Monday, January 19, 2015

Say my name, say my name

So this week I informed my friend Clay that I was going to start calling him Clayton. I always prefer the formal forms of names; sometimes I'll even add syllables for effect. He endorsed the change. It's adulty, he said: Clay got busted stealing cookies. Clayton defended your brother in court. I changed his contact info in my phone and liked what I saw very much.

But here's the problem with such a change: I never, ever address him by name. If we drop by each other's offices, we just say hey, do a couple upside-down nods at each other, and launch right in. If we msg each other on email, chat or text, it's the same thing. And frankly, on those, we're pretty lucky to get a hey in at all.

It's not just with him; I realized that I hardly ever call anyone by name. For those dearest to me there are sweet names; for most others, with whom affection is largely unspoken, there is the common hey-hey exchange.

The sad part is that we human beings love hearing our names. I remember when my friend Luis started at the paper and we sat around one night saying his name in different ways. We must have said it maybe 30 times in about 3 minutes; he just giggled with delight in hearing it. And I know the tiny thrill I get when I hear my name from the lips of someone I like. 

But so much of that has been lost in modern written and spoken communication. In the past few months I've thought a lot about the differences between email and traditional letter writing -- a medium I mostly missed out on and therefore understand not at all. My friend Mary suggests that they're different forms of communication altogether, one completely evolved from the other, to suit different needs. And that we should treat them as such and stop asking so much of email. For business, I think I can get on board with that. But I will say that for personal messages I appreciate a salutation and a valediction, as infrequently as I use either one. As old-fashioned-seeming and unfit-for-me as it feels, I have to admit that I really love seeing my name.

I suppose that it's because of familiarity that we lose the personal touch of the name. But who would you rather hear say your name than someone you like and choose to talk to every day? So I'm going to try to start using people's names more. 

But maybe not Clayton though. That shit is just too long. I don't know what I was thinking.

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