANA __.  I just thought I’d call to respond to __.  Again, this is DIANA ___, please give me a call back at ___.”

– Direct.   Sometimes the only way to do this is to be direct, where you have to have a conversation with the person.  We would advise doing it in person, so your tone will not be misunderstood (and your tone should be light).  Such as, “Hi, HR person.”  “Hi, Diane!”  “Oh, ha, my mother would have a heart attack if she heard that — she fought tooth and nail against every grade school teacher who tried to call me that, which is why I staunchly insist on  ‘Diana’ today.  Anyway, I came by to drop off this file…”

Readers, any other tips?

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  1. I’m interested in hearing the replies/advice to this one. My last name sounds more like a first name than my actual first name (which is actually a pretty common first name too). I am constantly being called by my last name – in email, in voicemail messages. It drives me up the wall and I haven’t found a good way to correct people without looking like a nutjob. I suspect most of the mistakes stem from how my email pops up in everyone’s outlook – lastname, first name.

    • I get this too, all the time. My first name is traditionally male when it’s used as a first name at all, and is more common as a last name. My last name sounds a little like a common female first name. Nobody can pronounce or spell either one, and the order gets reversed all the time (including in the court’s notification database and my office’s phonemail system, to name the two most annoying examples).

      I HATE it. I would change my name in a heartbeat if it weren’t too late – I should have done it when I went off to college and nobody knew me. Oh well.

      • I have a common girl’s name for a last name, and I often get greeted by my last name. I usually just respond back with my 1st name. My one co-worker (with the same problem) said he responds back by addressing the person with their last name (which seems a little inappropriate to me.)

        I also get people thinking I have a double first name (like Mary Ann). Which is just as annoying.

        • As someone with a double name, let me tell you, having someone omit the second half is equally annoying.

          • My BF agrees – he has a double French name (think Jean-Francois or similar) and he gets mail addressed to Mrs. Jean F. Lastname all the time!

    • Anonymous :

      I have the same problem and it drives me crazy. For emails, I have gotten good reactions when I send a reply saying, “[Person], please feel free to call me by my first name, [Firstname].”

      • Anonymous,
        Thank you!! I think that’s a great tactful way to correct email mistakes when called by lastname.

  2. As a fellow Katherine, this also drives me crazy! At my current job I was introduced by my boss as “Kathy” all.the.time. It doesn’t help that my work email is katherine.lastname.

    After being introduced incorrectly, and shaking the new person’s hand, I would just say, “I’m sorry, it’s Katie” or “Actually, it’s Katie.” It would slip into the conversation at the right moment before the conversation got down to its purpose. Any attempt to clear it up after that point and it just gets more awkward!

    • me too. Though there are some people I’ve just accepted will never get it and will always call me Kate rather than Katie. Which is better than Kathy, which I really would forget to answer to.

    • Yes, I do this too. Shake hands, and say “actually it’s (name).” Unfortunately people only retain this information about 50% of the time, but it’s worth trying.

  3. This happens to me a lot in the spelling of my first name, which has an errant “a”. There are two spellings of my name, and mine is the much less common. I usually don’t care enough to correct it, unless it’s a nametag-type situation. I just had this happen yesterday, as a matter of fact. I did some, “Oh (disappointment in tone), my name is spelled wrong.” The woman responsible was apologetic, but I felt like an ass for the knee-jerk way I’d handled it. I just can’t figure out a good way to correct people.

    • I have the same issue, except mine goes the other way — the common spelling of my name has an extra letter than the way my name is actually spelled. At my former firm, which had a grand total of, like, 12 attorneys (partners and associates), nobody EVER got it right. They always got it wrong — on the website, in emails to me, and even in letters to opposing counsel, where I was referenced, and my name was on the letterhead!! I tried raising the issue early on in my employment there, but was urged by one of the senior paralegals to just let it go and not bring attention to myself. Since it was one of those firms where the paralegals really ran the place, I followed this advice. I wish I could have come up with a way of correcting people without sounding like a jerk.

      (I’m happy to say I’ve moved on from that firm. THANKFULLY. :) )

      • Delta Sierra :

        Seems odd to me that a law firm would be so cavalier about this. I have an odd first name, and have spent a lot of time making sure it is spelled correctly in legal papers, so there’s no grief down the road – car rental insurance, for instance.

  4. As an “Ariella” who’s often called “Aureola,” “Maryellen,” “Aurelia,” and “Ariel,” I feel your pain. In addition, even if they pronounce it correctly, they often get the emphasis wrong. Once I remarked that my parents did not name me after a nipple!

    When someone gets my name wrong in an oral setting, I’ll just correct them casually. So, I’ll just say, “It’s Ariella, actually,” and let it go. If it’s continual and doesn’t abate, I’ll try to correct them a few more times. Ultimately, though, some people cannot handle that many vowels, I guess, and cannot pronounce it correctly.

    If it’s written, as in an e-mail, I might send an e-mail to correct someone. It really depends on how often I’m in contact with the person.

  5. My first name is unisex. Well, it’s not “Unisex”–it’s actually “Dallas.” Anyway, I was just introduced to a new client via email, and the new client responded, “Tell him [referring to me] to be in touch with…” I had to correct the client on my gender because I was going to meet him in a few hours, and I needed him to know who he should be looking for–a female, not a male. I did it in response to his email. I didn’t make it the topic of the email, but I casually said, “Just so you know who to be looking for tomorrow morning, I’m a female–tall, blonde hair. I usually stick out (like a sore thumb) among the male defense attorneys.” Not sure if it was the most appropriate thing to say, but I didn’t have a lot of time to think about it and needed to deal with the issue directly. I think it went over okay– I met him the next morning, and we never discussed it again. Not the first time I’ve dealt with the name/gender issue, and I’m sure it won’t be the last!

    • I work with a female attorney with a traditionally male name, and all of her correspondence (including e-mail signature, etc.) say:
      “Jane Doe (Ms.)”. Don’t know if that would help you, but it has helped her through the years!

      • Funny that you say that– as soon as I’m done with my master’s thesis, the MS will definitely be at the end of my name!

  6. I know a woman named Beth, who will introduce herself, and say that its just Beth, not Elizabeth from the start to avoid any errors later.

  7. Heh, I get called Julia all the time. And my last name is regularly mispronounced, so I get it coming and going.

    Granted that I’m in academia and not a “real” professional environment, but I prefer to be as direct as possible, particularly when being introduced. Whoever you are being introduced to is (probably) paying attention fairly precisely to your name at that point and you are doing them a favor to help them get it right.

    “This is Julia Bouquet, our military historian.”
    “It’s Julie actually, Julie Bucket. So nice to meet you!”

    Even when it’s a longstanding error, I prefer to say something along the lines of “just Julie, actually” rather than try to be clever about it. For one thing, if you don’t call attention to it being an error, your listeners might miss the point. For another, I tend to think that addressing it head-on keeps it from dragging out into a whole passive-aggressive “thing”. If it’s a situation where you do need it to be right (and I like your distinctions), then just say it. Otherwise, to be honest, I just ignore it, but then I’m not really bothered by answering to Julia.

    That said, I have sometimes phrased it as “I go by Julie” to make it seem less like “you’re wrong” and more like “here’s my preference which you couldn’t have known”.

    • Hear, hear for being direct with people. I generally object to all of the beating-around-the-bush and “cute and clever” social etiquette advice as if we constantly need to be on guard for someone else’s feelings lest we offend them, even if it is something as straight forward as communicating your own name.

    • I think that’s the right way to do it regardless of what profession you’re in – Letting people call you by the incorrect name leads to too many awkward moments later – you’re annoyed, they feel foolish and its just not pleasant for anyone.

    • nice Keeping Up Appearances reference!

  8. As a Marissa who is constantly being called Melissa, Marsha and Martha (the one that really floors me is Melissa. I mean, there’s no “L” sound in Marissa!) I can really relate. It’s such a common slip that some of my managers, who have known me for years, refer to me casually as Melissa before having to correct themselves.

    I’ve found the best thing is to correct people in person — and swiftly, so they don’t go on and on making the mistake, and then wonder why you didn’t correct them sooner (most people are horrified to learn they’ve been saying it wrong). Typically a direct “Oh, it’s [insert your actual name here],” early in a conversation or introduction will suffice, and if someone keeps getting it wrong, it’s easy to playfully rib them for not being able to remember.

    • Marissa: If it’s any consolation, the l and the r sounds are linguistically related and in some languages (Japanese, I believe, is one) are not distinguished.

      • That makes sense — and, in a way, explains everything! Oh well.

      • My name is Carissa, and I *CONSTANTLY* get Clarissa or the pronunciation of Carissa (and even more commonly, the wrong spelling–people love to spell it with two Rs and 1 S). I usually pipe up the first time to correct it and, in one on one situations, that usually fixes the problem. I’m a new grad student, though, so this happened frequently last semester with new professors in a classroom setting, and I didn’t know what to do after the first correction. One correction seems fine, but I felt quite self-conscious about correcting them a second time.

        On the other hand, I’m now TAing and I’m on the other side of learning 75 students’ names in the span of 2 days, the vast majority of which are foreign names. It’s surprisingly difficult to break your habits are what certain sounds SHOULD look like, even when you know better (I try to notate a pronunciation guide for myself to remember better). Even so, the hardest name for me to remember how to pronounce this semester is the student who has the same (unusual) name as my younger sister, but one of 3 alternative pronunciations.

      • Oh, and also Korean is one of those languages as well, and Koreans also don’t distinguish between G and K either (which is why Kim, when pronounced by a Korean, is usually a combined G/K sound).

        • Puerto Ricans do the same thing – Ls and Rs are pretty much interchangeable when they speak Spanish.

  9. I’m an Elisabeth who goes by Betsy. I find it helps to use my nickname instead of my given name on resumes, in email addresses, etc. However, I also get called “Becky” a lot. I correct people immediately since it’s more embarrassing to correct someone after several mistakes. But I do it with a laugh, saying I get it all the time.

    • elisabeth :

      Yay! a fellow “s” Elisabeth! I don’t correct people when they use a z instead of an s, but I really don’t like being called “Liz”

      • Hello ladie”s”! I am a “z” Elizabeth who goes by all 4 syllables. No, I am not a Liz, or a Beth, or a Betsy, or a Becky or a Libby (still don’t know how you get Libby from Elizabeth…). Anyway, I am grateful for Cat’s advice. I will certainly find plenty of opportunity to impliment these tactful tricks!

        • Me too! I really dislike it when people instantly shorten E-liz-a-beth to Liz, which I’ve never gone by and don’t respond to – can they not be bothered to say 4 syllables? I’ve often noticed an age/ gender aspect to it, too: senior/ superior men claiming their dominance by diminutizing my name (or maybe I’m sensitive…). Great thread! So many helpful ideas here.

          • Funny – Men seem to always lengthen mine (think Beth to Elizabeth, although that’s not my name). When I introduce myself to an older man, probably 70% of the time they say “Oh, is that short for Elizabeth?” And I say “yes, but I don’t answer to it,” and leave it at that.

            I have a cousin Elizabeth, and it floors me that some people are too lazy to say 4 syllables.

        • on behalf of Kat… actually, it’s Kat :)

          • My name is Veronica and people often seem to think it’s too long to bother saying and always ask what my nickname is or what I usually get called (which is Veronica). I also get called Victoria, Vanessa and Monica at times.

          • Yes – yes, my B! My error was far too ironic for this post! Thank you for the correction. :)

        • Elizabeth :

          Me too– I get “Liz” a lot, even though I’ve never called myself that and I don’t think of myself as a Liz.

          I was called Libby until I put my foot down when I was 13, and introduced myself as Elizabeth when I changed schools. I haven’t looked back since– let’s fight for our full names! : )

  10. I’m a Julia who frequently gets called Julie, even by attorneys I’ve worked with for many years. I only correct people when I feel like they really need to know what my name is for future reference. Otherwise I let it go.

    In casual settings, I generally say “It’s Julia, like ‘Julia Gulia,'” which always makes people remember my name going forward!

    • Hilarious, and great attitude :)

      • I have a similar trick with my double first name, which is not in reference to America’s best selling brand, but can be taken as analogous. People very rarely forget it once I’ve said it that way, but they will sometimes revert to calling me “Mary Kay” after I’ve told them that my name is “Amanda Kay, like ‘Mary Kay.'” And that could be worse.

        • I do something similar, too. My name gets mucked up so often that for awhile I was convinced that I must say it wrong/weird.

          My first name is Janet. When people err, I say, “it’s JANET, like Jackson.” Depending on the circumstances (not professional), I sometimes add “but no wardrobe malfunctions.” People rarely make the mistake again.

          I also despise when people call me “Jan” or “Jane”. My mother used to say “she’s not a plain Jane” (no offense to people named Jane — it’s a perfectly good name, it’s just not mine!) I think I hate Jan because of the brady bunch. I try to correct these things immediately. The longer you let it go, the more awkward it becomes.

          My fiance has an extremely uncommon first name. I’ve taken to introducing him and immediately spelling his name for whoever I am introducing him. “Hi, soandso, this is my fiance, firstname, f-i-r-s-t-n-a-m-e. ” It avoids some, but not all, of the confusion.

  11. This always happens to my sister, Meg, whose full name is Margaret–not Megan. Megan makes her (and me) cringe (not because it’s not a lovely name; it’s just not her name). It drives her nuts, but it drives my mother even crazier.

    My name gets butchered too–it’s Caitlin, spelled the old-school, standard way, and I’ve been called “Kateland” (with a D on the end, like “Ireland” or something) several times. Folks asking my name and writing it down is always a challenge, too, as people are more used to seeing it spelled “Katelynne” or “Kaitlyn” or “Caitlynne” these days. Not as easy to correct as “Sarah with an H” or “Kathryn with a Y.”

    • Fellow C-a-i-t-l-i-n Caitlin here! Yup, we don’t have a prayer. I tell Starbucks and take-out restaurants that it’s “Kate,” just to spare us all the trouble. Katelands abound, as do Cat-lynns. Obviously you can’t blame anyone — unless they’re replying to the e-mail you sent from caitlin.lastname@…

      • As a Sara (with no H), My name is constantly spelled wrong and I hate it. I have been working in the same firm for a long time and when counsel reply to my email it’s always Sarah (even though my signature is SARA LASTNAME). I have gotten to the point of not responding to some of the lighter hearted lawyers. That way, when they say you didn’t respond to my email… I say, Sarah is not my name so I thought you were talking to someone else. The Stevens/Stephens in my firm do the same thing as well as the Kimberlee and Kimberleys

        • Yep, I get people responding to my messages with the wrong spelling too. And my spelling is the most common one – so it’s like they’re getting an email from Jane Doe, and responding with “Dear Jayne.” Makes no sense, and worse, the most common mispelling of my name makes it into a man’s name!

    • I’m also a Meg…short for Margaret. I get called Megan all the time, and it drives me crazy! The worst is when I started a new job and the HR lady kept calling me “Megan.” I tried to politely correct her by saying, “Actually, it’s Margaret. I just go by Meg.” To which she replied, “Oh its Margaret Megan?” Three years later and she still gets it wrong half the time.

      • You’d think HR people would be better at names, given the fact that its their job…

  12. I just say “actually, I go by…[real name]” right after they call me by a wrong name. Nobody has reacted poorly to this, I don’t think.
    And I try not to get too irritated by people who probably don’t intend any harm.

    Also, I’m personally not a big fan of using nicknames in professional settings, and I wonder what others think about this issue?

    • What do you mean by nicknames?

      For example, do you mean a Katherine who goes by Kate, or a Katherine middle initial J who goes by KJ, or something different altogether?

      • I suppose I had more in mind what the poster below says… names that have the potential of sounding more casual/borderline child-like when there is a more formal-sounding alternative. I have one of those nicknames too that ends in an “ie” that all of my family and friends call me, but I use my more formal name at work. Just my personal preference.

        I do recognize that there are many people whose “real name” sounds like a nickname… someone’s name on their birth certificate might say “Mandee,” instead of “Amanda.”

    • anon - chi :

      I try not to ever call someone by a nickname unless I know for a fact that they go by that nickname, but I work with more than one partner who will just pick a nickname for an associate and go with it (i.e. “kate” for “katherine”) even though the associate does not go by that nickname.

      I do think it’s a little odd when people go by nicknames in the workplace that sound like they are meant for children (“Benny” for Benjamin, “Maddie” for Madeleine, etc.).

    • I go by a nickname — I’ve been using a shortened version of my name since I was six weeks old, I’m not changing now

      • Me too. And I HATE when someone calls me by my full name, especially if they don’t in fact know that it’s my first name but are just assuming. It says my nickname on my Outlook, door plate, business card, everything.

        • Agree — And in my case, they usually guess wrong.

          Although, more amusing, I did have an instance a few years ago when applying for jobs, when a potential employer very obviously was expecting a man to come in (my name, while a only slightly unusualy woman’s name in the U.S. – think dated, not weird), can also be a man’s name in Russia/Poland…

    • Chicago K :

      I actually don’t prefer nicknames in a professional setting based on technology limitations. Where I work, at a company with 60,000 employees, it can be hard to find a collegue within the email directory who goes by a nickname. Your email address is your legal name as given to HR, but loads of employees go by middle names, nicknames, initials and made up names! I understand it’s hard if you’ve gone by something your entire life that’s not actually your legal name, and we try to assign multiple names in the internal email directory, if requested. But it’s still confusing when I search for Robert and David.Lastname comes up…

      • Sounds like your HR people have a problem, not people with nicknames. At my company, your email can show up as Lastname, Nickname or Lastname, Firstname (Nickname).

        • True. Most of the time people just don’t know to request this. I actually took on a task during a recent acquisition of gathering the nicknames from the new staff and submitted it to the email area. It was suprising, out of 600 new people, about 100 didn’t go by their legal names.

    • (the other) Dasha :

      Dasha is a nickname in Russian of Darya, which was my legal name. I hate every English attempt to pronounce Darya, and its not possible for English speakers to say it correctly. Everyone has always called me Dasha my entire life and I got tired of explaining it, so I just legally changed it to Dasha. Maybe a drastic solution, but it makes my life easier because I feel like “Dasha” is my “real” name. There’s no issue of formality in English because most Americans don’t know that its technically a nickname.

      Also I’m not the Dasha who usually comments, I’m (the other) Dasha. Weird that there are two of us here.

      • Dasha, could you give me some hints about pronouncing “Daria”? I work with a Daria, and although I met her through her Russian friends, who all call her “Dasha,” so I follow suit, I would like to be able to attempt to pronounce her first name.

        • (the other) Dasha :

          Most people named Daria in the US pronounce it like the MTV cartoon (I didn’t though). The correct Russian pronunciation is Dar’ – ya. The R is soft. I googled it and found this –

          I’ve never yet met a native English speaker who could say it properly – you have to be able to roll your Rs and say a soft consonant, which English doesn’t have.

          Also, most of the time in Russian, using someone’s full name is similar to using someone’s first and middle names in English – like what your mom would call you if you were in trouble :) Even in semi official situations I would say my name as Dasha.

          • Thank you for the help, but I now realize I’m doomed – I can barely pronounce an “r” (grew up in Massachusetts), and have no hope of ever rolling one!

    • I do the same, and find it works just fine. Both my first and last (now that I’m married) names are difficult to spell and can easily be confused with about 4 other names. And if somebody gets it right, they get an “I’m impressed!” But then again, I used to do barely-warm-calling and had to figure out strange names all the time, so I’m sympathetic.

    • Depends on the nickname. I probably wouldn’t go by Meggie for Margaret or A.J. for Anna Jane or Mike for Michelle, but I think Peg or Anita or Shelley would be fine.

      • Why do you say not A.J.?

        I go by CJ despite the fact that my birth certificate carries a double name. I hate the double name, the first is shortened frequently to something I detest. Let’s say it was Barbara Lee- I do not want to be called Barbie, or Barbie Lee, so I’ve been called CJ since the first grade.

        Whenever I have a choice, I say “call me CJ” or “it’s CJ”, I always sign “CJ”. I also leave out the punctuation.

        I think the fact that it doesn’t reveal gender has actually helped me sometimes, and I don’t mind getting a Mr. here and there.

      • I don’t see anything wrong with Mike as a woman’s nickname. My mom is Micheleann (pronounced Michael Ann, even though everyone thinks it is Michelle Ann). She perfers to be called “Mike” and the signature line of her email reads Micheleann “Mike” Lastname. I do get funny looks when I introduce people to my mom “Mike” though!

  13. About emails–make sure that the IT people get your name right. I’ve had problems with people misspelling my name b/c the IT people misspelled it when they assocated the name w/ the email. I’m not sure the technical aspects of this, but here’s what I’m talking about:
    You know how when you start to type an email, and it automatically fills in, and it says something like “[email protected][Diane Smith]” ? The IT people who set up your email tell it what name to display in the brackets. You won’t notice this yourself (unless maybe if you email something to yourself?), but everyone you send a message to will see it, and assume it’s your name. I had this happen to me when I started working somewhere new and didn’t realize it for a few months until one time when I told someone “it’s Diana” and he said “I’m sorry, your email said Diane.”

    • Chicago K :

      Good point. It’s usually referred to as a nickname or alias within email systems. Where I work, people often request this to be the abbreviated name, ie – “Betsy” for “Elizabeth”. because if everyone is typing Elizabeth, you might not find the person you want to send to, who has their actual email address with a different name.

    • Delta Sierra :

      My husband’s name is Jim Brown. Yeah, thanks, we’ve heard all the jokes, both for Jim Brown the football player and James Brown the singer. Once he worked for a big company, and there were 3 of them, and they all got each other’s emails before IT worked something out. You should see when he goes through Customs and Immigration. Apparently there are pages and pages and pages of Jim Brown’s they would like to talk to.

  14. As a Kathleen, I get the Kathy’s and the Katie’s too. I also really dislike being called Katherine, which being more common (especially in my age range) happens a lot. My name has a lot of significance. It’s a family name and it speaks to my heritage. This is a tricky issue, and one I address only when absolutely necessary. People who don’t have commonly mis-spoken names don’t understand how jarring it can be to be introduced as someone other than yourself! Spread the awareness!

    • Anonymous :

      I’m a Cathleen and I hate being called Cathy or Catherine too! “Cathleen” seems difficult for some native-foreign language speakers to pronounce, though.

      • Very true! I went to high school with a Kathleen, whose parents were of Asian descent and pronounced her name Kut-leen. So she went by Kut.

  15. My name is Rachel and I am frequently mistaken as a Rebecca. (This has happened so often that it became my blog title) It happens ALL the time. I really don’t know what it is, because even when I correct people, they have responded with “oh…well…you look like a Rebecca.”

    • I’m a Rebecca and frequently get “Rachel”. Worse, my husband, whom I’ve known since I was quite young, calls me “Becca”, a name I only allow him to use, but his family has picked it up! Correcting your mother in law’s use of your name after many, many years is no picnic.

      • Funny story – one of my best friends from college is Agnieszka. She hates when Americans call her Aggie, but most can’t say Agnieszka and she doesn’t like Agnes either, so she usually lets people call her Aggie. I’ve always called her Agnieszka. Once, when she was about 3 months married, I was in the car with her and her new husband, whom I’d just met, and I made a reference to how she hates being called Aggie. Her husband went dead silent, and then said “But that’s what I call you… why didn’t you tell me you hate it?”


        • L from Oz :

          The Agniezskas I know (three of them) all go by “Aga”, which is fine, but I usually check first that it’s an actual nickname rather than an ‘avoid the name being mangled compromise’, particularly since I can pronounce most Eastern European names.

          Mind you, Aga isn’t the best nickname in the UK, unless one wishes to be confused with a stove!

    • I’m Rachael, and I get Rachel (in spelling) and Rebecca! Why do people want to make Rachels Rebeccas? I get the same thing about “looking like a Rebecca.” It’s a lovely name, but not mine!

      • I’m also a “Rachael” and I occasionally get Rebecca, but more often get “Rachelle”, I suppose on account of people not knowing what to do with the extra “a”. It happed all the time when I was a little girl, but less frequently since some famous “Rachaels” – (e.g. Rachael Ray) came along and made the spelling seem more common.

        • I get Rachelle too – people don’t know what to do with that second “a”. And God love Rachael Ray for giving me an easy reference! I would say most of my life, I get about 70/30 – 70% of people default to spelling it Rachel, but there is a sizeable majority that defaults to Rachael.

    • I’ve had the same problem… after I went through an entire swim class as a child letting the instructor call me something else entirely, my mother gave me the valuable advice that unless you correct people the first time, it gets harder to do it later – and when you do, they’re going to wonder why you didn’t do it sooner

    • I have a similar odd one. My name is Jessica and, for some reason, a number of times people have tried to call me Jennifer. Maybe because the look/structure of the name is similar? It’s funny though – I was almost named Jennifer.
      On the main issue of the thread, I sometimes get called by a nickname I don’t like. The most common ones are “Jess” and “Jessie”. Jess doesn’t bother me in a non-professional/official setting (in fact most of my friends call me that), but Jessie annoys me. The only people allowed to call me that are family. I’ve found that telling people upfront that I prefer not to go by that nickname and that it’s a “family” nickname usually stops it up front.

      • My name is Jennifer but I’ve been called Jessica on a number of different occasions. I’ve always thought that was weird! My roommate in undergrad was named Jessica and people called us by the other’s name all the time.

        Most of my friends call me Jen and I sign emails as Jen with only 1 “n” to them, but some of them still type my nickname as Jenn with 2 “n”s. Misspelling my nickname doesn’t really bother me but I’ll continue to spell it the way that I like.

        My last name is always pronounced incorrectly and I always just correct it on the spot. It seems easier to do that though because I think a lot of people assume that they are mispronouncing last names.

  16. MissAnnOnymous :

    My name’s Diana, too, and my mom’s Diane. (I guess my dad who named me thought he was being cute.)

    I am forever called the wrong name. Like others have mentioned, I let it go when it’s someone I won’t interact with again, but correct them when it’s someone I’ll see. I’ve used both the conversational, “Actually, it’s Diana” and the voicemail, “Hi, Jill, DIANA Smith calling you.”

    I’ve also used, “Oh, no, Diane’s my mom, please don’t call me that! ” approach. Men seem to understand that well, given that so many are juniors and differentiate between generations with subtle name changes. I might invent an Aunt Diane and try it once and see how it works for you.

    • MissAnnOnymous :

      Sorry, formatting glitch that erased something important. It’s supposed to read “Oh, no, Diane’s my mom, please don’t call me that! ~laugh~”

      When I say it, I’m always sure to laugh and smile. It’d be catty otherwise.

  17. Well first off, I think the example of the grade school teacher in the article is incredibly passive aggressive. My name is Carolyn and I am often called Caroline by many people, including bosses. Rather than making a big deal of it, the first few times my name is said, I casually correct people. “It’s Carolyn actually…” Then, unless it really matters (if someone is introducing me to people) I just let it go. And if I’m introduced incorrectly, I just repeat “I’m Carolyn. Whoever, it’s nice to meet you.” While I love the song Sweet Caroline, it has caused a lot of cringing and being called the wrong name all of my life.

    • Funny, my sister Caroline gets “Carolyn” pretty often! Carolina, also, oddly enough.

      • C, I totally feel you. I’m a CaroLINE, and I get “Carolyn” all. the. time. Including from management at my job. I initially corrected the ones who mess it up, but they persist in calling me “Carolyn.” Lovely name; not my name. At this point (I’ve been here nearly three years), I am kind of at a loss as to how to fix the problem — when I first started, I introduced myself and corrected the bosses, gently, when they got it wrong. But they’ve kept insisting on getting it wrong (at one point one senior counsel hollered down the hall “Hey Carolyn! …Car0line! Whatever your name is!”), and I don’t think I can gracefully correct them now.

  18. My legal name is Rebecca, but I always always go by Becky. It was a huge pain when I started at the firm because they put everything – my bio, my business cards, my timing software, etc. with Rebecca. I finally got them to change it because by saying “I go by Becky, my clients all know me as Becky, and if I was in their shoes I wouldn’t even know who Rebecca is.” It’s definitely a pain, so I have promised myself I will name my children with the name I plan to call them.

    • I feel your pain. My legal name is Margaret but I’ve been called Maggie since day 1. I’ve debated with myself for years over which name to use professionally (given the advice not to use a cutesy name) but at the end of the day, I’m a Maggie, not a Margaret.

    • Corporate Tool :

      I’m a Becky too, and I decided when I switched jobs to use it as my e-mail name. Much easier than correcting people each time.

  19. My real name is Jenny (not Jennifer) and this happens all the time. I usually try to say something funny (though who knows if the listener actually likes my jokes). My last name is also really difficult to pronounce, so I give people a rhyme for it. Introducing me is rather difficult, I guess, so I try to do what Katie describes above.

    • I’m with you! My legal name is Kate, not Katherine, not Katie, etc. My parents figured they’d name me what they planned to call me and not both. But even after years of practicing loud, crisp proununciation of “Hello, I’m Kate” people will immediately respond with “Nice to meet you Katie.” (I actually once worked a job that required me to wear a nametag and people would constantly look at my nametag and then say “Thanks Katie!”). I immediately say “Actually, it’s Kate.” At this point I don’t really care if they think I’m a nutjob for correcting them. Not much you can do over email or in letters though. Unfortunately, I think the Reader needs to learn to let it go because it’s never going to stop happening…

      • Ha, my (romantic) partner has the opposite problem. His legal name is Nick and everyone is always looking to lengthen it to Nicholas on official documents. Hmm.. I wonder if it’s a gender thing: people are always shortening women’s names, but lengthening men’s?

        But speaking of being called the wrong thing, I once had to ask my immediate supervisor to tell a partner I was working with my correct name, because she kept calling me the wrong thing no matter what I did. (yes, I tried all the tricks above, she just didn’t care)

        Also, pet peeve: when you write me an email, and I signed my name in a previous one, and it’s part of my email address, and you still spell it wrong in a really obviously intentional way, I WILL hate you for the rest of your life. j/k but seriously, it’s disrespectful.

        • My sister has a name that most people associate with a longer form – similar to your husband she has to constantly tell people to not lengthen it

    • Oh my gosh! I was just about to post a comment when I saw yours! My full name is also Jenny, not Jennifer. On my birth certificate. My email, my signature, the way I introduce myself are not enough to keep people from calling me Jennifer. I try not to be a nut about it but it is not my name! It seems like people are trying to make my name more formal, which is pretty annoying.

      I haven’t found a way to correct people without feeling like I am over-reacting. I generally go with the direct approach (“it’s just Jenny”), which has led friends to call me “Just Jenny” at times bc it happens so often.

      • My mom is a “Just Betsy.” She runs into the same thing – everyone wants to call her Elizabeth.

        • Delta Sierra :

          My mother was legally ‘Betty’, and hated it that she hadn’t been christened ‘Elizabeth’.

      • Anonymous :

        I can understand why it’s frustrating when the longer version isn’t your name, but I think that people are *trying* be respectful by not using what they assume is your nickname until you’ve established enough of a relationship to warrant that intimacy.

        It’s the opposite of the posters above who complained that some people (especially older, male partners) try to make her name into a diminutive (ending in “ie”) when she doesn’t use it. My mom ran into this all the time – they “shortened” her name, Lynn, to “Lynnie” so they could make it cuter and more feminine. Those sample people were condescending and asked her to get coffee. I think using the diminutive can be a way of establishing dominance and/or pretending to have an established close relationship (where it’s not the person’s name).

        So I think when people try to guess the long version of your name, they are saying “I don’t know you that well, so I’m not going to presume that I can use a familiar and/or diminutive form of your name yet.” Which I think is nice of them.

  20. You should always say, “It’s actually Diana, not Diane.” And move on. Don’t ever let anyone call you by the wrong name. Why would you do that? If I learned that I referred to someone in court by the wrong name, I would be embarrassed. And do it immediately because the longer you wait the harder it will be. If you go by a nickname, same rule. “Hey Kathy could you grab me those depos?” “It’s actually Kat or Katherine, not Kathy, sure– I’ll bring them up in 15 minutes.” No need to be cute about it.

  21. Alexandra. Constantly called Alexandria and sometimes Alexander. I have no tips in response to the inquiry because I usually don’t correct much of anything these days.
    I also use a nickname that is not Alex, which can get confusing and the nickname constantly is spelled wrong (it has two n’s, mostly people use one). I will tell those unfamiliar with me that I use both names so that they understand they may get a call or email from one or the other and they are both me!
    Email mistakes like this are ridiculous (as noted) because you only have to *look* at the name.
    To top it off: My last name also is difficult.

    • Delta Sierra :

      I can relate: my first and last names are both difficult. I get sooo tired of spelling them out 3 times for people who don’t appear to be listening. It’s gotten so that when it’s appropriate, I just lay my business card down in front of them and show them, with my fingernail right above the name. Tapping, sometimes. ‘Look, here, like this. Got that? Good.’

  22. My issue is a spelling one – I’m “Katharine” with an “a.” I don’t get mad at people for assuming it’s “Katherine,” as most people do, but it does get grating to constantly see one’s name spelled wrong, particularly on official documents that should have been double-checked. Also, since my e-mail address is katharine.lastname I had to get katherine.lastname routed to my account as well since so much stuff was getting bounced back.

  23. AnneCatherine :

    I find the email thing perplexing, too. When I email someone, my name (“Ann with an E” (Anne)) is in the email twice: the from line and the signature block. And still half the people (even people I work with) respond with “Ann, hi, blah blah.” What is that? Then, I get called Annie a lot. That’s a great name, just not mine. I used to resent it but now I just pretend people are calling me a pet name/nickname, instead of just misreading my name. That makes me feel better.

    So my answer is, I don’t know how to correct people, because I seldom have. I think it’s unintentional, and in my case, at least, not that big a deal since it doesn’t change the name drastically. My sister is named “just Beth” and people have called her Elizabeth over the years, but she says, “it’s just Beth, actually.” I’ve noticed, though, that people want to either shorten or lengthen names. In my case and my sister’s, they can’t shorten the names, so they ask her, “Is your name Bethany, or Bethanne, or Elizabeth?” With me, they say, “Is Anne your middle name? Because ‘Anne’ is a middle name.” Or, “Is your name Annabelle? Or Annemarie? Or Annabeth?” I guess it’s small talk, is what it boils down to.

    One day, though, I did have this (rather obnoxious, but nice) co-counsel who kept responding to all my emails “Ann, I’d like to do [blah blah]” She did it about twelve times in a row before I responded, “Julia, that’s a great idea.” (Her name was Julie.) Funnily enough, the next email came addressed to “Anne.” I suppose it WAS rather passive aggressive of me, but it worked.

    • Delta Sierra :

      My sister-in-law Sharon used to spell my name wrong all the time, even after 10 years. So I started writing to her as Dear Sharooon. She got my name right soon after, and still does.

      • I kind of like this method. I have an aunt who has been misspelling my family nickname my entire life. It’s “Jessie”, not “Jesse”. “Jesse” is a guy’s name and I am most certainly not a guy. I might have to try this on her – anyone got any ideas of how to butcher the name Janet??

        • Delta Sierra :

          Hm, let’s see…Janelle? Jane? Janie? Jeanette?

        • Boy, do I ever!

          I get: Jan, Jane, Janette. Sometime Jennifer. Sometimes names so far from Janet it’s not even funny!

    • Anne is a middle name? That is hilarious. I didn’t know there were rules about these things! People are idiots.

  24. Responding to the post about nicknames, I have no problem with Jenny, Katie, Becky, etc., but I have a hard time referring to an older attorney, co-counsel that I’ve never met before, by a nickname such as Mo (for Maureen). I find this nickname to be way to casual for an attorney and usually refer to these types of people as Ms. [last name], but sometimes that can seem too formal, and I certainly don’t want to address this person as Maureen because they obviously do not go by that name. Maybe I only feel this way because I’m relatively young (29), and much younger than the co-counsel or clients that I’m corresponding with, so it seems odd to call them by their first names anyway. Or maybe I’m just thinking about this WAY too much!

    • Call the older attorneys by whatever name they introduce themselves with. Don’t call them Ms. or Mr. unless they call you Ms. or Mr. – that’s the equivalent of being called ma’am when you still think of yourself as a miss.

  25. I think it’s curious that people are so particular with nicknames. I certainly understand preferences, but in many countries & cultures people with any given name (e.g., Alexandra) will be addressed by many different nicknames (e.g., Alex, Lexie, Sandy, etc.). So, especially with something like Kate/Katie or Jess/Jessie, I would not be so bothered with someone using a pet name form of a formal name (though, this may be inappropriate for other reasons like “hey, I dont know you!”).

    I think a more interesting dilemna comes up with “difficult” or unusual last names. Many commenters mentioned this & it seems to be much harder to address.

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