Let’s say you are introduced to someone – through work, perhaps – with whom you will be interacting occasionally. A twice-monthly basis, let’s say.
Let’s also say that your interactions take place most frequently via email, although you see this person in the wild once every two months or so.
Let’s FURTHER say that you have now been working and communicating – primarily via email, but sometimes in person – with this person for, oh, eight months.
What happens if you find out – by looking closely at an email from this person and, for the FIRST TIME it seems, noticing the name’s exact spelling – that you have been misspelling AND mispronouncing this person’s name WRONG for the entire eight months?
I mean, obviously, you die of hideous, crushing embarrassment.
But, although dead in a heap of shame, smushed as flat as a very flat thing by the weight of your humiliation, you STILL have to interact with this person.
(And, just for high-pitched justification’s sake, let’s explain that the – PURELY HYPOTHETICAL – person’s name is uncommon but that it is ALSO very similar in appearance and pronunciation to a name that IS common. Or if not common, at least more common. For instance, the name might be Katarine, which looks and sounds very similar to Katharine. It is a difference of ONE SINGLE LETTER, after all!)
(And to continue our fist-clenching attempt to relieve some of the mortification of this long, drawn-out and repetitive mistake, let’s also remind ourselves that dear, sweet Katarine probably deals with this kind of misspelling/mispronunciation ALL the time, and you are just the latest in a long line of people who easily add an h where no h should be.)
(And let us add a plaintive howl to the heavens, in which we plead for mercy because who spells it without the h?) (Apparently more people than you might think.)
(ONE SINGLE LETTER!)
What would you DO in this case, Internet?
Option A: Would you apologize for the many months of calling poor Katarine by the wrong name? And, if so, would you do it by email… or during one of those rare times when you see dear Katarine in person?
Option B: Or would you simply Make The Switch, and start using her name properly from now on, pretending as though nothing had ever happened, as though you can wipe every intrusive h of the past eight months from her memory by going forward as though you’ve been doing it right all along?
I’m not saying that I – er, you – would choose Option A after already having put Option B into action. But I – by which I mean you – have been fretting about it nonetheless, especially on those days when an email from Katarine pops up in the inbox and requires a reply, or on those days when you have to see Katarine in person and look deep into her Accusatory Brown eyes and use your most cheerful “I Have Totally Known Your Name All Along!” voice and possibly start pronouncing “th” words without the h as though you have a very specific speech impediment that somehow translates into your writing as well. What I’m saying is, it would be good to know what to do should this ever happen again. (Wood board, Internet! Please do not let it happen EVER AGAIN.)
I feel as though I should be able to answer this question for myself, rather than pestering YOU about it (and sprinkling the internet with liberal handfuls of my own disgrace). Considering that people butcher my name (which is not exactly common, but not UNHEARD-OF and uses a standard spelling!) all the time, you’d think I would a) be VERY CAREFUL about spelling/pronouncing other people’s names correctly and b) have a ready answer for how to deal with someone who has been doing it wrong for long periods of time.
The fact is, people DO butcher my name and have for YEARS in at least one case. The Years-Long Name Butcher is not a BAD person – just not really the type of person who would notice the error in the first place, let alone apologize or make a purposeful attempt to say/spell my name correctly.
Of course, I have never once corrected this person. So it’s hard to say what the response would be if I did make a correction. To be fair to myself, I doubt it would make a difference. I am not so prominent on this person’s radar that a correction would stick.
Not that I would want anyone – Katarine included – to write me off as the kind of person who can’t be bothered with getting a name RIGHT. But I know it HAPPENS, and it doesn’t make me think LESS of those people. (Well, not much less.)
Well, it seems I am now simply meandering on without a destination. Devolution into aimless pointlessness seems as good a place as any to stop.