53

Let's say my name is Fred. My family and friends call me that and when I introduce myself I use that name. Well, of course you can imagine that I'm registered as Frederick, but nobody calls me that. I don't like that name because I don't think it represents me.

To get to the point: I met the parents of a friend the other day (important: they are very religious people), and when I introduced myself (as Fred of course) the following conversation took place:

Them: Come again?
Me: Fred.
Them: (puzzled face)...
Me: Fred.
Them: Were you baptized as Fred?
Me (Thinking they wanted to understand my name's origin): That was Frederick.
Them: Ah, so I thought!

They kept calling me Frederick the rest of the evening. I understand that they may believe that I offend some saint after whom I was baptized by making my name shorter, but I think it's my right to be called whatever I like.

So, I was wondering, is there a polite but firm way to express that I want to be called by a specific name and not a variation of it?

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    Curious, how often will you be seeing these parents of a friend? How old are you? – Catija Feb 20 '18 at 19:39
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    @Catija It's not that I will be seeing them often, I was just wondering what I could say if a situation like this came up again...I am an adult. – clueless Feb 20 '18 at 22:07
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    What country/culture is this in? That seems highly relevant, especially with the baptism comment. – mattdm Feb 20 '18 at 22:10
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    I found a significant question needed to find a proper solution. Did you noticed how they address other people? Is it only you that they insist calling you by your 'expanded' name? (If your friend is an only exception it obviously doesn't matter) – mpasko256 Feb 21 '18 at 16:50
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    Please don’t write answers in comments. It bypasses our quality measures by not having voting (both up and down) available on comments, as well as having other problems detailed on meta. Comments are for clarifying and improving the question; please don’t use them for other purposes. – Tinkeringbell Feb 23 '18 at 13:43

11 Answers 11

49

I think you have the right to be more forward about it. The dialogue you had could have gone a different way:

Them: Come again?

Me: Fred.

Them: (puzzled face)...

Me: Fred.

Them: Were you baptized as Fred?

Me (Thinking they wanted to understand my name's origin): That was Frederick, but I prefer when people call me Fred.

Or:

Me (Thinking they wanted to understand my name's origin): That is not how I was baptized, but I prefer when people call me Fred.

If after that, people insist on calling you a different name for whatever reason, they are simply being rude or ignorant. You cannot change that, but you can reiterate your preferred name:

Sorry to get back to it, but the name "Frederick" is really not what I am used to, please call me Fred.

Another thing you can do is to make your friend introduce you to their parents by using your preferred name.

Finally, as @NaiceGuy1 commented, there are situations where the best course of action is ignoring the issue and just bearing with it. For example, if you brought up that issue few times, but it had no effect, and if you don't see these people very often.

PS: I am not a native English speaker, so my language can be rough

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    As a last resource i'd suggest you to ignore if someone insists on it depending on the occasion. – NaiceGuy1 Feb 20 '18 at 19:48
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    I especially like your second suggestion, because it avoids telling them what OP's "formal" name is altogether - if they don't know it, they can't use it! – Em C Feb 20 '18 at 20:18
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    For a non-native speaker, these are excellent suggestions. For any speaker really. – Lightness Races in Orbit Feb 21 '18 at 17:01
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    The OP could also try "Friends call me Fred". You then put them in the position of declaring themselves non-friends if they refuse to do so. Hmm... Is that interpersonal skill, or manipulation...? – Grimm The Opiner Feb 22 '18 at 8:40
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    @mtraceur sometimes my voice gets really low and cannot be heard easily, that's why I repeated just my name (with ascending volume), although it turned out that wasn't the problem. – clueless Feb 22 '18 at 9:02
40

I think this could be dealt with by simply reiterating the name you chose to go by, via subtly - but firmly - correcting them every time they mention your full name, without necessarily sounding rude. I see it as if it was similar to a situation where someone forgot your name, or have a hard time pronouncing it, or like people who formally call you by your surname:

Them: Come again?
You: Fred.
Them: (puzzled face)...
You: Fred.
Them: Were you baptized as Fred?
You (Thinking they wanted to understand my name's origin): That was Frederick.
Them: Ah, so I thought! So, Frederick, how's everything going?
You: Everything's been great, thanks for asking! You can call me Fred, by the way.

If they insist, they are being rude, not you, so it is perfectly fine to reassert it:

You: Everything's been great, thanks for asking! Also, you can call me Fred, please.
Them: I heard there's this new event in town today. Are you going to attend it, Frederick?
You: I'm not sure. Also please, just Fred.

You can do this enough times where you think it might get the point across. Remember, at the end of the day it is them that are disrespecting you by deliberately disregarding your request. But of course, a broken record can only go so far. Perhaps you could address their issues with the name:

You: I'm not sure. Also please, just Fred.
Them: Well, I know we are going there. It's gonna be great, everybody's going too. You should definitely come with us, Frederick.
You: I can't help but wonder, is there a particular reason as to why you can't call me Fred?

After that, I'd say you'll have to respond accordingly. More than likely they'll mention that it's in respect to the saint's name, to which you can respond:

You: I understand and appreciate the sentiment, but as I'm not the saint, I don't think this is fitting/necessary/appropriate for my situation.

If yet still they refuse to call you Fred, and assuming you don't want to push the issue further, I'd say leave it at that - as the previous answer states.

  • 5
    Alternatively, (though this is rather passive aggressive) turn it back around on them. If they refuse to call you by what you want to be called, start referring to them as "Nancy" or "Billy". If they object, "Oh, you mean you don't like being called something other than what you prefer to be called? Funny that." – Shufflepants Feb 21 '18 at 15:57
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    I don't think OP would like to respond with passive-aggressive remarks because 1. they're elder people and the parents of a friend of OP, so arguably harder to deal with than with just comebacks, 2. they'd most likely excuse their naming on religion, and OP turning it like that could be misinterpreted as disrespect of their religion, and 3. we don't know how often OP would meet those people, so it's better not to risk burning any bridges by creating unsolicited friction – HugoBDesigner Feb 21 '18 at 16:04
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    @HugoBDesigner: Although the friction is wholly solicited, I otherwise agree with your comment. – Lightness Races in Orbit Feb 21 '18 at 17:02
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    I'd rephrase "you can call me Fred" (an invitation to reduce the level of formality, which may be declined) to "you should call me Fred". – 200_success Feb 22 '18 at 18:27
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    Actually, I feel like neither would be appropriate. "Can" would reduce formality, and "should" could be misinterpreted as rudeness. Perhaps leave them both out and just say "Also, call me Fred, please"? – HugoBDesigner Feb 22 '18 at 18:29
12

Do you owe these acquaintances the truth about how you were baptized? Is that any of their business? I don't think so. Let's hit rewind. And as soon as you've stood your ground for the third time, it's time to change the subject.

Them: Come again?
Me: Fred.
Them: (puzzled face)...
Me: Fred.
Them: Were you baptized as Fred?
Me: Yes. So tell me, how are you finding our fair city? Have you seen the (name of landmark)?

Explanation: There is a small white lie here. Meaning, in my opinion it does no one any harm, and in fact spares someone's feelings.

Variant: avoidance and changing of subject (if you are squeamish about white lies):

Them: Come again?
Me: Fred.
Them: (puzzled face)...
Me: Fred.
Them: Were you baptized as Fred?
Me: That's neither here nor there*. So tell me, how are you finding our fair city? Have you seen the (name of landmark)?

*If they keep pushing you, keep trying to veer the conversation onto something you think they would like to talk about, e.g. "Now, tell me all about (name of friend)'s baptism. Was s/he feisty? Did s/he cry?"

Edit: responding to a comment question:

Explain why/how your approach works. Is it the lie ("yes"), or the change of subject?

It's both. OP showed us what happened when he responded affirmatively to the Frederick-baptism question. So, apparently, for this couple, it is important not to fall into their trap. But we also want to preserve the friendly atmosphere. We can hopefully recover from any social awkwardness that may be felt by making a friendly connection with the couple.

Note that there is also the option of the sarcastic lie -- which doesn't appeal to me personally.

Them: Were you baptized as Fred?
Me: No, I was baptized as Hannibal.

I have never cared for this kind of flippant humor.

  • 11
    This probably also works if you replace the "yes" with "no" and then just move on to another subject, if you don't want to lie. – Erik Feb 21 '18 at 9:06
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    I am afraid that this approach can make some harm if they do believe in the lie. They can make themselves some false assumptions about OP's parents or OP himself. Let consider their possible reasoning: "D**n people! How dare they give such name for a child. Do you remember our neighbor named his dog exactly like that!" – mpasko256 Feb 21 '18 at 16:10
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    The one thing that this answer really fails in is addressing the specific situation here... the OP has already told them that his Baptismal name is "Frederick", so lying is sort of impossible. Do you have a solution that addresses this? How does the OP move forward from where he currently is to get his friend's parents to use the name he prefers? – Catija Feb 21 '18 at 16:34
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    @Catija - Aha. I found a comment from OP that backs up my interpretation: "It's not that I will be seeing them often, I was just wondering what I could say if a situation like this came up again." – aparente001 Feb 22 '18 at 3:53
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    @Haunt_House - These people are only acquaintances. And why is it their business to know exactly how OP was baptized? However, I have provided an alternative for anyone squeamish about the white lie. After all, no one is holding a gun to OP's head to force him to answer the question. It's a nosy question and does not need to be answered. Like any other nosy question, the best way to handle it is to deflect it. – aparente001 Feb 22 '18 at 19:50
11

Correct them, every time. Be stubborn but polite. Never let it slide. As they become more insistent, become more recalcitrant.

Why should you not let it slide?

By continuing to call you by a name that you are uncomfortable with they are telling you that their opinion about your name is worth more that your own, which is highly disrespectful, and no-one should every have to put up with that - even if someone does have authority over you (such as a boss).

If this were an occasional, accidental misnaming it would be understandable, and forgiveable, but a sustained, deliberate misnaming like this is at best incredibly rude and at worst cruel.

If someone objects to your constant corrections, or tells you that they are getting tiresome, you can tell them that being misnamed became tiresome long ago.

What should you say?

When I was a kid everyone who knew us understood that they should come to the back door of the house when visiting. Anyone who broke that rule was told with a smile "Only the Queen gets to use the front door", and no-one ever needed to be told twice.

As such, my response would probably be:

Please don't call me Frederick, I prefer to be called Fred. Only the Queen and my parents when they're angry are allowed to call me Frederick.

People outside of the Commonwealth could change Queen to President or Prime Minister, anyone who is highly unlikely to ever address you in any case.

If you are a religious, and don't believe bringing religion into it will inflame the situation, you could substitute The Pope or Jesus or another icon of your faith. You could even invoke Richard Dawkins or Stephen Hawking if you are atheist. *8')

Who here hasn't been called by their full name by a parent or guardian who wanted you to know they were being deadly serious? *8')

7

I'm frequently in a similar situation, as the name my fiancé knows me by (and prefers) is not my birth name, which has made our wedding preparations a bit more complicated.

In my experience, the people that question your name and ask for a different, "proper" one believe they have a right to do so, either because

  • The name does not seem to fit the expected cultural background and is perceived as "out of place" or

  • They believe that names not assigned by a (worldly or religious) authority lack legitimacy

In essence, it conflicts with their idea of what is proper or, in some cases, with what they view as fact (more on that later), based on whatever authority they follow.

Case 1: They mean no slight

Some are simply more comfortable with the familiar, and reject anything out of the ordinary out of habit. For a few people, this includes nicknames. They might also just be very curious. People in this category can often be convinced by giving them a narrative of the name's origin or why it's your chosen name. We've often had to tell people

"I was named after a Russian woman my parents met when they were pregnant."

or

"No, I'm not Irish, but I'm in a Folk band and we met at a festival."

They need a reason to leave their comfort zone, and by offering an explanation, you help them overcome cognitive dissonance and at the same time create associations that might make it easier to remember an unusual (for them) name.

Older folks might also perceive not telling them your birth name as dishonest or impolite. In this case, a simple

My birth name is Frederick, but no one calls me that.

might do the trick.

Case 2: They believe they know better

I've met some conservative people (very common in civil servants, where the idea is reinforced by their job requirements and culture) that didn't differentiate between the letter of the law (again, worldly or religious) and physical reality. If (the correct) someone printed your name on a piece of paper, that was your name, and to disagree was to state an obvious falsehood.

In general, people like that do not change, and they know no middle ground. Your best bet is to not even offer them an alternative to the name you gave them, or failing that, remind them, every time, that what they are calling you is not what you want to be called, and if they do not stop, point out that they are being deliberately impolite and ask them why.

Finding out which is which

From your description, I'm not sure which category your friend's parents fall under. You might not know either. When in doubt, I always assume case 1 and progress "down the ladder" from offering an anecdote, to asking them politely, to confronting them (in a factual, not an accusational tone) with your view of their actions.

If they agree to use your preferred name, great. If they outright refuse, well, they've made their stance clear and you know where you stand.

  • I think it's pretty obvious from the question that this is a Case 2 situation, hence why I was rather more forthright in my answer. *8') – Mark Booth Feb 21 '18 at 15:37
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    Cognitive dissonance is when one of your beliefs conflicts with one of your other beliefs, thoughts, or values, not when it conflicts with someone else's beliefs, thoughts, or values. – Acccumulation Feb 21 '18 at 17:11
  • @Acccumulation I'm no expert, but the way I read the Wikipedia definition, accepting and using the name might well be an action that contradicts their beliefs. You're asking them to accept something into their vocabulary. – Ruther Rendommeleigh Feb 22 '18 at 9:03
  • @MarkBooth I'll admit it seems likely, but I've been wrong about that before. In any case, attempting to understand their point of view and giving them an "out" usually works for me, at least when there's a reason to try and get along, e.g. family of close friends. Or your own grandparents :D – Ruther Rendommeleigh Feb 22 '18 at 9:20
6

Maybe I missed it, but I feel like the existing answers are a little too indirect, or maybe meant to be extremely inoffensive. From my perspective though, it is never offensive to ask everybody else to call you what you want to be called. It is your identity. I make amendments for people having trouble to pronounce my name or dear ones who have their endearing nicknames for me, but the decision who can call me a different name is mine. So I think this is a perfectly fine answer, avoiding the emphasis on baptism (which is theirs, not yours) and making your choice clear and unambiguous.

My legal name is Frederick, but I prefer not to be called Frederick. Please call me Fred.

And whenever mistakes happen (and they will happen), take no offense and reiterate "Please do not call me Frederick, I am Fred."

It is a matter of respect for a person to respect their choice of what name they identify with. And it is not offensive or disrespectful to request this basic respect for yourself.

EDIT: Reading my own answer I feel like it is not totally clear what I meant: The takeaway is that I believe you need to put emphasis on the fact that you do not want to be called Frederick. Say it as it is and instantly offer Fred as the alternative you prefer. It's not like your name is Tim but you are forcing them to pronounce Jiggeditiggedyboo every time they want to address you. You chose a perfectly appropriate and easy alternative to your full name which should be fine for everyone.

6

Frederick was my grandfather. Call me Fred.

Now you have shifted the framing from them being tricky, to both you being reverent to elders, and also offering to make your bond a little closer by being more colloquial. That's hard to argue with.

Substitute relative's name if needed, they need not be real but it helps.

Now you can deflect any inadvertent (read: pushy) calls of Frederick with "I doubt he will; he passed four years ago." Now you've shifted the other person into the awkward position of not knowing whether he needs to give condolance.

2

Since you say your friend is religous, you can always point out that the biblical Simon is better known by his nickname of (Saint) "Peter", or that Saul of Tarsus is better known by his nickname of (Saint) "Paul"...

An alternative is give a reason why you don't answer to the other name. Often, names run in families: I had a friend whose name was "David". As was his Father's name. And his paternal Grandfather's. The father went by "Dave", but my friend was generally just known by his middle name° - the different nicknames made their family gatherings easier, but if anyone actually addressed him as "David" he just automatically assumed that they were talking to/about someone else.

You'd prefer they called you Fred so that you didn't accidentally ignore them when they were trying to get your attention!

°Well, actually, he was known by a shortened form of his middle-name. So... "Call me Fred" "Were you baptised as 'Fred'?" "No, I was baptised as 'Arthur'"

2

People will be rude about things sometimes... and sometimes you have to just put up with it. Before you just sit back and take it however I would let them know that you have a strong preference to be called Fred and would prefer not to be called Frederick.

I'm not going to give you a specific suggestion for how to do that since there are already some excellent suggestions posted. If they still insist on calling you the wrong name, then you have to make a choice. Will you set a boundary or not if this person is someone you will not be seeing often then I wouldn't bother; but since that really ticks me off, I would just start calling them names that ought to annoy them:

e. g.: her name is Janice, everyone is calling her Janice, you call her Jan, if that doesn't bother her, call her JanJan, keep going till she asks you to stop; then say "Sure I'd be happy to call you whatever you like as long as you afford me the same courtesy I prefer to be called Fred, Janice."

This is basically a quick dirty underhanded boundary setting you are letting them understand without actually speaking up for yourself that while they can call you what they like you can do the same thing. If however you want to do the mature thing or you will be seeing them frequently then set a real boundary. Inform the offending party clearly and frankly that you are not ok with being called Frederick and that while they are free to say whatever they wish you are free to do the same and, if they continue to call you a name which you do not like, then you will do the same.

This may sound like manipulation but it's not; it's simply setting a boundary and letting them know there will be consequences if they cross that boundary.

For a better understanding of this principal, read the book "Boundaries" by Henry Cloud and John Townsend; it's a great book and it explains it a lot better than I can.

I have a brother who insists on being called by his middle name; he refuses to answer to any name other than the one he prefers; he will actually ignore you if you call him anything other than the name he likes. I don't recommend this...

Maybe because he gave me so many horrid nicknames and I feel it's hypocritical of him... idk whatever as much as I personally don't like that option it certainly is another choice you have. Whatever choice you make, it's important for you to understand that when something is happening that you don't like, you have choices, you are not powerless, and even if you chose to do nothing so long as YOU have chosen it and not someone else (or more likely the fear of how others perceive you) you will be so much happier.

People who insist on calling you one name when you have introduced yourself as another and said it twice... well they have made a choice you can live by their decision or you can make a choice of your own.

1

Option 1: Live with it. Personally, I used to go by a nickname that had no relation to my given name. When I introduced myself to people, I would simply say, "My name is Nick", or sometimes, "My name is Frederick, but I go by Nick." I only recall one person who insisted on calling me by my legal name, and I didn't care enough to make a big deal about it.

Option 2: As others have said, just keep bringing it up every time they use the wrong name. "Please, call me Fred." "I go by Fred." "I really don't like the name 'Frederick', I prefer 'Fred'." Etc.

Option 3: Ask why they insist on using a name you don't like. If they really had some good reason, like, "My daughter was raped and murdered by a man named Fred and it just brings up too many painful memories to say it", I think I'd say okay fine, call me Frederick. Did they actually say that they thought it was disrespectful to the memory of the saint, or were you just guessing about that? Because it that's it, I'd say, "I agree, it would be disrespectful to refer to Saint Frederick as 'Freddie-baby'. But I'm not the saint, and I don't find it necessary to insist on the same level of respect."

Option 4: Don't answer when they use the wrong name. Make them go to extra effort to get your attention. Then say, "Oh, I'm sorry, were you talking to me? I'm used to people calling me 'Fred'."

Option 5: If you really want to push it, start calling them by something other than their preferred name. Like start calling him "Mr George Robert Miller" or whatever his full name is every time you address him. Presumably he'll say, "Hey, just call me George." Then say, "Oh, I'm sorry, from the fact that you insist on calling me Frederick I thought you would likewise expect a higher level of formality, Mr George Robert Miller."

Option 6: Stop spending time with these people. If they're so rude that they don't respect your wishes on as simple a thing as what name you like to be called by, why associate with them?

I'm assuming here that's there's nothing inherently offensive or ridiculous about the name you want to be called by. Like if you're telling people that you want to be called "Chief Sitting Bull" even though you're white, or "Sex Master", or "The One True God May His Name Be Praised Forevermore", and you make a big deal when people want to call you by a more conventional name, then you're the one being rude and annoying. But from the wording of your question I don't think that's the issue.

1

Use your friend as a medium of efficient communication. (It works well when we find it impolite, insecure or inappropriate to talk indirectly about some topics)

You can ask him for a favor to ask his parents why they insist on calling you in particular way. My guess is that it is actually not a reason you already assumed but something different. To solve the problem efficiently, you need to know it for sure. (Their neighbor had got a dog with this name exactly, they don't feel free to use your nickname yet, they had got a baby child Frederick called Fred that died in an accident so it brings sad memories to them [I already experienced this case in my real life], they show disrespect by purpose etc...)

He can also deliver them your feedback.

Why do you call Fred as Frederick? Do you know that he really hates that?

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