What’s Your Name Again?

Andrea Freedman

November 13, 2012

To say that I am bad at remembering names is an understatement. Ask me the date of someone’s birthday, what was said word for word, details of events and I will have no trouble remembering any of it, not to mention that I never, ever forget a face. But if my life depended on it, I cannot remember people’s names. It is so bad that even immediately as a person is in the middle of telling me their name, by the time they are finished I have already forgotten it.

If I don’t remember a person’s name, or if I simply do not feel comfortable speaking the name they want me to, I only speak to that person when they are looking directly at me, so that I do not have to say any name at all but he or she still knows that I am talking to them.

I have been in a few awkward situations where I am unable to introduce someone due to the fact that I do not know what to call them. Occasionally, either because a person clues in or perhaps because they find my lack of introduction rude, they sometimes introduce themselves, to my great relief.

I would rather leave well enough alone and not risk the embarrassment if I do introduce someone and actually make a mistake.

“This is Linda.”

“Actually, it’s Lisa.”

In my own family, there are so many relatives that when we have our annual family picnic, everyone wears name tags. I used to laugh about it, seeing that we are all related and you would think we would know one another’s names. I now realize the wisdom behind it.

At the office where I used to work, due to the number of employees at the company, it would have been almost impossible to remember many of their names, had not someone come up with the idea of posting everyone’s picture on the office internet page. I found myself reviewing everyone’s picture and corresponding name on a weekly basis, so that I would be prepared if I bumped into one of them in the elevator or staff lounge.

I can hardly believe it when people remember the surnames of people they hardly even know. This might have had something to do with why I found it so difficult to retain names in my head in history class back when I was in school.

It has been suggested to me in the past that a good way of remembering someone’s name is that when you are first introduced, reply by saying “Nice to meet you so and so.” Supposedly, regurgitating a name as soon as it is told to us can be helpful in ingraining that information into our brains. There have been times where, even though I just heard a person’s name two seconds ago, I am hesitant to say it out loud for fear that I will make a mistake.

Some people might take it the wrong way or think that I do not care about them enough to bother remembering their names but that is not the case. Interestingly enough, I am more likely to remember the names of my neighbours’ pets, even if some of them resemble human names, than I am their actual owners’ names.

On the other hand, assuming someone remembers them after having only met that person on one occasion could be seen as a sign of arrogance. This is the type of person who buds into a conversation at a party and expects to be remembered, by name, no less.

Having lived in the same city my entire life, there are many faces I recognize, people who I have worked with, met at parties over the years or gone to school with. Even people in my neighbourhood smile or nod cordially when we see each other. Sometimes I will say hello to someone on the subway because I know I have seen them before; but please, don’t ask me what most of their names are.

I still kick myself for asking “What’s your name again?” to a nice lady my husband and I met on vacation a few years ago. We had already chatted with her and her husband on several occasions while at the resort we were staying at for the past week. It was almost the end of the trip; not quite the right time to be asking what a person’s name is. As I watched the smile fade from her face I knew immediately that I had made an error in judgment, one I wished I could take back. We both would have been better off if I had left her name out of it altogether.

Sometimes when I am asked “Do you know so and so?” I will respond with “I know the name.” On those occasions I actually do know the name, but not necessarily the face that goes with it. If someone has a catchy name, perhaps something that rhymes, I might remember that but not the face that goes with it.

Recently when I asked a man in a professional capacity what his name was and he replied “Samuel,” I realized in embarrassment that he already told me, only moments earlier.

When I deliberately gave out the wrong name to a virtual stranger, at first I felt bad for lying but then I thought who cares? In all likelihood, the next time I bump into this person, if he is anything like me, he may very well forget that made-up name.

Fortunately, my memory serves me well when it comes to other important things. Remembering names is not my strongest skill and I suspect it never will be. If I start asking “What’s my name again?” then I will really start to worry.♦

Copyright © Andrea Freedman 2012


About andfreed

I am a Toronto based writer of articles, columns, essays and novels.

Posted on November 13, 2012, in Weekly Thoughts and Observations and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. LOL !!! Okay, I thought I was the only person who has on many occasions actually forgotten a person’s name seconds after he/she introduced him/herself !!!! Glad to know I’m not alone !! :o)


  2. I really enjoyed this article. Michelle aka Melissa (to the PTA President), Wendy (to a mom at school) and Carol (to a colleague at work)!


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