Naming names

When you talk to someone, do you use their name in the conversation?

Obviously this depends on whether you know their name, but if you do, how often would you use it?

For example, if you bump into a friend or acquaintence in the street, would you greet them with their name, (“Hi [Insert name here]”)?

If you have then have a chat with them, would you continue to drop their name into the conversation every so often?

I rarely use people’s names in conversations, unless there are several people involved and I want to say something particularly to one of them. This is just a habit, and also because I don’t always remember their name – I’m much better at remembering faces.

I’ve noticed that sales and marketing people tend to use your name a lot when they’re talking to you. I find this a bit annoying, especially when they mispronounce it – I know who I am, and there’s no need to keep showing that you do. On the other hand, it does make you feel a bit special, which is probably the point.

In other languages is it normal or necessary to use people’s names in conversation? Or is it just personal preference?

5 thoughts on “Naming names

  1. Huge variation within German, but there are places where hallo without a name seems to be impossible – meaning you can’t greet a group: instead you have to go hallo, [name], hallo, [name], hallo, [name]

    These seem to be the same places that insist on shaking everyone’s hand at every occasion.

  2. In some languages personal names (with appropriate title) are often used to avoid pronouns – like in Korean so they come up all the time.

  3. There are some of us that have a psychological block when it comes to addressing people by name and we avoid it unless it is absolutely necessary. Perhaps, living in a community where using names is de rigeur, the necessity to fit in would be such that we would have to override our psychological foibles.

  4. Dale Carnegie said: “A person’s name is the sweetest sound”. Salespeople have learned this but seem not to understand that overusing a name makes this too obvious.

  5. In English I think I avoid repeating people’s names in such encounters only because I tend to have trouble remembering them in the first place.

    In Bengali, however, I often avoid using people’s names entirely because of the social norm of not using another person’s name unless you are their superior or equal (in age, rank, camaraderie, etc.). Instead I will replace their name with a kinship term, e.g. [bʱaj] ‘brother’ (for any man in my generation), [apa] ‘sister’ or [bʱabi] ‘sister in law’ (for any woman in my generation), [mama] ‘mother’s brother’ (for any man one generation above me), [kʰala] ‘mother’s sister’ (for any woman one generation above me), or the English words ‘uncle’, ‘auntie’ for those same people, or [d̪ad̪a] and [d̪ad̪i] (for people two generations above me), etc.

    These are words I might throw into the discussion multiple times, not just when getting their attention. So if a slightly older woman asked me to help her with something, I might say [dʑi bʱabi] ‘yes, sister-in-law’ rather than just [dʑi] ‘yes’, and it wouldn’t be strange at all to me, whereas saying something like ‘yes, Carol’ in the same context in English feels rather odd.

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