I’m uncomfortable with my coworkers’ names, crying when laying someone off, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. I’m uncomfortable with my coworkers’ names

I work in the healthcare industry which is very diverse and have had this issue in several jobs, which is coworkers having names I feel uncomfortable about saying. Some examples of these names are: Princess, Honey, Sir, King.

I don’t feel comfortable calling a grown woman “Princess.” I feel bad because these people did not choose their names but it makes me feel so uncomfortable to refer to a coworker as “King.” Is there anyway around this without being rude? I’m bad at using humor in these situations and am always tempted to demand that they call me Empress Sweetie Boo or something equally ridiculous, but have to rein myself in before I offend someone. I find myself just avoiding people with names that are titles or pet names because I can’t face using them. Advice on how to handle this better would be very much appreciated!

It’s easy to feel uncomfortable when something is unfamiliar, but letting that make you avoid it altogether — or worse, making fun of it — is going to get you uncomfortably close to people you probably don’t want to be associated with.

It might help to know some context here: Names like King and Princess are pretty common in black communities, where there’s a long tradition of giving children names denoting respect as a way to get around racists’ historical refusal to use honorifics (like Mr. or Ma’am) with black people at all.

Use the names — and respect the names. The more you use them, the more they’ll feel like just names to you.

2. HR director cried while laying someone off

I understand HR has to be empathetic. Our admin for nine months had to be laid off in a RIF. The HR director cried during the separation. The employee handled it with class and professionalism. She was not misty eyed or on the verge of tears. What are your thoughts?

Your HR director messed up. It can indeed be really hard to lay someone off or fire them, but it’s far, far worse for the person who’s losing their job, and it’s really not nice to make the person who’s losing their job feel like you don’t get that or — worse — that they have to console you.

3. My boss makes me drive back to work if I forget to lock our cabinets — even when he’s still there

I’m an hourly employee at a medium-sized affiliate of a large, national not-for-profit. When I took this position about two years ago, I received written instructions from my predecessor that the last person out of the office was to ensure that a particular bank of cabinets was to be securely locked. While my shift starts at 8 am, my boss gets to the office around noon and stays well into the evening after I’ve gone home. Other employees also stay later than I. At my two-month review, I learned that, contrary to my instructions, it was actually my responsibility to ensure that the cabinets were locked and I’d been shirking my duties. I apologized and explained but was told point-blank that I should have known the instructions were incorrect and that “obviously” it was my duty to lock them.

I’ve tried to do so, but have forgotten at least five times in the past 24 months. In each case, my boss has called me at home after 6 pm and made me come back to the office (unpaid) to lock the cabinets. I live nearly 40 minutes away, and it can be a dangerous drive in the winter. All but one time he was in the office the entire time, and the one time he wasn’t, someone else was going to be pulling an all-nighter there. The one time I couldn’t make it back to the office because a friend had borrowed my car for an emergency, I tried unsuccessfully to hitch-hike/find another ride and was written up as a consequence. Again, there was someone in the office. I don’t hold the keys; they hang on a magnet on the side of a cabinet. Anyone can lock or unlock them them at any time, and they contain mostly personal files, organizational records, and petty cash. There have also been a couple of times when, while I was out of the office, my boss left them unlocked. It’s easy to do.

My boss has told that, other than the cabinets, I’m an outstanding employee who often goes above and beyond my job description. I possess an essential skill set, but the cabinets are holding me back. When I tried to suggest that maybe the most effective way of ensuring the cabinets were locked was to return to the idea of the last person out of the office doing the task, he told me that I just needed to learn to do my job, which was why he was making me come back to the office. I felt like a reprimanded child. I’ve been a manager myself and found that usually getting something done was more important that who does it. In fact, I often shifted tasks around to find the best person for a particular job.

I fully understand the importance of the cabinets being locked, I just don’t understand his methods. My coworkers say he’s abusive. Is he? What can I do?

At a minimum, he’s an asshole. Abusive? Eh, maybe. But I’m not sure that distinction really matters. He’s being a jerk, regardless.

To be clear, he might have good reason for not wanting to just have the last person to leave be the one who locks the cabinets. (For example, people are more likely to forget to do it when it’s not always their responsibility, and people may not always realize they’re the last one to leave, etc.). And it would be entirely reasonable for him to tell you that neglecting to lock the cabinets is a serious performance issue and for him to treat it as such. But making you drive 40 minutes back so he can prove a point is treating you like a child, not a professional adult — and that’s not something a good manager does to anyone, let alone repeatedly, and let alone to an “outstanding employee” with a history of going above and beyond.

What he should be doing is working with you to find a more reliable way of ensuring that cabinets are locked.

Is he a jerk in other ways, or is this an aberration? I’d take this as a flag to look pretty rigorously at how he treats you and others more broadly.

4. My office is moving a party to accommodate my due date – and I don’t plan to attend

I’m pregnant and due at the beginning of January. My office does a Christmas party in January every year, and this year it was scheduled it for my due date. Let me be clear that I was by no means offended by this. I didn’t expect to be able to go in the first place.

When we were asked to RSVP, I declined since I don’t want them to plan on my husband and I attending in case I go into labor early or on that day. Instead of accepting this, the party planner has moved the Christmas party back to the end of January so that I can attend.

The problem? I don’t want to go. I would either have to bring my newborn to the holiday party where we have a strict no-children-allowed policy that most parents are bitter about (but for some reason I’ve been assured that bringing my newborn would be OK and “nobody would care” because they’ll all want to meet him/her) or I would have to find someone to watch the baby and get dressed up and go to this party two weeks (maximum) postpartum. I’m usually pretty social and would go to the Christmas party, but I kind of just wanted to let this year slip by and enjoy the time at home with my newborn.

So, how do I gracefully say that I’m not going to be attending when the entire office has had to reschedule the party because of me (even though I didn’t ask for this)?

“Thanks so much for trying to accommodate me, but I’ll have just given birth and will have a newborn so I won’t be able to attend this year at all. I hope you have a great time though!”

If the party planner is so committed to your presence that she then offers to move it even further back, then you can say, “Please don’t plan around me. It’ll be a while before we’ll be ready to leave the baby with a sitter, so the plans should go on without me.”

5. How should I use a letter of recommendation?

I’m about to move states and so I’m also changing jobs and industries for the first time in 12 years — and the first time in my professional career. My current manager is very supportive and has written a general recommendation letter. My question is, how and when is it appropriate to include this letter in my application materials? If they don’t explicitly ask for one, do I disregard it entirely? Or is it like a cover letter — should I include it anyway?

Don’t include it. Letters of recommendation don’t actually carry much weight because (a) no one expects to find critical information in those letters, since the person they’re written about will read them, (b) when things get to the point that a hiring manager wants to talk to your references, they’ll want to ask their own questions about the specific areas they care about — and generally will want a phone conversation, because hearing things like tone, hesitations, and enthusiasm level can convey a great deal that most letters can’t.

So skip the letter and instead have your manager lined up as someone reference-checkers can call.

(Academia and law are exceptions to this, as they inexplicably continue to use recommendation letters — but they’ll explicitly ask for them.)

{ 1,320 comments… read them below }

    1. Pomona Sprout

      How do you propose they do that? I’m not being snarky, honest. I just don’t see any way o.p. CAN make sure they’re getting paid, when Jerkface McBoss has made it clear that he is not going to do so. I just don’t see how it’s in o.p.’s power to make Jerkface McBoss pay them if he doesn’t want to.

      Maybe I’m missing something here, in which case, please educate me.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        I think the bigger problem is that commute time isn’t paid, and I’m 99% sure that the drive would count as commuting, not working. (Presumably the time running in to lock the cabinets is de minimis.)

        1. Aaron

          I know in some jurisdictions an employee needs to be paid for a minimum amount of time. Where I live in Canada if you show up for work and get sent home right away you need to be paid for 2 hours.

          1. JamieS

            Would that apply in this situation though since OP is presumably being paid for the day they’d already worked so > 2 hours?

            1. Kathlynn

              depends on when their shift ends. there has to be a minimum of 8 hours between shifts, and split shifts need to end a certain amount of time after the first starts. iirc that’s 12 hours after the shift starts. So if they start at 8am it would be considered a split shift and it would only be over time, assuming the LW got there by 8pm. Otherwise it would be a separate shift and they would be entitled to the 2 hours pay.

            2. Aaron

              In my province of British Columbia, maybe. If not, the employee is entitled to be paid for travel time to cover this exact situation, as well as travel expenses. I’d imagine that some other places have their own rules, so probably a good thing for OP to dig into.

          2. AKchic

            A lot of blue-collar work (union and non-union) that would be considered an after-hours call-out, and can be billed as 2 hours of pay (overtime pay).
            In some of my office jobs, I’ve used the metric of texts/phone calls billed at the 15 minute, anything where I’ve had to travel billed by the hour (minimum 1 hour). All overtime pay. Some places will say that even a phone call or text should be counted as an hour’s pay (overtime, of course). But, each company/industry is different.

        2. Jessie the First (or second)

          In some cases the commuting time would in fact have to be paid.

          FLSA mandates that an employee who is called back to work after a shift ends and who must travel a significant distance to the worksite must be paid for that travel time.

          In addition, some states have more stringent laws.

          The issue would be whether the OP’s 40 minute commute counts as a significant distance. But the fact that it occurs after her shift is over is what could turn otherwise normal commuting time into paid time.

        3. Businessy Business Man

          I think the boss is trying to prove a point and to use it as a punishment for forgetting. If it is the worker’s job to lock the cabinets and they didn’t, well, they still have to be the ones to lock the cabinets. I think the boss is saying “it’s not my responsibility to lock the cabinets.” I think this one is leaving some info out – I assume any reasonable boss would have told this person not to forget locking the cabinets after the first time or two. The fact that this person is being made to go all the way back to do it makes me think this process has happened already.

          1. Anna

            That doesn’t change the fact that it’s shitty and kind of paternalistic to have the OP drive back to lock the cabinets. It’s the kind of thing your parents do to prove how you should have done the job properly in the first place. I don’t want anything to do with a boss who pulls the same sort of lesson-teaching my dad did when I was a teen.

      2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin

        The bigger question is: if the keys hang on a magnet on the side of the cabinets, what’s the point of locking them at all?

          1. valentine

            Yes. Alter the cabinet so it locks upon closing. It’s useless to lock them at all when you trust everyone who enters with the money, but this guy’s illogical all round. OP locking them doesn’t mean they’ll stay locked until the next time the business opens, so what use is it? Unless they switch to a system requiring credentials, there’s no way to even know OP3 forgot and I wouldn’t be surprised if the boss is gaslighting her.

            1. valentine

              OP3: Photograph yourself locking the cabinet every day. Set your phone to do not disturb for your boss’ number from shift end to shift start. When next he chastises you, send him the relevant photo(s). If this isn’t a business he owns, maybe it’s worth getting his boss’ perspective.

        1. Hekko

          Yes! Seriously!

          We also have a cabinet with personal files that gets locked and the key is kept in the office – but it’s kept in the safe in another room. As in you need to know where it is to find it (the key itself is not labeled).

        2. Antilles

          Honestly, from a security perspective, there’s an argument that not even bothering to lock the cabinet is better than locking it with the keys right there.
          If you leave the cabinet unlocked, there’s a chance a thief would just open the cabinet, quickly glance in, then move on…whereas the (uselessly) locked cabinet implies that there’s something worth locking up, so it ensures that the theoretical thief would actually search the cabinet.

          1. whingedrinking

            My father once worked in a government building where 90% of what was going on was totally mundane, but there was one project that the military was tangentially interested in and so it was considered classified. Everybody knew which set of offices were the classified ones – they had “TOP SECRET, NO ADMITTANCE WITHOUT APPROPRIATE CLEARANCE” or something similar all over the doors, whereas most people working there didn’t have a clue what was going on in other people’s departments.

            1. Loud Noises

              That actually might not have been something the company had any control over, due to the extremely specific and strict set of guidelines that the military has for anything even tangentially related to things of that nature. Counter-intuitive? Possibly. Mandated anyways? Absolutely.

        3. katelyn

          The only thing I can think of is that if the records are required to be stored in a fire-proof cabinet (since finance and health records are) that those are not certified to work if they aren’t locked (becuase heat can warp things and jiggle the handle loose in a fall I think?) so the only way they pass audit is if they are locked, irrespective of where the key is.

          I worked with fire proof cabinets in a locked file room, the door to the room was considered the restricted access, and the keys to the cabinets were in an obvious key hanger on the wall inside.

          1. Glitsy Gus

            This was my thought. We used to have fire cabinets for case files, which were required to be locked, but the keys were all in a box next the the cabinets. Because the locks weren’t to keep people out, but to keep fire and water out.

            That said, OP, could you maybe give yourself a reminder alarm on you phone or computer to pop up five minutes before you leave to lock the cabinets? That’s what I do for my closedown stuff and it helps me a lot, especially on busy days.

        4. TootsNYC

          this was my immediate thought!

          Do those keys get moved somewhere else once the cabinets are locked?

          Otherwise, I think the OP’s best move is to create a routine that means she locks the cabinets before she leaves the office.

          Maybe she puts a tag on her car keys to remind her, so that before she starts her car, she can go back in.
          Or some other reminder (a post-it on her steering wheel, her monitor, something that she’ll see and remember).

    2. Blarg

      OP is non-exempt, so must be paid. I’m surprised Allison didn’t mention it, but I think some of her languaging would be appropriate: I don’t want us to get in trouble for not paying me for hours worked. And since this is a national org, asking HR might stop the whole thing: “Fergus requires that I return to the office last night. How should I document this time on my time sheet?” Since OP has already been written up over this nonsense, there’s not really anything to lose by escalating it.

      Also, based on the contents of the cabinet, why is it being unlocked daily? It seems unlikely it is needed every day. Responsibility should lie with anyone who accesses it to immediately relock it. And who is being kept out of it, if staff is there nearly 24/7 and everyone knows where the keys are?

      1. Flash Bristow

        > Responsibility should lie with anyone who accesses it to immediately relock it. And who is being kept out of it, if staff is there nearly 24/7 and everyone knows where the keys are?

        Absolutely this.

        Hopefully OP can use this kind of logic to show boss / HR how silly the situation is at present.

        1. delta cat

          Yes yes yes on relocking immediately.

          I work in a therapy clinic where it is important that files be kept locked up whenever there is no one with a sight line to the cabinet. We used to have a last-one-out-locks-the-cabinet policy. It worked great — until a bunch of changes came in. We moved to a bigger space with a lot of tucked away back rooms, we brought on a couple of new managers, and a lot of staff came on who work mostly offsite and don’t store their files in the cabinet. It simply didn’t occur to people who didn’t use the cabinet to check and see whether it was locked before they left, and their managers didn’t want to impose the task on them of remembering to lock a cabinet they never used. But the staff who did use the cabinet couldn’t exactly be expected to know, when there were three people left in the clinic when they left, that none of those three could be counted on to lock up.

          Asking people to relock the cabinet immediately has pretty much solved that problem. It also took care of the related problem of working alone in a back room, unable to see or even really hear anything happening in the space around either the cabinet or the front door. There was some griping at first about the inconvenience of having to go and get they keys every single time, but that has passed.

        1. Ego Chamber

          It’s not about the money, it’s about how stupid this is. If your boss is acting like a child and punishing you by making your life difficult for no valid reason, and you have the option to do the same in turn, you do it.

          DISCLAIMER: Lessons From Call Center Hell should not be applied to reasonable workplaces and/or reasonable managers (but they generally don’t have to be).

      2. CaliUKExpat

        I work where this is a common practice. It’s a therapy clinic, and the practice itself is a ways away from the office. Since the office is rarely if ever unmanned, cabinets are opened as needed and not usually locked again until the end of the day when the last person leaves. It’s not the employees that need to be kept out, it’s about keeping everyone not an employee out. In my office it’s the job of whoever is last out, but if it was one individual’s duty, I can actually imagine my boss pulling them back from home out of sheer annoyance.

        The fact it took 2 months for them to address the issue in the first place makes me think it doesn’t need to be as secure as therapy files, but still a not insignificant need for things to be locked.

        1. SunshineOH

          In your case it makes sense. But OP said that the keys are hanging next to or near the cabinet, so there us nothing secure about this whole set up. Boss is a nutbag.

          1. Rebecca

            Exactly! “they hang on a magnet on the side of a cabinet. Anyone can lock or unlock them them at any time”

            So, what is the point of locking a cabinet when the keys are hanging right there? Presumably if someone breaks in, and wants to steal something from the cabinet, they could just unlock it and access the contents.

            What is especially egregious is that the boss would make some drive back to the office, 40 minutes one way, not pay them for their time, just to lock something that’s accessible anyway for [reasons].

            I have 2 pieces of advice for the OP: lock the cabinet and look for a new job.

            1. EventPlannerGal

              Not just drive back – the OP said that one one occasion she ended up trying to hitch-hike. Putting an employee in a position where they felt like they had to try to hitch-hike back to the office, presumably at night, to lock a cabinet is… something.

          2. CaliUKExpat

            Oh I missed that bit. Yeah, boss is a nutter. Or is valuing the appearance of security over actual security.

          3. Falling Diphthong

            That’s where the letter truly went off the rails for me. If the keys hand on a hook on the cabinet, then nothing is being secured.

          4. The Other Dawn

            This is what I’m hung up on. What the hell is the point if the keys are RIGHT THERE?! I work in a bank with confidential records all around me, especially in my department. Someone is assigned the keys and the spares are in a dual control key cabinet. If that person went on vacation and forgot to hand the keys over, I’d grab someone and get the spares from the key cabinet. I wouldn’t call them back from Hawaii just to prove a point that they should have left the keys.

          5. Salyan

            The OP said ‘a’ cabinet, not necessarily the cabinet. The keys could be around the corner hanging on a completely unrelated shelf.

      3. Yorick

        That’s what I thought: if the keys are hanging on the side of the cabinet, who cares if the cabinet door is sometimes left unlocked?

        1. Anne Elliot

          In my office, it’s a compliance issue. We store files that contain personal health information (PHI) and there is no room for the file cabinets in any one person’s office or in the file room, so the file cabinets are located in the hall. If the files were kept in a person’s office, they could be left unlocked so long as the person was there and the office itself was otherwise kept locked. But since we can’t do that, since the cabinets are located in an unmonitored common area, they have to be locked. Since the rule is “if you can’t maintain line-of-sight on these confidential materials, they must be kept in a locked cabinet,” but since we also use these files repeatedly throughout the day, the rule is that every person accessing the cabinet is to relock it, every single time. The key is kept in a bowl on top of the file cabinet itself. It may seem ridiculous to keep the key right on top of the very cabinet it opens, but that’s the only efficient way to keep the cabinet locked but maintain access to it by multiple users. It also reinforces to all users that these are confidential files, because they have to unlock and relock the cabinet every time they want to get one. Just pointing out that while “the key is right there!” seems silly, it may not be. For what it’s worth, I would also say that our office is otherwise secure (restricted access) and is not accessible to the public unless they are guests.

          1. Katie

            But in this case, it’s not locked during the day. It’s left unlocked all day, and then the OP is supposed to lock it at the end of the day.

        2. JustaTech

          Depending on how the cabinet latches it could be an earthquake safety issue. But since the OP said it was files and not say, heavy glass stuff, I think it’s unlikely in this case.

      4. LQ

        Strong agree on the unlock/relock immediately plan.

        Alternatively could the cabinet be stored somewhere that has a badge reader or some such to cover the lock?

        If this is really the only issue with the job (the boss is actually otherwise fine but has gone off the deep end about this for some unknown reason, though I suspect that’s unlikely if coworkers are saying abusive) then proposing alternative ways of handling this to eliminate human error which is absolutely inevitable, may be helpful.
        (And finally storing your keys in the file or hanging them with the rest of the keys when you get in might help you until you can get boss do agree to a decent solution.)

    3. Talbot

      Maybe find a few friendly coworkers who can discreetly check the cabinets after you leave, but before your boss does (or who you can call if you suddenly remember on your own that you forgot). Since the keys are available, have them lock up if you forget. But discretion is key since it seems your boss would be pissed if he found out.

      1. UDR

        OP3,

        To be honest, it reads to me like your boss just doesn’t like you. He knows you’re good at your job, so he secretly changed the rules to have something to hold over your head.

        If I had an employee who I wanted to get into the habit of doing a daily task before they left, I would remind them before they left. To me, the timing of this sounds like he’s going out of his way to cause you inconvenience. He’s making sure you’re at the end of your long commute and having to come back in, rather than calling shortly after you left so you could head back (or just locking the dang cabinet himself and leaving a note on your desk!)

        I would recommend setting an alarm on your phone or through Outlook for 1 minute before you leave each day that reminds you to lock the cabinets, and if you’re caught up in anything else when it goes off, interrupt yourself and lock the cabinets.

        But I would also recommend looking for a different job, because once you have this down, I wouldn’t be surprised if you get lectured about another job duty that you weren’t told about but should have just known about anyway.

        1. Grey

          Or maybe the boss likes the OP and really doesn’t want to file a write-up every four months and get them fired.

        2. Rachael

          While I don’t agree with having someone come *back* to lock the file cabinet when others are around, I do agree that not locking them is a big deal. I worked at a bank where it was a very bad thing if it was found out that we didn’t lock up our file cabinets due to sensitive information. And heaven forbid if one of the internal auditors walked over and checked as a random check. I can understand the dust-up about it (minus the surprise of the OP finding out she was the one supposed to be doing it).

          Nobody wants to be the person to go and check everyday to make sure she locked the cabinets. She should remember and put more accountability on herself to do it. However, I agree that her boss is a jerk and is not going about the situation correctly in order to get her to do her job duties.

          OP, write a check list or something to help you remember. I don’t know what kind of information is in those cabinets, but the bottom line is that they want the cabinets locked and your boss is going to be a jerk about it until you stop forgetting. Forgetting 5 times can be a big deal depending on the circumstances.

            1. Rachael

              Haha…no. It was in an unlocked drawer in the managers desk. I always laughed at that. But, we needed to keep away those pesky auditors and regulators…lol

            2. Stormfeather

              Not to mention the OP even stated that when she’s not working, the boss himself leaves them unlocked at times.

        3. Jennifer Juniper

          I wouldn’t be surprised if the OP has really locked the cabinet, but the boss makes them come back because someone else has unlocked it.

  1. Gaia

    OP 1: you need to use their names and you need to respect them the way you would respect someone named Jane, Sarah, Raj, Chen, or Karl. As Alison mentioned the names you listed are often found in the black community in the US and there is a history in these names closely related to racism and slavery and communities bestowing their next generation with names seen as having dignity, respect, and power.

    While that is all very important to understand, outside of that context we should all practice respect and appreciation for the names of everyone. Certainly we shouldn’t mock them by making up our own exaggerated names to mimic theirs, nor should we refuse to use their names.

    1. Sami

      Absolutely. The more you use a person’s name the more you’ll get used it and hopefully it’ll become a nonissue.

    2. Afiendishthingy

      All of this. Your discomfort around calling a grown woman “Princess” is irrelevant. Call people what they ask to be called, not what you feel comfortable calling them.

      1. Artemesia

        I lived in a state where important political wives and female politicians had names like Tipper, Honey, Cookie and Peaches — all white women. And there are a lot of people from latin backgrounds called Jesus. Get over ‘being uncomfortable’; laughing or ridiculing people for their names.

        1. Falling Diphthong

          Worked somewhere with a top salesperson named Peaches. And the elevator inspector in my parents’ town (where I stay in hotels and so ride a lot of elevators) is named Cherry. Fawn, Cookie, etc–all white women.

          The reaction to names should be a private “Huh, that’s unusual” which you don’t share aloud. Most people are doing this and a few minutes later thinking nothing about how the elevator person is Cherry rather than Sherry.

          Also, most of us have names that mean something flattering, and that was a consideration for our parents when choosing them.

          1. Jasmine

            Are you referring to Cherie Berry? She is the North Carolina Commissioner of Labor, though, not an elevator inspector.

            1. Falling Diphthong

              Well, darn. But that’s who I was thinking of. I could swear her photo was in the elevators–I googled and she matches my mental image–which I assumed was so the staff knew the person inspecting them was legit and no one tried to make the copier repair guy do elevators.

                1. I NC You There

                  My favorite t-shirt of all time: “Cherie Berry Lifts Me Up”. I also had the pleasure of drinking a cocktail called the Elevator Queen, made with cherry heering (I think) and some fizzy deliciousness.

              1. J

                Commissioner of Labor in NC oversees the elevator inspections. So they all (somehow) roll up to Cherie but she is not an actual inspector herself. Her photo in the elevators is actually one of the best election campaigns I’ve ever seen. I think the photo plus her unusual name makes people vote for her just because of recognition.

                One of my fondest memories of people noticing her photo was in a parking garage elevator when I was leaving work late. I work in a big city and ride a ton of elevators so I’m used to seeing her photo- but the parking garage I was in has room for a lot of tourists. When I was leaving later one evening a tipsy couple joins me in the elevator. Guy blinks at the elevator in section sign then chuckles and whispers loudly to his girlfriend “her name is Cherie Berry”.

                But yeah, OP, use their names and keep the comments to yourself.

            2. Else

              Me, too! I swear; she gets re-elected just based upon how familiar and friendly her name seems after seeing it SO many times in elevators. World’s best govt-funded campaign literature.

            1. MCMonkeyBean

              Whoops sorry, should have scrolled lol. You were not far off though. Her name and picture is indeed in all the elevators, signing off on their safety. But she doesn’t inspect them personally, she oversees the “Elevator and Amusement Device Bureau.”

              And now I just learned from google some mind blowing information while googling the exact name of that bureau. I assumed every state had their labor commissioner in the elevators. She apparently made a rule requiring her picture in all elevators in 2005 to boost her name recognition and help future re-elections. Jeez that’s absurd that she could do that! I’ve linked to this very fascinating Washington Post article on the topic in my name.

              But also, I’m pretty sure her name is supposed to be pronounced like Sherry but because of her last name we all pronounce it Cherry Berry.

              1. Jessica

                The traditional pronunciation of her name (Cherie) would not be Sherry, it would be like “Sha-REE.” (Think of Stevie Wonder singing “My Cherie Amour.”) I’ve also heard people call her cherryberry, and wondered if Berry was a married name for her. I did not know that about her inventing that requirement to have her picture in all the elevators!

                1. Allornone

                  Still, maybe it’s not the most traditional one, byt my mother is named Cherie, pronounced Sherry, so I assume it’s a common enough pronunciation.

              2. Sarah

                I heard somebody say it’s Sher-IE.

                Also, true story: if you get her autograph, she’ll write “May your life have more ups than downs” and I gotta tell you, her branding is on point.

              3. Meredith

                Her wikipedia page confirms it is pronounced She-REE (French pronunciation, like the Stevie Wonder song) and her maiden name is Killian.

          2. Oxford Comma

            There was a whole series of mystery books about a nurse named Cherry Ames that were published in the 50s and 60s.

            Names go in and out of style.

            Also, Fawn Hall.

            1. darsynia

              I LOVED those books.

              When I was about 5 there was an 8 year old who disappeared in my state named Cherrie Mayhan. My dad and I were at a little dinky local county airport watching the prop planes take off and a policeman approached us. I was apparently wearing an outfit way too small for me (I was stubborn AF as a kid), and needed a haircut, and they thought I might be Cherrie. Somehow, my charismatic dad convinced the police to let us drive home about a half mile away on the same road, to show them my birth certificate and stuff. On the way, we passed my cat, which had been hit by a car, and it was clearly my cat, too.

              Dad couldn’t stop, because at the time, he knew what it would look like to be accused of kidnapping and then stop the car on the side of the road to let a hysterically crying child rush out screaming. By the time we pulled into our really long driveway (not rich, just big front yard), there were 5 police cars all following us, lights flashing, no sirens. My parents showed pictures, my birth certificate, and my mom’s face which is identical to mine, our genes are really ridiculous, lol. They left us after thanking us for our time.

              It was a really, really traumatic day. My dad made an offhand comment about how lucky we were they didn’t just take him down and take us all to the station, and for years and years afterwards I had nightmares that Cherrie’s real family would be presented me and lie and say I belonged to them. This was in 1984, before DNA. And, it was my cat :(

              That’s my Cherry/Cherrie story, hah.

              1. darsynia

                Crap I got carried away and left out the part where I was going to comment on the actual letter, I’m sorry!

                I just wanted to say, I have a really boring common name–Jessica. I quite literally hate it, but made choices not to change it, and those choices were based on valuable things, so I deal with my name as I see fit. If I ever came across someone who told me they were upset about my name or the way my parents had chosen it, even though I HATE it, I would be crushed. It’s possible that these co-workers may not even really like their names that much, but like me, they’ve kept them because of their meaning to other loved ones. To compound on that by letting them in on how you feel about their names will be so hurtful. Even though I dislike my name, I love the people who named me, after all. It’s not really my fault how I was named!

                I appreciate your taking the time to write about it. Please don’t feel that any of us are trying to offend by offering our perspectives on this, because you did the right thing, Letter Writer #1. Our context can help you in your job, and help your coworkers from having to know how their names make you feel :)

              2. dawbs

                That sounds like a horrid day.
                ANd I get why your dad had to do what he did, but, man, kids and their pets, all of that sucks so much.
                I’m sorry.

            2. LizEnFrance

              The Cherry Ames books are a big reason my mom (who grew up in that era) decided to become a nurse! She still owns a bunch of the hardbacks.

          3. beckysuz

            As a child we had a family friend who’s daughter was named Cookie Cherrie. As a kid I thought that was the coolest but as an adult I’m not sure I would appreciate my parents saddling me with that name. Her parents were pretty cool though the way I remember it

            1. beckysuz

              To the writer letter I would say that your discomfort doesn’t trump the basic respect of calling someone by their given name. You can have all the opinions you want about it but please don’t share them. Your unwillingness to call someone by the name they use is frankly unkind and just plain rude. Even if that’s not your intention I’d wager that’s the result. Perhaps you should think about how you would feel to be on the receiving end of that.

              1. Jen S. 2.0

                +1. Just because you are uncomfortable with something that is not “normal” to you doesn’t create an emergency, or cause a problem that needs someone else to find a resolution that makes you comfortable. You need to call people by their names and / or the names they wish to be called, even if you think the name is odd, and even if you feel silly. Your feeling silly is your own issue.

          4. Loud Noises

            I remember even in the Northeast there was someone running for a town council position that had signs everywhere urging people to vote for Candy Barr. Could only imagine that her parents saw the opportunity and took it.

        2. The Original K.

          I’ve known two women named Peach (one white, one Black). I also used to work with a white woman who holds a very high-ranking position who goes by a very childish-sounding childhood nickname. It’s very specific so I won’t use it here, but it’s like Tootsie. Her business cards have her government name but absolutely no one calls her that – she introduces herself with her nickname.

          1. CommanderBanana

            Awww, my puppy’s name is Tootsie! We introduce her to people as “Tootsie as in Tootsie Roll” but her nicknames are Toots, Schnootzie, Schnootzl and Tootzl Dootz.

            I love the name Cherry and we had a neighbor who went by Cookie – her last name was Krumm so the same everyone knew her by was Cookie Krumm!

          2. Artemesia

            In the US south it is also common for men to go by their baby names all their life. I always found it odd that my husband’s very dignified, ivy league educated, law partner went by ‘Bobby’ and there were lots of men who went by Billy, Jimmy, Bubba, and Binky.

        3. Lynn Marie

          Please be fair – OP is not laughing or ridiculing people for their names – she’s acknowledging her discomfort and owning it by asking for help dealing with it.

          1. Myrna M

            It seemed that she was absolutely mocking them and judging them, if internally – the temptation to introduce herself as Empress Sweetie Boo as one example. She’s highly disrespectful.

            1. Blerpborp

              Well, it would be highly disrespectful if she actually introduced herself as Empress Sweetie Boo, as far as we know she hasn’t behaved disrespectfully to anyone. OP is an interesting combo of self aware enough to know she should ask AMA about this but also out of touch enough to not realize how offensive her thought process comes off. I truly hope she’s open to what people have to say and is able to reflect and change.

            2. ChimericalOne

              I agree with Lynn Marie that she’s not mocking or judging them. She’s dealing with discomfort by turning (internally) to humor, humor that she doesn’t seem to realize would offend. She explicitly acknowledges that the person(s) in question didn’t choose their own names and ergo, even if she thinks the names are ridiculous, that that’s not a reflection on the person. (She also explicitly acknowledges that she doesn’t have a good feel for humor!) However, I do think that Gaia is also being fair — regardless of intent, the OP needs to understand that humor in this situation would read as mockery.

              You could make an argument that she is mocking their parents, I suppose, but lots of people make fun of people they don’t know for giving their kids silly names (e.g., Gwyneth Paltrow’s “Apple”) without meaning to be hurtful. What becomes an issue here is 1) she doesn’t seem to realize how personally attached many/most people are to their names; and 2) she doesn’t understand the context of the particular naming convention she describes (a demand for respect in the face of racism), a context that makes her reaction seem both racially charged & particularly inappropriate in a way it otherwise wouldn’t be.

        4. Drago Cucina

          In my state we have an elected official whose first name is Twinkle. Middle aged white woman who has held various state offices.

      2. GermanCoffeeGirl

        Additionally, popular US puritanical names were of virtues, like Prudence, Charity, Chastity, Justice, Mercy, Grace, Hope, Temperance, or Patience. Some aren’t used as much today (but are making a comeback), and others are still very popular.

        1. The Grammarian

          Exactly, and some people come to the US and use the literal translation of their name as their “American” name, or choose an English word that is pleasing and has a nice meaning as their “American” name (I’ve met numerous ladies named Flower, Rose, Honey, etc.).

          1. The Grammarian

            Adding also that “Faith” seems to be a popular name among religious folks too, and I know numerous women named Chastity/Charity/Chasity.

          2. Alexis Rose

            I knew someone who’s chosen English name was Cake! After an initial “huh, never seen that before” you just get on with it. “would a rose by any other name smell as sweet?” Yes. Yes it will.

            Alison’s advice is spot on, names are names and if you treat them as such the “weird” factor will wear off.

            1. Ms. Meow

              When I was in grad school I knew an Ice and a friend of mine has a colleague named Echo because those are the literal English translations of their names.

            2. Joe in Frederick

              Opposite reaction, I immediately embrace and appreciate Cake for their diversity, positivity, and beautiful name.

              Who doesn’t want to have a friend named Cake?

              1. Alexis Rose

                My reaction was also really positive, I didn’t mean for it to sound like it was bad in any way! I was going through a stack of resumes and it just made me pause for a second. I also thought it was really awesome. My “real” name is really generic and common, so I was enamoured by the idea of having a unique and awesome name.

                1. Joe in Frederick

                  Didn’t assume, I meant opposite reaction from the OP. :) Nobody gets that excited to meet a Joe the way they feel when they uncover a glorious person like Cake.

            3. Lighthearted Musical Numbers

              I had a friend in High School named China Love, went by Love. Won’t lie, it took me some time to get used to calling “Love!” across a parking lot, but it got normal quick!

              Had another friend who was Vietnamese who got fed up with Teachers (mostly subs) refusing to even try to say his 4-syllable name correctly (it wasn’t that hard, but the difference in vowel pronunciation tripped everyone up), so he started going by the first syllable – Vu.

            4. Aurora Borealis

              I met someone whose name was Placenta. And one of our towns deputies was named Barney Fife.

            5. GreenDoor

              I work in public education and you would not believe the names some kids have: Teflon, Cinderella, Akkurate, Righton, Marvel, and my personal favorite Alpachino. Names can be weird, confusing, appalling, embarassing, and just plan eye-roll inducing (ESPN or ABCD anyone?) to others. But the OP is right – it is not the fault of an individual the name their parents gave them. And these people are adults who are obviously choosing to go by a name that others might find objectionalble. So I agree with other posters. You call people by what they prefer to be called by. That’s it. The more you address Teflon or Cinderella, the more it just becomes another sound coming out of your mouth.

              1. Robin Bobbin

                About 20 years ago there was child at a local school named Snow White. At 8 she loved her name, but I always wondered how she felt about it by middle school. You’re right, you just get used to “Snow.”

                Then there was the child named Vagina (because that’s where she came from). The kindergarten teacher had a really hard time with that one. I would have a hard time with that one.

                1. Jaz

                  When I worked at a high school, we had one student named Babe. That was a tough one for her male teachers, just because they worried someone visiting the school might be alarmed to hear them addressing a 16-year-old student as “Babe.”

                2. Ellex

                  It’s one of those “friend of a friend” stories, but a friend of mine went to school with a girl named Vagina. Her mother didn’t know how to spell Virginia.

                  There’s also the semi-apocryphal story of “Femily”, spelled “Female” – because that’s what the nurse wrote on the birth certificate.

                3. The Gollux (Not a Mere Device)

                  I went to summer camp, many years ago, with a girl named Mona Lisa {surname}. I hope she was okay with it, rather than having counselors insisting on calling her that after she said “Hi, I’m Mona” or “just Mona, please.”

          3. GermanCoffeeGirl

            @The Grammarian: I used to live in a student dormitory and we had quite a few students from Asia who used the literal English translation of their name (we were in Germany). For example, my next door neighbor’s name was Moon-Sun and another girl who lived down the hall went by Flower.

            1. The Green Lawintern

              I knew a Chinese girl in college who went by “Fire” (it was and still sounds super badass) and another guy who ALMOST went with Wing but went with Cliff in the end.

            2. Artemesia

              When I worked in China I noticed that most of the young women who worked with English speakers has flower or jewel names; I assumed they chose them because they were beautiful and they assumed common in English speaking countries. Lots of Rubies, Roses, Lilies, Flowers etc etc.

              1. Nerfmobile

                Many traditional Chinese names are nature names (Lotus Flower, River, etc), treasure names (Gold, Jade), or Virtue names (Wise, Strong, Gentle). I suspect most of those girls named after flowers or jewels were using the English translations of their Chinese names.

                1. Mike

                  In Korean culture, there was a tradition in many families where names of newborns were formed from a set of Chinese characters that cycled around by birth order or generation; I forget the details. Under Japanese occupation, it became very common for women’s names to end in -ja ‘child = girl’, the equivalent of Japanese -ko. And so, there was one young woman I was friends with when I studied in Seoul whose name through such a tradition ended up Jeongja, where jeong meant “respectful.” Unfortunately, that is homophonous with the word for “semen” (also a Chinese word, jingzi, same pronunciation as the characters in her name except for a different tone). She was introduced to me as “Jeongja,” and knowing I knew Korean immediately said, “No, my name is Jeong.”

          4. JustaTech

            I went to school with the Millennial children of hippies, so I was friends with a Sunshine-Mountain LastName, and Sylvan-Willow and her brother Aspen.

            I also went to a college with a culture of weird nicknames, so for me it was learning *not* to shout out “Hey Bastard, Chainmail, Red Rocket” outside of school. (And figuring out what their real names were.)

            1. Cactus

              I once knew a family where the girls had the Sunshine Daydream-style hippie names but the brother had a name like William or Robert or something completely average. That was funny to me.

            2. Starbuck

              I went to high school with a girl named Jasmine Meadows – she went by Jazzy. I always thought it was an awesome name, either way.

            3. Mari

              I went to high school with a Sunshine. In college, I knew a set of siblings named Athena, Aphrodite, and Spartacus. My son has a friend named Savage and another named Vallor. You get used to the names after a while.

          5. Maggie

            Parents are increasingly calling their children ridiculous names, in part because of stupid celebrities. We have to get used to it. Because everyone’s YouNeek you know!

            But I live in Hong Kong where people often pick an “English name”, but many times it’s not a name; it’s a word they like the sound of.

            I’ve come across a Nausea, a Pubic, a Mosquito, a Tree, a Porky (he was doctor)… So while it’s seems stupid having to call a grown woman “Princess”, imagine having to call a colleague Pubic or Cream. And remembering to greet someone called Kitty without saying “Hello” first.

            1. katherine

              Kitty was a very common nickname for Katherine, particularly in the late 1800s/early 1900s — Kitty Wells, Kitty Genovese, etc.

              1. Vicky Austin

                If you’re old enough to remember the 1988 presidential election, you’ll remember Kitty Dukakis, the wife of the Democratic nominee Mike Dukakis. If he had won the election, we’d have had a First Lady named Kitty for four or eight years!

          6. Sciencer

            I know someone who chose the name “Best” as her American name. It was awkward for about five minutes, then just “okay that’s her name.” (Actually I will admit it never stopped being mildly awkward via email, because I usually sign my emails “Best, Sciencer” and I felt I had to change that when writing to her :))

          1. katelyn

            but is that kill-sin, or kills-in? because depending on the last name, the second reading is ominous!

            1. TychaBrahe

              I think you mean Praise-God Barebone, the Fifth Monarchist and City of London Nominee to the Barebone’s Parliament.

              If you think that’s awesome, his actual birth name is supposed to have been Unless-Jesus-Christ-Had-Died-For-Thee-Thou-Hadst-Been-Damned Barebone

          2. SignalLost

            The famous one is Praise-God Barebone, an English leather seller and preacher, who is said to have been named Unless-Jesus-Christ-Had-Died-For-Thee-Thou-Hadst-Been-Damned Barebone. He may have had a brother named Fear-God, but we don’t know for sure because the parish registry with that family in has been lost. His eldest (or possibly only) son was named Nicholas.

            1. TootsNYC

              And of course this was all lampooned by Terry Pratchett with Corporal Visit-The-Infidel-With-Explanatory-Pamphlets and his friend Smite-the-Unbeliever-With-Cunning-Arguments.

            2. Jyrgen N

              The given name “Fürchtegott” (literal translation of Fear-God) was once, maybe not common, but also not too unusual in German-speaking countries. Also “Gottlieb” (Love-God) and “Amadeus” (latin Love-God), e.g. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and others.

            3. katherine

              And coming full circle, these Puritan names had their own set of people making fun of their names, and a lot of what ends up in lists of “weird Puritan names” were actually from contemporary satires, then copied by later writers without realizing they were satires, and now they’re on the Internet. (A footnote in William Godwin’s History of the Commonwealth of England mentions a couple. Apologies for the tangent, but names are a subject I could go on about…)

        2. Loux

          And a lot of regular names also have old meanings! For example, mine apparently means “famous warrior”. :)

          1. Ancestry

            There are a lot of Eliphalets in my family tree. Also a Melzar. (All white protestant early American colonists.)

        3. AK

          Exactly! Those names are just as grandiose, but they seem normal because they are presumably part of the letter writer’s cultural tradition (or at least part of one they’re more comfortable with). The real thing that’s ridiculous here is not these names but a grown ass adult shunning people and feeling the urge to make fun of them because of their names. If your behaviour is similar to that of a grade school bully odds are it’s not the other people who are being silly. And I get that the letter writer might realise this, but framing it as “I’m being far more ridiculously grandiose than these names are” might help them reign in their impulses.

      3. Formerly Arlington

        Agree. And the name “Sarah” means Princess. Reginald means royalty/king. I don’t see much difference.

        1. Nic

          Ooh, good catch!

          Yeah, we do have a cultural (class? race?) problem with laughing at some people’s names because they’re more openly named after a flower/gem/cultural role/virtue than other names are, but when you translate all the “traditional” names from their original languages, they have those meanings too. If “Princess” and “King” are funny, then “Victory of the People”, “Fame-Spear” and “Elf-Counsel” should be hilarious.

          1. BaronessGodivaDelicousVonPants

            I’ve always wished I was called Victory of People instead of (name of this meaning, feminized version).
            It is so empowering. When I remember that is what my name means, I feel strong and smart and destined to make a difference.
            But then I remember I am just (name of this meaning, feminized version) and I literally feel nothing.

            I am curious, do you feel the same?
            What about others, what does your name make you feel?

            1. ChimericalOne

              My name just means “virgin” (or “maiden”), so, uh… I can’t say much about it. Amusingly, my older sister’s name translates to “woman” (it’s a feminization of Charles, “man” / “free man”) and my mom’s name translates to “lady” in Italian. So, we’re all just basically named some variation of “female.” ROFL

    3. Engineer Girl

      I feel bad because these people did not choose their names

      And if they truly hated their names they would have given you a nickname or even made a legal name change. If they give you their name then there is a expectation that you’ll use it.

      1. L.

        This. I’ve worked with someone who’s legal name was say “Princess” and choose to go by her middle name “Jennifer”.

        It was a solid six months to a year before I realized what her legal name was, and that was only because we received paperwork from corporate I was in charge of getting everyone to sign.

        And the conversation with my boss was:
        Me: Um… This paperwork lists ‘Princess Smith,’ but we only have a ‘Jennifer Smith’
        Boss: Same person, she goes by her middle name
        Me: Oh ok.

        If they’re bothered by it, they will either go by a middle name or a nickname.

        1. Solidus Pilcrow

          I had a very similar situation once. There was an employee named something like Sam Smythe and then I get a list with someone named Thederon S. Smythe and it took me a minute to realize Sam went by his middle name.

          1. pleaset

            I have a friend who is the opposite – his first name is John, while his middle name is very rare (a very old New England WASP name that few have ever heard of). He goes by his middle name – he wants to be a bit more distinctive.

            I also have a super common first name, and go by initials in most contexts to be a bit distinctive.

            1. SimonTheGreyWarden

              We basically did this with my son. Old family traditional first name (say John), but gave him a unique and special literary middle name (so, Achilles, for purpose of this example). It’s a zest. Hubs and I have the whitest of white names ever so this was our chance to shine.

      2. Screenwriter/Mom

        Also, OP saying she “feels bad bc they didn’t choose their names,” tells us that she even think THEY don’t like their names, just because SHE sits in judgment on them. These are, as Alison says, very common names in the black community, for the reasons she says. By mocking them or “being uncomfortable” or even trying to rationalize not using them, OP is showing them the exact disrespect that’s the reason some of the names exist to begin with. They’re the names these people love.
        OP: ask yourself how you’d feel if one of your colleagues felt really “uncomfortable” with YOUR name, and pitied you for having it. Not a very nice feeling, is it?
        “King” also used to be a more common man’s name in the 1920s. There was a famous Hollywood director named King Vidor.

        1. Mookie

          Yes! For me, this is near-to-equivalent to the ignorant but benevolent “they didn’t CHOOSE to be gay.” I’m gay; it’s great; I’d do it again if I had the opportunity to reincarnate.

          It’s so important for people to recognize that their values, sensibilities, and aesthetic preferences are not universal, not the default, and are very much a product of time, history, upbringing, culture, class, and personal idiosyncracy. Some people sincerely, thoughtfully, and ecstatically love the things you hate, find tacky, etc. Get over it. This is someone’s NAME. It’s non-negotiable. And working in healthcare, you should know better. This kind of WASP-y intolerance, however benign, actively harms people, colleagues and patients alike.

          1. Indigo a la mode

            I would like a bumper sticker of “I’m gay; it’s great; I’d do it again should I reincarnate.”

        2. The Original K.

          I actually bristled reading the OP’s letter because as a Black woman, I know exactly why those names have meaning. (I’ve known a Prince and a Princess, no relation. Prince was a lawyer; I’m not sure what became of Princess, as I knew her as a kid.) I was glad Alison mentioned it. It’s very common in the Black community to give names that connote respect because we were and are so often denied it (calling grown men “boy,” etc.). It’s also why, within the Black community, a younger person calling a Black person of a certain age by his or her first name is Not Done. The OP’s letter read as condescending and intolerant to me.

          1. Joe in Frederick

            I’m still just getting used to it, a year into working for the Army (one of our nation’s first integrated employers!) I had to explain why we use Mr. and Ms. in the office to a new employee, and mentioned that it’s a great chance to show that we’re assuming respect and dignity as the baseline for all of our interactions.

            It’s still crazy to me to be called Mr. anything, but I can always just say “Call me Joe, please.” This is about more than my comfort zone as a white middle-aged male, I’m not the whole story here. Nobody here should have to bargain up for basic courtesy.

            1. Liet-Kinda

              Same thing in the DoD branch I work for. Among peer civilians in my office, I get called Liet, but if someone doesn’t know me well or is active duty military, it’s “Dr. Kynes,” basically without fail. Even if I ask, they’re not that comfortable with Liet.

          2. Mr. X

            I’ll admit to thinking the same thing as OP. I’m white and had no idea why those names were given. Your comment was really informative and I’ll work on not being judgemental about the parents of people with names like that.

            1. hmmm

              I feel the same way as you. I mean, I get the intent to make their children feel respected or loved, but it just doesn’t work out that way outside of that community. Slaveholders may have said “ma’am” or “sir” but they didn’t call themselves “your majesty” or something. And using a pet name like Precious or Princess feels infantilizing.

              I guess the closest corollary is the uber hippies on the white side. I went to school with a girl named Spice; my cousin worked with a girl named Passion. It’s just feels like their parents weren’t doing them any favors.

              1. Budgie Lover

                Yeah… unfortunately I don’t think the average reaction to a name like “Princess” would be “Wow, I guess I’d better respect this person now!” Polite people will respect a given name no matter what, but a name that sounds unusually twee will just give jerks an excuse for mockery.

                1. Typhoid Mary

                  “Polite people will respect a given name no matter what, but a name that sounds unusually twee will just give jerks an excuse for mockery.”

                  If marginalized people abandoned their culture for fear of mockery, they’d never create anything.

                  Let’s us non-Black folks assume Black people understand the impact of their choices. Maybe our discomfort with these names is, I dunno, part of the deal of deconstructing white supremacy. Anti-racist work is going to protests and voting and stuff, but it’s also the quiet moments of “Huh, maybe my discomfort around [this practice] is actually informed by a white supremacist culture, and not some arbitrarily objective measure of professionalism.”

                2. Jessie the First (or second)

                  A “a name that sounds unusually twee ” to *you* perhaps, but clearly not to the people who named their child that name. Which is half the point you seemed to have missed.

                  What is a typical name, what names sound good, what names are considered lovely/beautiful/powerful – are really entirely cultural and varied. There is not The One And Only Encyclopedia Of Totally Normal Names because different countries, cultures, regions, backgrounds, etc all have their own version of that mythical encyclopedia. Deciding a name is “unusually twee” means you are looking at a name only from the vantage of your own experience. But other people have different experiences.

                  Also, jerks don’t need an excuse for mockery, so avoiding raising their ire or notice is a bad way to go about life, actually.

                3. Nephron

                  Reading the letter I immediately recognized the likely group these names were coming from, but did not know the history of the names. Given the way names from the African-American community are treated I am now afraid we might consider Princess and such “twee” for some very disturbing reasons.

                4. AMT

                  @Jessie – yes! As a trans person who chose what I considered to be a Totally Normal Name, I had to get over the instinct to cringe at what I perceived as “hipster” or “special” names that other trans people chose. What right did I have to say which names were on the Acceptable Trans Names List? What did it say about me and my insecurities that I felt comfortable making fun of those names?

              2. Bagpuss

                I think the point is that if you live in a culture where you are routinely referred to my your first name due to your colour, then having a first name which is a term of respect reclaims some of the courtesy you’re being denied.

                e.g. if you are always called ‘Joe’, not ‘Mr Smith’ then maybe calling your son ‘Prince’ or ‘Earl’ so that anyone condescending in that way has to chose between calling him ‘Prince’ and sounding as though they are speaking to a social superior, or calling him ‘Mr Smith’ as they would if they were speaking to someone they saw as a social equal.

                And then over time, you have names which have become common names in your family or community.

                1. TychaBrahe

                  My mother is a doctor, and as a child I often did paperwork for her. I still remember the thrill of encountering lab results for “President Hill” and thinking oneifmg mother’s patients was an actual former President.

                  My mother explained about how some people would call whites by their last names and blacks by their first names, and how these important sounding names were chosen to force at least the appearance of respect. It made me a bit sad, but then I thought the name was even cooler for forcing “mean people” to be “nice.”

              3. AKchic

                “weren’t doing them any favors”…
                That is a phrase I see a lot in regards to unique, non-white, not bog-standard biblical names, and I live in a very diverse community. No, really… Alaska is more diverse than you’d imagine, but it still has it’s (for lack of a better phrase) old fashioned purist holdouts (I outright call them racists to their faces, which doesn’t make me popular at family gatherings).

                The problem tends to be with internalized biases. We see certain names and automatically assume that it is a certain heritage or comes from a certain area with a specific race attached to it. Those assumptions and biases form opinions before we’ve even met a person, which can influence our opinion of them long before we have any right to make any judgements.
                We need to look at our biases and actively work towards eliminating them. Studies have shown that generic Caucasian names have a better chance at being interviewed than other names in the US. Even when their resumes aren’t *quite* as good as the foreign or unique sounding names. All because of our internalized biases.

                We need to confront our prejudices. Both in ourselves personally, and when we see them elsewhere.

              4. Meredith Brooks

                I’m having a hard time reading this thread. There’s literally no need to justify or validate what jerks will say in response to a unique name. .. whether they understand the intent or not. I’m confused why folks would feel the need to devalue the reasons behind someone’s name because they don’t fit some preconceived personal cultural norm. It’s a name for goodness sakes and doesn’t belong to anyone but the person using it. As Mr. X. said we should all work on not being judgemental …

              5. Nic

                Well, I guess no-one had better ever call their kids Sarah or Roy, then, right? Because if those guys ever go to Israel or France, someone’s going to think their parents were idiots and it’ll be justified, right?!

                It’s not a pet name, and it’s not infantilising. All names mean things. All names started out as things that parents felt for their kids, expressions of ambition for their future, or wishes of good luck. Fame-Bright. Victory of the People. Precious. God’s gift. Joy. Blessing. Noble-Stone.

                People who live in English-speaking countries within a (broadly) English-originating culture have the dubious luxury of pretending that names are merely decorative collections of consonants and vowels – but they aren’t. Plain English or inherited from an older culture (Norman, Anglo-Saxon, Viking, Welsh, Scottish or Irish, not to mention Biblical names from Greek, Roman, Hebrew and Aramaic origins), they are all words that would have been in conversation within their own language.

              6. Geoffrey B

                It might feel infantilising *to you*, but one thing that white people often forget is that we’re not always the target audience and such decisions are not always made for the sake of our sensibilities.

                Black Americans get far more exposure to white-people culture than vice versa. When a Black American names their child “Princess”, it’s a pretty safe bet that they *know* white people often sneer at such names. Maybe they have decided that it’s more important for their daughter to view herself as a “Princess” than for her name to win the approval of folks like us.

                Also, slaves were often expected to address slaveholders as “Master”, which is pretty close to “Your Majesty” in connotations.

              7. Mary

                Assuming that Black parents should name their kids for people outside their community is one hell of a thing. How much time does the average white middle-class parent think about giving their child a name that works “outside their community”?

              8. R

                In those days, it was an expectation to be called Mr./Ms. (last name). But blacks were often called by their first name, as a way to “keep them in their place.” But, if the first name was King, or Queen, the irony of having to call a black man or woman that served to make a point.

          3. Teapot Tester

            I learned recently that Mr. T uses the Mr. in his stage name because he was tired of seeing his older relatives disrespected, and by forcing people to call him Mr. he was going against that direct racism.

          4. GL127

            Eeshhh. Should I call my landlady by Ms. Her-Last-Name, then? She’s an elderly Black woman, and I am in my mid-thirties. I’ve been calling her by her first name but don’t want to be disrespectful.

            (Also, obviously do not answer if you don’t feel like doing this type of education, of course!)

            1. Bagpuss

              Could you ask her?
              e.g. “I’ve been calling you Miranda because you introduced yourself to me as Miranda Jones, and I’m used to calling everyone by their first names, but do you prefer Ms Jones?”
              (I think it’s quite a good idea with any new acquaintance, if it isn’t obvious from how they introduce themselves, to ask their preference.
              Or start using Ms Last name and let her correct you if she prefers something less formal

            2. Typhoid Mary

              I mean, for what it’s worth, I would never, ever, ever, ever, ever call a Black person over 50 by their first name without an honorific (grew up/live in rural United States, approx. a third of my life in the South, for reference.) Like, unless they have specifically told me to. But that’s also my personal rule, not something somebody told me to do, and of course ymmv with the individuals in your life depending on your relationship.

              But yeah, I have to be pretty close and have explicit permission before I dropped the honorific from a Black elder’s name.

              1. The Original K.

                If a Black person who is, say, my parents’ age or older introduces him or herself to me just with their first name, I will call them Mr. or Miss Firstname. “Hi, I’m Dorothy.” “Hi Miss Dorothy, nice to meet you.” My friends’ kids call me Miss K. or Aunt K. (that’s really just my best friend’s kids).

                My grandparents used to introduce their friends to us as Mr. or Mrs. Lastname. I don’t even KNOW some of their first names. My parents use honorifics with their parents’ friends.

                1. Jen S. 2.0

                  This. Honorifics are so critical in the Black community. I am in my 40s and my parents have friends where I still call them Aunt or Uncle, or, increasingly common, where I seldom call them by name at all because it’s just way too weird without an honorific, even though I’m a grown woman and now have my own friendly relationship with that person. I often call my childhood friends’ mothers “Mom” because calling them by just their first names was So Not Done for so long that adjusting is terrifying. My own mother is in her 70s and still refers to the now-long-dead women she knew growing up as “Miss Mary” and “Miss Georgia.”

                2. GreenDoor

                  I’m white and I’m not from the South and I’m not “of a certain age” but I absolutely cringe when children address me as GreenDoor. I’m not your friend. I’m certainly not your peer. I am Mrs. GreenDoor to you. Same with my kids. I am teaching them to address adults as Miss, Mr., Mrs., etc *unless* that person specifically says to call them something else.

                3. dawbs

                  THe only hangup I end up with on doing this is people who are genderqueer.
                  I’m an ‘old’ by my work standards (many of my work peers are in their 20’s), and, working in education, I use honorifics. So Ms. Jen, Mr. Todd, etc.
                  But I have 2 coworkers who are non-cis, and I’m having to find workarounds. One prefers I use their (<also hard for me. The singular 'they/their'. Working on it. But man, I got dinged on SO many term papers, it's 2nd nature) presenting gender. The other would like me to try to drop their honorific.
                  I'm trying hard on this (and my coworkers rock, and know that I screw up but I"m trying), but, man, a gender neutral honorific would help a lot.

                4. Else

                  @dawbs, some people use Mx for a genderqueer honorific, pronounced “mix”. You could ask them if they’d like to use those. I am also one of those people who gets that blinking not-grammatically-correct! twinge when using recently created pronouns (though not they/their), but you gotta do what you gotta do. Courtesy is more important than correctness. After a while, they do feel natural – it just takes practice and use.

                5. Typhoid Mary

                  Out of nesting! Replying to dawbs and Else: Thanks for bringing this up! I’m non-binary so honorifics for ::me personally:: stress me the fuck out. (“Mx.” is actually my current favorite, but I feel like I’m gonna throw up any time I ask people to use it because: transphobia.)

                  Also, if it helps re: singular “they,” it has actually been in use for hundreds of years! Not only did Shakespeare use it, you probably do to. For instance: “If anybody comes into the store, be sure to great them with a friendly smile.” Maybe that will help soothe some of the incongruity for you! (;

              2. KimberlyR

                I am a white woman in the south and I wouldn’t either. I wouldn’t call a black man of the same age range as his first name without the Mr. Culturally, this is how my community refers to these people and it isn’t on me to change. It just feels more respectful. Obviously, if I’m told otherwise, I go with their preferred name.

              3. WonderCootie

                This is a really interesting conversation. I had no idea the reasoning behind names like Princess, so thank you for that. I grew up with many friends with names like this so it never occurred to me until I was an adult that some other melanin-challenged people considered them weird (or worse).
                Typhoid Mary, I’m curious. Do you use honorifics only for elder black people or for all elders? If it’s only for black elders, may I ask your reasoning? Please forgive me if this sounds confrontational. I truly don’t mean it to be. This is one of the conversations we’ve been having in my office for several years now because my urban/northern-raised boss has had some culture shock coming into our southern small town (and he caused some culture shock for us, too!). It never occurred to me to call ANY elder by their first name without an honorific until he challenged it. He insists that it is infantilizing, so he calls everyone from the president of the university to the custodians by their first name and insists that they do they same for him.

                1. Typhoid Mary

                  Hi WonderCootie, I’m happy to respond to your questions here and appreciate your good-faith approach. Just a heads-up: I’m probably not up for an extended back-and-forth.

                  My parents raised me to use honorifics for all elders; however, that was an anomoly where I grew up, and as I entered my 20s it became awkward and incongruous to address white elders with honorifics. More than half the white elders I met seemed strongly to prefer being addressed only by their first name.

                  With Black elders, I am unlikely to drop the honorific unless the person themself explicitly requests it, and that’s for a couple reason. The very first reason is: That’s what Black folks around me did. I didn’t have the full context, but I sensed there was a cultural difference, because Black folks addressed their elders with honorifics without fail, unlike the white communities I was a part of.

                  The second reason has been addressed elsewhere in the thread with regards to historical (and contemporary) disrespect to Black folks from white folks in terms of address.

                  If it seems like a double standard that I have different “rules” for white vs Black elders, I’ll freely admit to viewing it as a case of different cultures having different traditions for showing respect. (Incidentally, there is no single homogenous Black American culture, and I would absolutely defer to a Black elder asking me to address them without an honorific.)

                  If this conversation is interesting to you, I hope you will take some time to read Black authors and historians. Ijeoma Oluo recently published “So You Want To Talk About Race;” I haven’t read it, but I like her other work and people have said good things about it.

                  I won’t comment too much on your situation at work, but I will note that your boss may indeed be challenging conceptions of hierarchy; he is also, whether or not he intends it, using the power of his position to strip a custodian of their honorific. That does not feel particularly respectful or progressive to me; hopefully, he has a warm enough relationship with all of you that nobody feels disrespected.

                2. WonderCootie

                  Typhoid Mary, thanks so much for the kind response. I have much the same experience with black vs. white culture (and I agree that that is really too wide a brush to paint with). The way you explain it makes a lot of sense. It really is on a case by case basis for me. Even with work, it still makes me uncomfortable to call the dean by his first name, and I refer to my department chair to people outside the college as Dr. Smith (not his real name). As for my boss, thankfully, our custodian is very patient, and they’ve had long discussions about the merits for and against honorifics. We’re still working on polishing some of his rough edges. Thanks for the author recommendation. I’ll definitely check her out.

                3. WonderCootie

                  A quick edit to my last comment:
                  Typhoid Mary, no worries if you don’t respond to me. We’ve all got work to do, and I appreciate you taking the time you already have. :)

            3. Janie

              A lot of people also like going by “Ms. (FirstName)” or the like. Not everyone, but it is an option for some people.

          5. TrainerGirl

            I had the same thought, and I do wonder if, somewhere deep down, the OP is uncomfortable with these names because she subconsciously feels that these people don’t deserve the respect that these names connote. I hope that’s not the case.

            1. K

              That seems a bit harsh to me. I think its more likely to be the reverse. One does not call actual royalty “princess” or “king,” one calls them “your highness,” “your majesty” or some variant thereof. Calling them princess or king to their face as a title would actually be disrespectful. Calling somebody princess can be seen as infantilising or mildly insulting, so while I certainly agree that OP needs to get over their discomfort and just use whatever people’s names actually are, I think their discomfort comes more from a feeling of not wanting to show disrespect rather than the reverse.

          6. Natatat

            I really appreciate your comment. As a non-American, I have noticed names like Princess in American news, names of celebrities etc but didn’t know the background behind those names. Knowing the reason behind the names gives me a whole new appreciation for the names.

        3. Kathleen_A

          I actually don’t think this was the OP’s intended meaning (though I can see how it could be interpreted that way – and of course this interpretation could be correct for all I know). I think the OP’s point is that she dislikes the names, but realizes that she shouldn’t judge people for having those names because they, after all, probably didn’t choose them.

          But then, I am personally related to people with first names such as “Colonel” and “Bay,” so WDIK?

          1. Le Sigh

            But even if that’s not her intention, the effect of her statements and thought process are the same. It’s clearly seeping in to how she works with others–avoiding them, etc.

            I’m also having a hard time being charitable here, because of OP’s statements like this: “I’m bad at using humor in these situations and am always tempted to demand that they call me Empress Sweetie Boo or something equally ridiculous.” Why is she tempted to do this at all? OP has a specific definition of what constitutes a respectable name, and implies anything outside that is up for mockery. As if there isn’t a real person with different opinions, culture, life, and view point behind the name.

            And the whole “I realize they didn’t choose their names” still has the OP assuming they don’t like their names, that they’re unduly saddled with them. That’s awful presumptuous. They might like them, after all. And OP’s opinion on it doesn’t matter one lick. They need to just call them by the name they want to be called by, work with them as they would someone named “Jack” or “Jane” and get on with it.

            1. Kathleen_A

              Oh, God, yes – the sample mockery, even if the OP never actually says it aloud, is just AWful. The OP really needs to find a way to just shut down that line of thinking – not just for these names but for any names that, for whatever reason, are outside her comfort zone. I expect my Great Uncle Colonel heard allllllll the jokes possible.

            2. Working Mom Having It All

              Also, like… so what? I have a colleague who has a common enough name that I personally don’t like that much. Of course I’m still going to associate with her and use her name. Her name is none of my business, and honestly the fact that it’s not a name I’d pick for myself or bestow on a child is barely worth remarking on. Who cares?

            3. BluntBunny

              Yes agree with this it shows a lack of respect and immaturity it reads that they are biting a smile whenever they hear their names.
              Also the “I realise they don’t choose their names” sounds like she pities the people she works with and looks down on them because of their name which is also not ok.

        4. Safety Dance

          Many of the examples of “King” as a name are Biblical, with the first and middle names being King David.
          I’ve found it hilarious in old records that parents 150 years ago named their kids after celebrities, too. A distant relative of mine is George Washington Lastname. There were children named after Millard Fillmore.
          I wonder if she has the same problem using the names Glenda, Vanessa, Jayden, Norma or Lucinda. All of which are, says the website Behind the Name, completely made up.

      3. aebhel

        Yep. I have an unusual name that’s not pronounced the way most people read it; I still expect to be called by it. People’s names are their names, OP. You use them and keep any negative opinions to yourself.

        1. CommanderBanana

          Same – I have a fairly uncommon name, as in it’s not that popular, AND my parents pronounce it differently than everyone else with the same name, so it is ALWAYS mispronounced and I think people get frustrated trying to get it right, but it’s my name, I don’t have a nickname or useable middle name so I expect people to, you know, use my name, and if we’re going to be interacting on a regular basis I expect you to at least try to pronounce it correctly.

        2. Alianne

          Yep. My name is a variant of a common name, and people who will not do me the common courtesy of checking to ensure they spelled it correctly, or who consistently mispronounce it because it’s apparently just too hard to ask me, are incredibly frustrating. A past client worked with my company for almost three years, and never once in that time did he ever spell my name correctly in emails–despite the fact that my name IS my email address. And I will never forget the well-meaning teacher who had to be reprimanded because she kept crossing out my name and writing the “correct” spelling on everything I did.

          If you have pronunciation questions, ask. If you want to know the history of a name, ask. Otherwise, be respectful of your coworkers’ names.

          1. CommanderBanana

            I really wish my parents had checked with pronunciation before they named me – but the technically incorrect pronunciation is my actual name. And it’s not that complicated of a name, it’s basically just pronouncing one of the vowels differently, and it’s still phonetic.

          2. Susie

            Someone tweeted this alternate lyrics for Destiny Child’s “Say My Name” once and it always stuck with me:

            Spell my name, spell my name
            It’s right there in the email
            It’s not a hidden detail
            The spelling doesn’t change…

          3. clunker

            What do you MEAN a teacher “corrected” your name’s spelling? How old were you? How big was the class? What possible combination of factors leads to a teacher thinking “ah, yes, I should correct this students name, without checking against the attendance sheet or anything, because they clearly spelled their own name wrong.”??

            1. Leilani

              FWIW, I’ve had two teachers tell me I got my own name wrong. Both in elementary. Usually subs just ignored my corrections or have me a nickname or tried to avoid calling on me, but two of them did actively tell me I was wrong. About my own name.

              I also had a coworker who added random ‘y’s for three years, despite corrections from my boss and peers and y’know, it being my email. (There’s no y in Leilani, weirdly! Always in different places somehow.)

            2. Alianne

              I was in second grade, in a class of 20+ students, back in the 80s. This was a long-term substitute (she was there for at least three weeks while my usual teacher was in the hospital), and she just could not comprehend the spelling of my name. I could not convince her that I knew how to spell my own name. The roll sheet must be an error. She very nicely “corrected” every instance of my name, even the name label on my desk that I had handwritten and decorated myself.

              After a couple of weeks of this, I apparently had a panic attack in front of my parents and demanded to know why they gave me the “wrong” name because the new teacher said my name was wrong and now I was going to fail second grade…(ah, academic anxiety). I learned later that my parents called the principal, the principal spoke to the substitute, and ended up having to show her my enrollment paperwork to prove that yes, this was my legal name, I was not spelling it incorrectly, stop giving this tiny child an identity crisis. I don’t remember if she ever apologized directly to me; just one day the corrections of my name stopped.

              1. Sabina

                I had a first grade teacher try to teach me to spell my name incorrectly because they way it was actually spelled did not look “right” to her. When my mother found out she was livid and quickly put an end to that noise.

          4. aquar1an

            THE WORST. Also, people making a face before attempting to read your name… I get this often (at Starbucks), and it’s frankly worse than hearing my name mispronounced with confidence.

        3. Presidential Name

          I have a fairly common first name that people can spell multiple ways, and I find it IRRITATING when people spell my name wrong. I can’t imagine someone calling me outside of my name.

          By the way, I’m a black woman and my parents’ gave both my brother and I very white sounding names because of the attitudes of people like OP 1. If you ask them, they will say they gave us these names so we can “fit in”. Check yourself before your wreck yourself, OP.

          1. Ice and Indigo

            And more broadly, most names mean something good when you go into their etymology. Parents like to give their kids names that mean good things. Even people who choose the most common names very possibly looked them up in a baby book and thought, ‘Hey, it means something nice. That’s good.’

            Most names mean something more than just a random collection of syllables; English-speakers are just used to names that come from othe languages. Think of it like someone being called Faith or Joy: it’s just a name from your own language, and once you’re used to it it’s just a name.

            And even if someone has a truly weird name, then they’ve doubtless been given grief about it before you met them and will already be sick of remarks, so don’t add to that. Not saying King or Princess are weird, for the record; they seem pretty natural choices if you’re taking English as your language of origin. But really weird name havers, you can be sure, already know people think their name is weird.

            1. Rebecca

              Heh. Rebecca (in the UK a very unremarkable name that I’m sure the letter write would have no trouble with at all) gets variously translated as a tie, a trap, a snare or a “noosed cord”. The nicest definition I’ve seen is “beautifully ensnaring”. It doesn’t really matter, I’m fairly sure my parents picked it because they liked it, possibly because it was biblical, possibly because they thought it wasn’t too common or too unusual and sounded OK with their surname rather than for the meaning.

              Names are hugely cultural and names from other cultures may be strange and surprising to us and difficult to spell or pronounce but it’s basic politeness to make your best attempt at addressing a person in the way they want to be addressed.

              1. Observer

                it’s basic politeness to make your best attempt at addressing a person in the way they want to be addressed.

                This reminds me of a book title “Everything I needed to know I learned in kindergarten”

                This is just so basic that it makes me sad that it needs to be said to adults.

                1. Nessun

                  It drives me BANANAS that people cannot figure that out. I had a half hour conversation once with someone who insisted it was fine that his coworker got to choose other people’s nicknames based on ‘what she wanted/remembered to call them’. No. That is disrespectful, you don’t do it!!

            2. Pocket Wench

              My name means a “settlement of huts” in Gaelic. Don’t get me wrong, I love my name. But my parents definitely picked it for the sound and not the meaning.

            3. Mike

              And some that might seem odd at first usually have a good reason. Many Mongolian men’s names include togoo ‘cooking pan’ or tulga ‘trivet’ (tripod to support a pot in a fire); they are meant to ensure that the young man will be a good provider for his wife and children.

        1. SC

          +1. Also, many names including “ric” or “rick” stem from the German for “ruler”–Richard, Fredrick, Derick, Cedrick, Roderick, etc.

        1. Artemesia

          This argument strikes me as disingenuous. No one knows or cares about the ‘meaning’ of names except people combing over baby name books and even then, no one chooses the name for that reason. I think my name ‘mean’ God’s grace or something like that according to these books, but no one cares, no one knows and it is not read that way — it is just a common name in the western tradition. It is quite different to experience than what a child named Precious or Princess or King will experience.

          People get to name their own kids and everyone should respect the names others have and call them what they want to be called, but that a common name supposedly ‘means’ king or ‘beloved of God’ has nothing to do with the hazards kids face if they get named ‘Precious, Prince or King.’ On the other hand, the assertiveness of minority communities in using the names they love has dramatically changed the acceptability of those names. My young grandchildren find nothing odd about names that in my day would have evoked ridicule in school; they have all sorts of classmates with once uncommon names; this is progress.

    4. many bells down

      I saw an interview with Mr. T where he said he chose that name specifically because he saw his father addressed as “boy” or worse, and he wanted the first word people said to him to be “mister.”

        1. Liet-Kinda

          I am psychologically incapable of reading the phrase “I pity the fool” in any mental voice but Mr. T’s.

        2. Mr. X

          Much as some names drive me nuts, I can’t help but remember a Star Trek: TNG episode where Data is kidnapped and made into an unwilling museum piece. The guy who kidnapped him asks him his name, and he says, “Data.” (pronounced day-tuh). Later on, the guy calls him “Data”. (pronounced dah-tuh). Then he says, “Dah-tuh, day-tuh, what’s the difference?” Data replies, “One is my name. The other is not.” That always stuck with me for people’s names, no matter how silly they seem.

          1. JennyFair

            Wasn’t that convo with Dr. Polaski? It took her some time to come around to recognizing his sentience.

          2. A Tax NERD

            I LOVE THIS. Using it from now on when someone mispronounces my name which fairly common but with 2 slightly different pronunciations.

      1. OhNo

        Watching that interview as a young teen was how I finally caught on to the reason that some of my classmates were named King, Queen, Princess, and so on. It was a lightbulb moment for me, and it might help re-frame the issue for the OP, too.

    5. Phoenix Programmer

      It’s OK to feel I uncomfortable and it was right of OP to write in for advice vs expressing those feeling using any of her examples.

      I can’t say the discomfort will neccasrilly fade though. I have a coworker named Honey and although I have worked worth her door 2 years I still get side eye for phone conversations with her .. and we’ll .. that’s uncomfortable! But it is what is and I handle the odd looks and explain to folks that that is her name.

      1. Traffic_Spiral

        Yeah, some people just have weird names (Dick, Abcde, Pipi, etc.). Some people have names that you personally are uncomfortable with for your own reasons (Jesus for some religions, someone with the name of your sibling/lover/ex/whatever). At the end of the day, it’s their name, and if they want to be called by it, you call them by it.

        If it makes you feel any better, you know that thing where you repeat a word so much it stops sounding like a word and just like a weird sound (semantic satiation, FYI)? Well, it sorta works for names too. Eventually, it’ll just start sounding like the bit of sounds you use to call them.

        1. TiredLady

          Right. My husband has the same name as my ex. I’ve felt uncomfortable when I worked with someone who had a name from another culture that was difficult for my English-speaking tongue to pronounce at first. But in the interest of basic respect of others of course I got over it quickly and called them by their name.

          In addition to the racial aspect of this, a big issue here is that the OP is making someone else’s name about HER when it’s really not. Your feelings about someone else’s name are irrelevant unless you’re a parent naming their own child. Otherwise it really should not cause you more than mild discomfort that you easily get over because it’s not about you.

          1. Sapphire

            Even if you are a parent naming a kid, that kid may later decide to change that name for gender reasons, or just because they’d prefer to be known as something else. In that case, you may feel disappointed or sad about it, but your child likely isn’t doing it to spite you.

            1. TiredLady

              Yes, you’re totally right. I was thinking during the pregnancy when you’re choosing the name but didn’t specify that (my mistake). After the kid is born the name is *theirs* and theirs alone to keep or change.

          2. stitchinthyme

            My husband has the same first name as the uncle who molested me in my teens. He has said many times that he wishes he didn’t share a name with that guy, but he has done a lot to take away the bad associations I have with the name. (Aside from the name, they are nothing at all alike.) I would never ask him to change his name for me.

            Anyway, we rarely call each other by our names regardless; we usually use terms of endearment when addressing each other.

          3. RobertRobert

            “It’s not about you.”

            That’s the long and the short of it.

            As someone who has a very unusual name IRL, let me also say: OP anything that you might say to Princess about her name, she has heard dozens (if not hundreds) of times already in her life. Her name none of your business, just like your name is none of her business.

        2. Sharon

          The only name I’ve ever been uncomfortable with was two different people (at different times) named Bich. I think they were Vietnamese. I respect people’s names but this one I always felt like a passerby would think I was abusing them if they heard me call them that!

          1. Seifer

            It is indeed Vietnamese! It’s one of my aunt’s names. I’ve just always told my friends that it sounds more like ‘beak’ than ‘bitch without a t’ and that usually helps.

            1. Rose

              The “ch” in Bich is like the “ch” in the Scottish word “loch”. I expect there are other words the same, but I can’t think of them right now.

        3. LQ

          I’m deeply personally uncomfortable with the name of my abusive ex who had an extremely common name for men and women. If you were to list names that are common for both men and women, it would be in the top 5, maybe #1. One of my best friends has this name. It still makes me shiver a little to say it. Do I avoid saying the actual name when I’m having a bad day? Sometimes. But I never avoid those people! That is a bridge way to far. You can do a lot of communicating with someone without having to say their name. I know I’m better off talking TO the person than about them.

          I’d rather say go talk to them to get what I need myself than ask someone else to do it for me because if I do it I don’t have to say the name, if I ask someone else, I do. Start using the names and start going to those coworkers when they are the right coworkers!

        4. Database Developer Dude

          It would make me uncomfortable to work with someone with the name of my lover/ex/whatever, but I’m not sure why it would be uncomfortable to work with someone with the name of a sibling…. could you shed some light on that please?

          1. ChimericalOne

            Some people don’t have good relationships with their siblings — they could be bullies, etc. Perhaps that was what was meant?
            Or maybe it was just “I have very strong associations with this name.” My own sister’s name is fairly uncommon, and people used to mix us up as kids, so I always do a bit of a double-take when I hear someone say her name — I think of her, and I half-think they’re talking to me (because of accidentally being called her name as a child).

          2. OhNo

            ChimericalOne has a good point about negative associations, but my first thought was the temptation to use a nickname. My sibling and I pretty much never used full names for each other growing up, and I’ve had slip-ups in the past where I accidentally addressed someone with the same name as a nickname instead when I’m out of it. (Doesn’t happen often, luckily, but it’s happened at least three times that I can remember off hand.)

            1. Database Developer Dude

              Ah, that makes sense. I also do not have good relationships with siblings, but I’ve long since ceased to care. That’s probably why I was confused at first.

          3. Erin W

            It wasn’t a discomfort thing necessarily, but years ago I worked briefly with a woman whose name was very close to my sister’s (relatively rare) name, but with a slightly altered pronunciation. So for weeks I had to correct myself when addressing my co-worker. Then later when I got together with my family, I mispronounced my sister’s name. Nobody particularly minded obviously.

            I can see other situations where the sibling thing would be a setback–I’m complaining to a coworker about my annoying sister Kathy and her misadventures, and someone assumes I meant Kathy in HR and then rumors start. Just a situation that calls for specificity, probably. Or limited gossiping about your sister.

            I also worked in an office where the director had a husband with the same name as the deputy director’s DOG. The deputy director was like, “yes, we’ve had some hilarious misunderstandings.”

      2. EventPlannerGal

        It was right of the OP to ask, but I don’t know what other answer they could have expected to get. “Don’t make fun of other people’s names” is, frankly, the type of thing that you ought to learn as a child, and the likely racial aspect makes the question particularly loaded. Perhaps I’m particularly sensitive about this as someone with an unusual name that gets mocked frequently, but I do find it hard to sympathise with the mindset of the LW. Just don’t make fun of other people’s names.

        1. Falling Diphthong

          I was once overhearing some phone training where the trainer had to spell out “Do NOT make fun of people’s names. There is no way you just came up with an original joke on their name that they never heard before.” So some people do need it spelled out.

          1. shep

            So much this. It shouldn’t have to be spelled out, but some people do need such a straightforward directive. OP, it’s fine of you to ask in this forum and I’m glad you felt comfortable writing in to Allison, but yes, please call your colleagues by the names they go by.

            I have a unique name my parents picked out from my dad’s home country that can be shortened to a more common name in the US, and have had an alarming amount of people suggest that I go by that instead. My dad Anglicized his name to make it easier for people to say (and by Anglicized, I mean he literally just chose a short, common name that shared some letters with his actual name), and I feel like he totally shouldn’t have had to do that.

            I’ve had people (usually older and male) make what I imagine they thought was gentle, good-natured fun of my name. It’s over the phone so luckily no one can see me roll my eyes.

            What takes the utter cake, though, was (yet again) an older man over the phone who asked for my name.

            Me: Shepard (except my actual name, of course)
            Him: What??
            Me: Shepard.
            Him: WHAT???!!
            Me: SHEP. ARD.
            Him: WHATEVER.

            Whatever??? Seriously?? (I know you wouldn’t do this, OP, but I doubt you’re the first person your colleagues have met who have reservations about calling them by their names–and it gets very tiresome to those of us saddled with unique names. Being sensitive to that, if nothing else, is a huge help to us.)

          2. Armchair Analyst

            As someone whose given name rhymes with a common brand name, that is an excellent point.
            The joke is old and not funny and the audience is not receptive. Move along, please.

        2. Queen Anon

          I knew someone whose own mother mocked her newborn daughter’s name (unusual and pretty) to such a degree that the newborn’s parents legally changed it to a cute but very bland and common name in a matter of weeks. Some people never learn good manners and empathy.

          1. Former Employee

            I would have banned mom instead. I can’t believe that “mother” wasn’t horrible in a multitude of other ways.

        3. Data Miner

          Don’t lampoon me for this, but I didn’t know the background reason for choosing these names is to garner respect and OP may not have either. Alison, and this community, provides context and perspectives to everyday situations that may not be as simple as “get over it and don’t make fun of people’s names”.

          1. TootsNYC

            well, this situation *IS* as simple as “get over it and don’t make fun of people’s names.”

            But I agree, it’s extra powerful to hear some of these deeper reasons.

          2. Typhoid Mary

            It can be hard to know all the ins and outs of historic (and contemporary!) marginalizations, especially if you’re not a member of those communities, it’s true.

            This is a lovely opportunity to reflect on why mockery is so often a bad choice–we often don’t know the histories we’re stepping into.

          3. EventPlannerGal

            I absolutely agree that not everybody will be aware of the context of these specific names – I didn’t know it until quite recently – and I’m glad Alison provided it! But I find it difficult to think of many situations where the answer *wouldn’t* boil down to “get over it and don’t make fun of people names”. The racial element here is an additional layer of complexity that not everyone will know about immediately, but to me it would remain unacceptable for the LW to avoid people and mock their names if it was because she thought they were old-fashioned or childish or spelled stupidly or whatever. It’s their name.

            1. Safetykats

              Unfortunately, once you know about the racial back story, it just gets worse. I’ve worked with several older, white men named Earl, and I can’t help but wonder if OP would have the same reaction to any of the Earls that she has to Princess and King.

              I’ve also worked with older, white men named Alison, Jan, and Julie. A lot of people (mostly other men) were uncomfortable with those names, but they were all management, and if anyone was tempted to be mocking, they kept it to themselves. I also can’t help but wonder if OP would have the same impulse if Princess was her grandboss.

      3. Kimmybear

        I had a roommate once whose first name roughly translated to “look” in the country we lived in. I got a call from the maintenance office that kept starting with “Look, I need you to…” and I kept replying “Look isn’t here.” Took a couple rounds for us to figure out what was going on.

        1. SarahTheEntwife

          Yeah, for a while we had an employee whose name was a homophone to “me”, which lead to one or two Who’s On First moments.

          1. Sabina

            I worked with a woman who after marriage had a first and last name that were spelled differently but pronounced the same (think “Sandy Sandee”). We were required to answer incoming calls from the public with both our first and last names. This made for some hilarious conversations. She was a good sport and could have, I suppose, used a different version of her name, but she enjoyed this unique thing about herself as a conversations starter. None of her co-workers thought it was a problem, because, you know, it wasn’t.

          2. Joielle

            My cousin has a close friend named “Ai,” which is pronounced like “I,” which leads to the same thing… “Ai got engaged over the weekend!” “You what??” “No, AI… AI got engaged.” “I’m sorry, you what now??”

            We usually figure it out pretty quickly… Even with the confusion, though, nobody’s been tempted to assign her a different nickname!

            1. Former Employee

              The only way around this is to use the person’s whole name. Instead of: “Ai got engaged this weekend.”, it would be said as” “Ai Smith got engaged this weekend.”

      4. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

        Agree with this. Honestly I kind of think the race aspect is a bit of a red herring in this situation. There have been many times in my life I’ve been introduced to someone that I’m uncomfortable using their name for one reason or another. Examples:
        -Calling people the diminutive version of my own name because I have a deep seated hate for it. Think calling someone Sam, when my name is Samantha.
        -HS student teacher named Mr. Bigot -he was a very nice man and it seemed wrong to refer to him as a derogatory term, even if it was his name
        -I once worked with a person in college named Sunshine, why yes I felt like an idiot every time I greeted her with “Good Morning, Sunshine”
        -I was friends with and Ursula during the time frame that the Little Mermaid was popular.
        -Again in college, I knew a Brandy Alexander… that awkwardness was mostly for her having to go through life being named after a cocktail

        Yes, race can be a component to this mostly because there are different naming conventions in different cultures, but assuming the OP is of a dominant culture there are just as many opportunities for unique names.

        This is just one of those times in life where you acknowledge quietly to yourself “hmm this seems awkward” and get on with it.

        1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

          Replying to myself because I forgot to add this bit, which was the point I was trying to make.

          All of the examples I gave above were people/names of the same race as me. (Including this one… a boyfriend of one of my friend’s in HS who was named King).

      5. Jessen

        I admit I’d have a pretty hard time with “Princess.” Outside of historical discussions, I’ve always heard “princess” be used as a gendered insult. I’d still get over it, but I feel like I’d be looking over my shoulder the whole time to make sure no one takes it the wrong way.

        1. Observer

          I have some sympathy for that. That’s VERY different from the OP’s reaction of mockery and judgement, though. And, even this is something you need to get over – as you clearly understand.

        2. Works in IT

          I would also have trouble with “Princess” specifically, and for the same reason. To me the word “princess” is at least mildly derogatory and refers to someone who is acting like pre 18th century royalty, regardless of gender. I would feel horribly uncomfortable calling someone “Princess”, just like I would feel horribly uncomfortable calling someone “Dick”. But if it’s someone’s name it’s someone’s name.

      6. Michaela Westen

        I’m a little stressed thinking of being named Honey. I can just imagine all the creepy men who will use it as an excuse for trying to hit on me.

    6. Engineer Girl

      I also think it’s important to note that feelings don’t get the last word. You need to do what is right in spite of feelings. That’s how We grow as adults. You don’t want to be ruled by your emotions.

    7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      Alison’s response is bang on, but I’m really struggling with OP’s comment that they’re tempted to construct elaborate names as a “joke” response to their coworkers’ names. I don’t understand the desire to mock when there are literally dozens of everyday names that literally mean Princess, Sir, Honey, etc. Their names are not ridiculous. If they’re uncomfortable to use, practice will help (although OP may never be fully comfortable with those names). But at a minimum, it’s important to show people respect by calling them by the name they wish to be called.

      1. Annastasia von Beaverhausen

        Yes, exactly. And no matter how clever or original the OP feels their joke is, I can guarantee it’s been heard at least 1,000 times before.

        Avoid it OP – you will only make yourself look VERY bad.

      2. StellaBella

        Bingo. +1000 to all of these replies. I was going to add another comment, but will instead contribute to this thread.

        In many African countries and in African American communities in the USA, names have meanings behind them whether it is from the time of day the baby was born, or ancestral names, or religious links, or day-born names (Tuesday for ex), or if the baby is a twin (special names for first and second babies), etc etc. The Afrocentrism movement in the USA in the 70’s saw many changes to naming cultures and conventions. Many names come from French, Arabic, or other cultures, too, and of course from the bible. The Civil Rights movement also meant a recovery of heritage and names were a part of this, too – as slaves were given European names and taking names back meant a political and cultural shift.

        I have worked with women and men from all over the world, both in a US software firm where I worked with an amazing Saudi developer on a multi-cultural team of 40 ppl from Europe, USA, Asia, and in Europe I have worked with women and men from literally 48 countries. I would never dream of mocking a person’s given name, whether it was Moez or Elodie or Joy or Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan (former President of Nigeria, with whom I did not work, but one of my former interns did).

        Also – this attitude of the OP is …. unfortunate for many reasons. It is a closed-minded manner of going about the world and is a reflection on them that is just …. sad. I read the phrase, “…am always tempted to demand that they call me Empress Sweetie Boo or something equally ridiculous, ” and am offended – because their colleague’s name IS NOT ridiculous, it is THEIR NAME, Fer Cryin Out Loud. Respect people, please, and please, if you can, learn from the comments here.

        1. The Grammarian

          StellaBella, yes. I agree with everything that you say. Learning to say someone’s name is a sign of respect. I have a name that is hard for people unfamiliar with French names to say and I appreciate when people take the time to learn how to say it properly. It’s respectful to me and to my heritage.

        2. EPLawyer

          It’s their name, not a made up one. So making up a name is doubling insulting. You are acting as if their name is not their real name but something they made up.

          Use the name AND pronouns people prefer to be called. Do not impose your sensibilities on the subject on that person.

          1. Elsajeni

            Also, some people did make up their names — maybe they chose an English/Western name to go by, or changed their name as part of a gender transition, or just felt like picking a new name as adults — and those names still aren’t jokes and should be respected! If it’s how they’re introducing themselves at work, then they didn’t make it up just to be funny or to get attention, like you would be if you said “okay, but only if you call me Empress Sweetie Boo” — they made it up because that’s what they actually want to be called, even if it sounds exactly as silly to you as Empress Sweetie Boo would.

        3. Rusty Shackelford

          I read the phrase, “…am always tempted to demand that they call me Empress Sweetie Boo or something equally ridiculous, ” and am offended – because their colleague’s name IS NOT ridiculous, it is THEIR NAME, Fer Cryin Out Loud.

          This. I find even the IDEA that you might refuse to use a colleague’s name because it makes you “uncomfortable” to be pretty bad in and of itself, but this solution? It’s awful, OP. It’s their name. It’s not a name that’s offensive in your culture. It’s just a name you’re not used to. So get used to it.

          (I have a relative whose name is one of the names you use as an example of a “ridiculous” name. Your attitude offends me.)

          1. Jen S. 2.0

            Right. I even could understand a wee bit more the poster a few months back whose Asian colleague’s name was something like Pissporn, but even that poster was strongly encouraged to get over it.

      3. Jen

        I also think you’d get in serious trouble at work for doing so (and deserve it, frankly). Call people by their names. Making fun of someone’s name is middle school level behavior.

        1. Liane

          There have already been posts where people have gotten in trouble over (non) use of others’ name:
          The manager who had to repeatedly discipline most of her team because they insisted on calling a coworker Polly instead of Parvati and playing the “Ooopsie, I forgot again” game instead of following the manager’s direction (& common decency) & using Parvati.
          King, the job candidate who finally decided to decline an offer because he was told he couldn’t use his actual name because a current employee objected on religious grounds. (Am pretty sure that “running off our top candidate over something stupid” doesn’t make a hiring manager look good to their bosses)

          1. Michaela Westen

            “he was told he couldn’t use his actual name because a current employee objected on religious grounds.”
            Isn’t there some kind of law about religion in the workplace???
            Glad I didn’t see that one. Just the reference here is making me furious.

        2. Strawmeatloaf

          I think we all remember the recent incident with the child whose name was made fun of for being named Abcde (pronounced Ab-city).

      4. aebhel

        Yes. OP, do not do this. It won’t break the ‘tension’, it’ll just make you look like an ass.

      5. Michaela Westen

        ” OP’s comment that they’re tempted to construct elaborate names as a “joke” response to their coworkers’ names.”
        I expect this is something OP learned as a child, a coping mechanism. We all have them. Some withdraw, some placate, some fight, some perform. I imagine as a child OP entertained and made friends by doing this, and got in the habit. It’s good she knows it’s not appropriate here, and with practice she will overcome the impulse.

      1. Foreign Octopus

        Perhaps it is, but let’s also remember that OP has written to Alison for advice, which is a good thing because it means these thoughts will hopefully not become vocalised.

      2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego

        It does rather, but hopefully the OP is coming from an environment where they are unfamiliar with such naming practices and will, with Alison’s advice, quickly realise that their reaction is inadvertently racist. I certainly did a double take the first time I met someone with a name like Sir because I had not encountered it before, but I soon realised that it was just the way some people do things and no more silly than any of the names people in my ethnic and cultural group have.

      3. Czhorat

        You aren’t alone in that.

        At the very least, it is culturally insensitive to treat familiar names as “normal” and names which might be typical of other cultures as literally worthy of mocking.

        “Jokes” such as “call me empress” remind me if the “attack helicopter” jokes trans people get. It’s offensive enough that if OP did make a joke like that they cores and likely should be fired.

        1. Aveline

          It’s not a “joke.” It’s mockery.

          It’s punching down and stamping on the person with the heel of your boot.

          She might not realize that. She might not mean it. But that’s the impact it will have.

          1. Czhorat

            That is exactly my point, phrased more clearly and succinctly. It’s why I put the word “joke” in quotes – because I agree that it’s more than that. That’s why I gave the example of the “attack helicopter” “joke” — both are an attack disguised as humor.

            Again, if OP made such a “joke” and was fired for it, it would not be undeserved.

            1. Database Developer Dude

              I’ve seen the “attack helicopter” “joke” passed around mainly in military circles, and sadly, I’ve seen this attack doubled-down on when challenged. It’s sad.

        2. Former Employee

          I had never heard of this before and had to look it up. That is just as strange as the fake issues people brought up in connection with same sex marriage, such as that if we make ssm legal, the next thing will be that people will want to marry their dog/cat/parakeet, etc. I wonder what these people missed in biology class regarding taxonomy.

          My favorite was the fear that legalizing ssm would lead to the legalization of polygamy. Given that most of the people who objected to ssm did so on religious grounds, I wondered why they seemed so ignorant of the fact that polygamy was legal and common in Biblical times.

      4. Aveline

        OP, if you read the comments, please remember that the posters here are concerned about racism and they don’t know you. Imagine how it will play if you do any mocking (bc that’s what your “joke” actually is). Especially if the target is someone who is a stranger to you or with whom you have any tension or disagreement.

        You WILL look racist. Your intent doesn’t matter.

        The only time – only time – I ever refused to call someone by their given name was a child I knew whose parents named her something akin to “Jennifer Pocahontas Fitzimmons.” They wanted to call her Pochahontas. I refused. Because two pasty white rich Southerners with no connection to Pocohontas using the name “because they liked the Disney” movie was not ok. They were the sort of people who thought racism was dead and POCs and First Nations folk needed to “get over it” and “move on.”

        Now, I honestly don’t know what I’d do if I ran into a white adult American woman who had that name or something similar. I’d be torn between “call people what they want” and “don’t allow white people to perpetuate further colonization of First Nations’ cultures by appropriating their narrative and names.”

        DH also had an issue once where a colleague from Asia had a name that was a very sexual, derogatory term in some Spanish-speaking countries. Think “Puta.” He took the colleague aside and said “your name means X” in this culture. So we can either use it and I’ll tamp down any bs from your colleagues from that culture or, if you’d rather not deal, you can choose a nickname. The woman chose a nickname. But that was her choice. Had she insisted on using her name, DH would have dealt with it and had her back.

        I don’t care if it’s race, gender, etc. Call people what they ask to be called. Even if it is difficult for you. Even if it is embarrassing to you.

        Mocking names as weird or inferior is wrong. Dead wrong. It makes you look callous and juvenile at best and racist and judgmental at worst. It’s also culturally myopic in the extreme. What is “weird” to you is normal elsewhere.

        Don’t mock the names black America has chosen to adapt. Particularly those names borne out of oppression and a yearning for respect.

        Don’t deadname trans individuals.

        Don’t call women by their husband’s last name (0r entire name) unless you know they prefer to be addressed that way.

        If someone has a name that is “foreign” to you, make every effort to pronounce and spell it properly. Even if you aren’t 100% successful, even if it’s embarrassing to you, even if it makes you feel uncomfortable.

        Don’t use nicknames, diminutives, or terms of affection unless you know the person wants it and welcomes it. Don’t just assume you “know.” You have to ask and listen.

        Some day the shoe might be on the other foot. I have a first name that isn’t unusual for the English or French speaking world. But there are parts of Europe where people really can’t wrap their head around it. They constantly try and shift it to an English name they know. Think something like saying Ann instead of Amy.

        What is “odd” or “wired” or “wrong” to you isn’t objectively so. It’s only your opinion. And if you are American of any race, it’s an opinion that’s been formed in a cultural context that prioritizes and normalizes and defaults to a white Anglo-German culture. Not just “white European” but a very narrow slice of white European.

        1. Mimi Me

          Very well said.
          TBH, I’ve always wondered what might happen if someone moved to a country and realized their given name meant something completely offensive in the language of the new country. I’ve seen comedy sketches to that fact, but have always wondered if it was a real thing. Good on your DH for offering to explain that to his colleague.

          1. TheOperaGhost

            I was once processing paperwork for a family that had just moved to the US from India. The youngest daughter’s name was Swastika. She was too young to understand (I think maybe 4), but I really hoped somebody pulled aside her parents’ and explained the issues of her name within a US/western context.

          2. Natatat

            I used to work at a ESL school in Canada. There was a Korean student whose name was Si Min. And another Korean student named Hye Min. Both women. I don’t know if either were aware of the English (sexual) meaning of their names at that time, as they were beginner English learners. Normal names in their home countries, very different meaning in English speaking countries. I did wonder at the time if they might have occasional uncomfortable interactions in English speaking countries. A creepy type of person could behave weirdly towards them using their names.

        2. GMN

          My mom is a teacher and had a student whose family came to our country as refugees. His name means “crap” in our language, so she decided to talk to his parents and check if they wanted to use a nickname, like your DH did. When she explained that his name (think Shitor) had an unfortunate meaning in our language, they thanked her and suggested an even worse nickname (Shit) so she had to double back and suggest the last part of the name instead (Tor)! They understood and chose the nickname:)

        3. Works in IT

          My department had a problem with an employee with a rather long, complicated, first and last name of (Indian? Definitely a southern Asian last name) origin. We spent a week talking about her before she came in to meet with us, and she was shocked that I knew how to spell her name.
          My coworker still can’t spell it, and we’ve been discussing this for two weeks now.

        4. Jamey

          Yes to all of this. Also, the comment about wanting to come up with something “equally ridiculous” grated on me super hard because I’m nonbinary and youd be amazed how many people find out how I identify and immediately say things like “well I identify as an attack helicopter and i expect you to refer to me as such.”

          It’s pretty much the same joke as OP is suggesting. It’s extremely bigoted and extremely hurtful. Making up a name that you think is ridiculous to compare to peoples real names is bigoted and hurtful.

        5. aebhel

          I’ve known three separate (white) women named ‘Gypsy’, so. Yeah.

          (They mostly went by nicknames, but still.)

        6. Choux

          I wonder if you would use my name. I’m a pasty white woman from Appalachia with a name that’s typically only found in the Black community. My mom read it in a magazine and failed to do any further research. She just thought it sounded nice, she certainly wasn’t attempting to appropriate another culture.

          1. Aveline

            I would. It’s a different scenario.

            You are an adult and capable of knowing and understanding the source of the name.

            Also, there’s a huge difference between “typically black name” and Pocahontas chosen after a Disney princess.

            I would probably even call a white kid Sacagawea if the parents had chosen the name in honor of the great woman.

            There’s a huge difference between borrowing a name from another culture and borrowing the one name most associated with the exploitation of First Nations women b/c you liked a Disney movie that is one long erasing trope-filled horror.

            1. Observer

              You still don’t get to refuse to call someone by their name, whatever you may think of their parent(s). As everyone keeps saying, THAT’S THEIR NAME.

              1. Aveline

                Well, we disagree.

                I think if you are a member of a community that was wronged by white people in the USA and someone is appropriating a name and using it b/c “Disney Princess” you can do so.

                This isn’t as black and white as you are making it.

                While I’m not a member of a band, tribe, or nation myself, I am eligible, my family are members, and I’ve done a lot of activism.

                I will not mock the kid’s name to the kid, but I won’t use it.

                It’s offensive.

                If you can’t see that and think names trump cultural appropriation, erasure, and genocide of entire nations of people, then we have nothing further to discuss.

                Also, this is derailing, so I’m going to detach.

                1. AnnaBananaFofana

                  For Pete’s sake, what community did the “pasty white” rich Pocahontas girl wrong, that you are so indignant about her chosen name?

                  You know what’s offensive? Self-righteous people who think little rich white girls should be guilted by the sins of her past generations.

                2. Close Bracket

                  The offspring didn’t appropriate the name. Her parents did. Don’t punish the offspring for her parents’ sins.

              2. CommanderBanana

                ^^ Agree. If the kid decides they want to use a nickname later, fine, but it’s not my job to interrogate the origins of other people’s names. My name comes from a culture that I have no particular connection to either.

              3. ....

                Yeah, what the heck? You’re basically saying that we should 100% respect and call people the name they were given unless you personally disagree with it! The Pocahontas girl wouldn’t have even chosen their name, the parents did.

                1. JD

                  I think it’s interesting at this point that people are jumping on Aveline at least as hard as the OP if not harder, even though Aveline’s reasons for taking objection to a name are dramatically different and better informed and do not involve mockery or shaming (or saying that the girl should feel bad, in spite of how other commenters are reading it.) One thing that I try to do myself is if I haven’t specifically thought about a thing much (in this case, white people naming a daughter Pocahontas because they liked the Disney movie) and I get a strong emotional reaction (which I’m not in this case, actually), I try to sit on it a while before commenting. Because, unfortunately, some oppression-related discussions consistently get taken over by the knee-jerk reactions of people who haven’t ever really *thought* about a thing but have strong initial feelings about it. So people who *have* thought about it end up having the same highly-charged, yet highly unconstructive, discussion over, and over, and over again. (In my case that was influenced by one time someone brought up the idea that white people wearing dreadlocks is problematic on Facebook — I still have pretty conflicted feelings about it, but my first reaction (people’s hair is their own business!!!!) was…kind of lacking in nuance.) I want people to be able to *have* discussions about oppression without giving up because they always get pounced on.

        7. Phoenix Programmer

          I just want to push back on their that you could tell pochantas’ family had nibcinnectiin to the culture. Some very white passing folks are legally Cherokee – which I know from growing up next to the Eastern Band reservation.

          1. Aveline

            Yep, but these people were not Cherokee or any other tribal affiliation. They admitted they had zero connection. They chose it for the Disney princess.Full stop. So there’s no “what if’s…” in this scenario.

            FWIW, I have close relatives I love who are enrolled Dine and I myself am eligible to join two other (different) tribal entities, but haven’t b/c I’m culturally white and there would be no benefit to them in my joining. (If it were a benefit to them, I’d join).

            So I know a bit about white-passing people who are still tribal. More than most.

            These people were not that. They were not even really appropriating. They were viewing a real person with a tragic backstory as a Disney princess. Nothing More. They were reducing and erasing the history of the woman who bore the name to a Disney trope.

            Had they had a connection or even named her in honor, it would have been different.

            Funny how none of these types of people ever dress their daughters as Sacagawea.

            1. theletter

              sooooooo, I get that Disney is a corporation and they are rather reductive with their stories, but they do put a lot of effort into looking at their past portrayals of women, and tease out values and accomplishments of these characters. The characters that become ‘princesses’ become so because their movies did well, among other criteria.

              This means a lot of people saw Pocahontas, and appreciated that marketing, which . .. yeah, it’s not the best movie they’ve done, it’s very problematic. But there were people who loved it enough to name their daughter after that character, who is portrayed as a heroine, in a world where we are desperately short of heroines. For all the young women who ate this stuff up as children and bought “respect the Earth” as a part of their value system along with the offensive costumes, Pocahontas is not the villain here. Even before the movie came out, the reductive version of her story was in a lot of old textbooks, essentially becoming a ‘first American hero’ by virtue of occupying the opening chapters. Are we adding more value to these stories by sneering at those who would continue to hold her up as a woman who valued humanity over the death sentence?

              The point I’m trying to make is that a company that provides a lot of lore for our society is saying “We value this character, sticking her up there with the classics as a character of noted accomplishments” . . . . . . that might be worth respecting at least on a person-to-person level.

              1. Karyn

                I’m not sure I agree with you, theletter. This take is erasing a lot of nasty stuff colonizers did to natives. It’s a whitewashing of history; it’s faking a Noble Savage story in the name of a real person who lived a tragic life. The tragedy was due to the actions of white folks, and the repackaging and selling of this new story is for the benefit of white folks.
                I’d call the kid Jennifer, or Ms. Fitzsimmons, or JP, before I’d call her Pocahontas.

                1. Sabina

                  And how would you explain to a 4-year old that you refuse to call her the name her parents gave her and that she is known by in her family/preschool, etc.? I tend to err on the side of not making small children cry unless absolutely necessary.

            1. Aveline

              Please read what I just wrote. I KNOW they had no connection.

              It wasn’t an assumption.

              Please don’t white knight on a subject where I actually have a lot of personal experience.

              While that may sometimes be the case, it wasn’t here. And I clearly stated that above.

              If I didn’t know 100% no connection, I would have said that.

              You may have grown up next to the band, but this is something I personally have experience with.

              Please don’t assume I don’t know.

              1. Phoenix Programmer

                Aveline you should know this site doesn’t auto refresh. Your comment did not appear to me until after I posted my typo correction.

                1. Aveline

                  Oh, sorry, I think our computers were bad today.

                  My sincere apologies.

                  I should not have assumed ill intent. It’s been really raw on here lately!

                  Again, my apologies.

                  I don’t think we really disagree on the underlying points and I dont’ want to derail, so I’ll leave it here.

                2. Phoenix Programmer

                  No apologies needed. I was letting you know because if you engage here and don’t remember the lack of refresh it can be easy to take personally misunderstandings caused by tech.

                  Ask me how I know! I’ve been reading and commenting here for just shy of a decade so have spun my wheels on this many a times.

        8. Ace in the Hole

          Well put. The only thing I would add is don’t make fun of name spelling either. I see a lot of people mocking names with unusual spelling, like Kristal.

          My name is a common, traditional English name spelled in an unusual way. I don’t expect people to spell it correctly, but I do expect them to take the correct spelling in stride. I’m really really not interested in a discussion about how unique it is, why my parents didn’t use the “normal” spelling, or how I’m ignorant and can’t spell my own name right. Bonus: I’m white and middle class. The mockery gets a lot worse if you’re poor and/or not white.

        9. AnnaBananaFofana

          So you think it’s ok to refuse to call a “pasty white” girl (as you tastefully put it) Pocahontas, but it’s insensitive to refuse to call a minority by their uncommon name? I thought we agreed, the courteous thing to do is to address someone as they wish to be addressed.

          I am a racially mixed Latina, and I find your attitude utterly offensive. How hypocritical.

          1. Karyn

            She’s of the culture being stolen. She knows the parents aren’t connected to the culture. This is a ‘play stupid games, win stupid prizes’ moment. They chose to be so disrespectful of Native culture, there’s gonna be some pushback.

            I hope that kid changes her name the second she’s allowed to.

            1. AnnaBananaFofana

              Cultures can’t be “stolen.” And if someone names their white kid by any nonwhite name, I guess you’re going to have to deal with it. Push back all you want, but the name remains.

              New level of crazy, I’m out.

              1. Karyn

                I disagree that cultures cannot be stolen. Tribal schools here, and in Canada, actively removed Native culture from young Natives. They explicitly attempted to ‘kill the Indian to save the man’. Land, artifacts, language, cultural markers of all kinds were taken from Natives–individually and tribally–and now white folks want to co-opt some of those markers.
                The name can remain, but I wouldn’t call a kid I know to have no Native heritage ‘Pocahontas’. I’ll settle on a nickname first.

            2. Artemesia

              My daughter went to school with a girl whose family claimed to be actual descendants of Pochahontas and who named the oldest girl in each generation that. No idea if it is true or a family myth, but she was called ‘Hontas’ at school. I can think of quite a few ways to devote political energy to make this a better world that don’t involve denying a person their name.

              1. Halle

                I presume it to be a family myth, since her real name wasn’t Pocahontas, and I would hope any of her descendants would be aware of that fact.

                Also, you’re deriding the ongoing systematic genocide and erasure of an entire people as “political energy”. It may not have been what you intended, but… it is cruel to do that.

              2. Cactus

                There are a lot of Pocahontas’ descendants out there. Since she was married to an Englishman before her death, many of these descendants are people we would consider white, and their families go way back to before the founding of the US. There’s an organization called the First Families of Virginia, many of whom trace their roots to Pocahontas. When the one-drop rule against miscegenation went into effect in the 1920s, Virginia ruled that they would only judge people as Native American if they had more than 1/16 Native ancestry–due mainly to how many of their elite families traced some of their lineage to Pocahontas.

                So this kid’s family might have been related to Pocahontas–or it might have just been family legend. But at this point claiming her ancestry is just as much about claiming to be part of the “white elite” as it is claiming to be Native.

        10. DaniCalifornia

          Isn’t it a bit hypocritical to not call someone by their given name because you think the parents are dumb. That is what OP1 is describing. If that girl is called Pocahontas her entire life and she asks you to call her that, you should respect that. Even if you roll your eyes when you’re at home alone.

          Also you state “Mocking names as weird or inferior is wrong. Dead wrong. It makes you look callous and juvenile at best and racist and judgmental at worst. It’s also culturally myopic in the extreme. What is “weird” to you is normal elsewhere” but you did just that when you keep on describing people as “pasty white Southerners” in several of your comments. Why can’t’ you just describe people as white?

          1. AnnaBananaFofana

            Because, since they are privileged white people, common courtesy and respect aren’t deserved. No need to treat little white girls with decency, since they had evil ancestors.

            (I’m kidding. I can’t get over the shocking attitude of people who claim they want humans to treat each other better, but say stuff like this)

            1. Karyn

              No, they deserve some disrespect because of their actions. That’s not particularly shocking.

              I’d treat the kid decently, but I wouldn’t call her Pocahontas.

              1. AnnaBananaFofana

                They deserve disrespect because of some of their actions? What specific action does 5-year-old white Pocahontas take that you speak of?

                There is zero rationale for disrespecting someone based on their heritage. If you think so Karyn, you are the problem.

              2. Observer

                That, by definition is treating the kid disrespectfully.

                And you lose any standing to objecting to other people doing the same thing.

                Same, by the way for using derogatory language about the kid for the crime of being white.

        11. Hrovitnir

          Thank you for this comment, it’s really well written. This part actually made me emotional (I hope my tags work!):

          Don’t mock the names black America has chosen to adapt. Particularly those names borne out of oppression and a yearning for respect.

          Don’t deadname trans individuals.

          Don’t call women by their husband’s last name (0r entire name) unless you know they prefer to be addressed that way.

          If someone has a name that is “foreign” to you, make every effort to pronounce and spell it properly. Even if you aren’t 100% successful, even if it’s embarrassing to you, even if it makes you feel uncomfortable.

          Don’t use nicknames, diminutives, or terms of affection unless you know the person wants it and welcomes it. Don’t just assume you “know.” You have to ask and listen.

      5. Roscoe

        I think that is a bit harsh. I’m black. I know PLENTY of black people who joke about what other black people name their kids. I don’t think that makes them all racist, just acknowledging that some names are, in your opinion, a bit much. My mom is one of the most pr0-black people I know, and even she does it.

        1. Aveline

          Well, that’s one of those things that people within the culture get to joke about in private or within their own cultural spheres.

          The OP is not within the culture. She’s an outsider. (That’s inferred by how she writes and what she says, but I’d be shocked if she were a black woman or even a WOC).
          She’s also not talking about joking in private. She’s proffering a public mocking of the names.

          That’s apples and oranges.

          And it will blow up in her face big time.

          We are not doing her any service by failing to point that out.

          I understand your post, but it’s minimizing what will be a real landline if OP doesn’t hear the potential implications.

          It doesn’t mattter at all if OP is racist or if any and all criticisms of names are racist. It matters that she will be perceived as racist if she follows her proposed course of action.

          And she will be perceived as racist. Her intent or the fact that Princess’s cousin Jane mocks her behind her back don’t matter.

          1. Roscoe

            So, I actually agree with you to a point. I think Allison’s advice to her is spot on. You should respect someone’s name and call them whatever they want to be called. However, I guess my point is, I know plenty of people who have made fun of names and its not necessarily a “racist” thing. My point is, I made fun of Gwyneth Paltrow naming her kid Apple, just like I made fun of Kanye West naming his kid North. But I do agree that she shouldn’t mock her co-workers names in public

        2. Nephron

          My mom kept her maiden name and kids got hyphenated names with first names long enough to “balance” the long last name. Substitute teachers would stop dead when they reached my name for attendance and the entire class snickered because we all knew what happened. Among family and friends there are many jokes made about long names, how we know we are family, and I generally accept any nickname given to accommodate those that are trying. A nice ice breaker for me is about the time an email scam try to get me to wire money because “someone with my name died in Nigeria.” This is different than a comedian I stumbled upon once that was driven to profanity complaining about hyphenated names because “pick a name lady” or the airlines that do not accept special characters so my ticket has to be different from my government issued ID ( a lovely experience with TSA).

          1. Blueberry

            I hyphenated my last name when I got married. At the social security office, the guy handling my paperwork said, “Do you really want that little dash thingy in there?” And I said, “Yes.” And he said, “I don’t think the system can handle it…” And I just stared at him. I’m pretty sure the system can handle a friggin’ hyphen, my dude, you just think it’s silly that I’m hyphenating my name.

            Going to vote is always a lot of fun because people have no idea what letter my last name should be under. How about the first letter of the last name, why is that so difficult?

            1. NotAnotherManager!

              The social security office was pretty much the ONLY place that didn’t do something weird with my hyphenated name. The “other names” section of my credit report is hilarious.

            2. ChimericalOne

              Some old systems actually CAN’T handle hyphens, so he’s not necessarily off base to imagine that. When I got married in Arkansas, I was told (apologetically) that the computer system in the SS building couldn’t handle hyphens and that they’d have to either use a space or jam the two names together. I chose a space. (As did my husband.)

              My mom works in a hospital and sighs a little every time she comes across someone with an apostrophe in their name because their computer system can’t handle that (programmed by old white guys, I’m guessing).

              Also… while I likewise find it a little exasperating that people don’t know whether to look for me under X or Y, I’m guessing they’re probably just stumbling over the question of whether you (we) have 1 or 2 last names. They don’t see Xxx-Yyyy as one name — they see 2 names combined with a hyphen, and they think they should choose the “very last” last name as being the “proper” surname.

            3. katherine

              I imagine you’ve seen this but for those who haven’t, this was a major scandal in the last Georgia election — a new “exact match” law required that the names on residents’ government IDs matched exactly the names on the voter rolls. Something like an omitted “little dash thingy”? No longer an exact match, and the voting process becomes more arduous for you, as well as over 50,000 others whose registration applications were placed on hold because of it. About 80% of those applications were for African American, Latino, and Asian American voters, according to the lawsuit that was filed over this.

          2. Cactus

            I have an apostrophe in my last name (thanks to my husband) and so many computer systems cannot handle it. It’s one of the reasons why I didn’t hyphenate when we got married, and instead just went with a space between my last name and his–having multiple punctuation marks would have confused EVERYONE.

      6. Mynona

        I am an American and I assumed the OP is not because I’ve heard this kind of sentiment openly expressed by educated white Europeans in Europe without any awareness of the racist implications. And AAM has alot of international readers. But if OP is American, then yes most Americans would think the sentiment was racist.

        1. Bennett

          I’m from the UK, and have never encountered anyone with those names. Though I do know one woman (thirtysomething, blonde, white) who calls herself ‘Princess’ as a sort of secondary name, though her name is something else. She’s never actually asked anyone else to call her that, I think she’s just sort of hoping it’ll catch on. It probably won’t.

          I’d be a little uncomfortable using those names, I think. But if it’s someone’s name, it’s their name. I don’t think we get to opt out.

          1. BluntBunny

            I’m from the UK also and had someone named Precious at my high school. She was mixed race (black and white)

      7. Jen

        To be clear, racism isn’t an either or thing. The action or sentiment here being racist itself doesn’t mean OP is someone who would, say, refuse to hire someone based on race. OP may not even be conscious of the racial component of this action, though it does exist. I doubt there is a single person here who, existing in a society as we do, does not themselves exhibit some kind of racist behavior. For instance, when I was a kid, one Halloween I dressed up as an “Indian”. My parents and I definitely weren’t trying to be mean or insensitive, but knowing what I know now, that action was racist and I would definitely not do it again.

        Because people sometimes view racism as a binary “I am not a bad racist person” people can shut down mentally when called out on this.

        But we should all instead understand that, when called out on racist action, this is an opening to correct behaviors we have been fed, and improve ourselves and society.

        1. Nah

          I would disagree here; OP obviously does not respect those who have these names, and is suggesting open mocking of their names. There’s no way they’d get hired if OP was the hiring manager.

          1. ChimericalOne

            OP explicitly acknowledges that the persons in question did not choose their own names and that their names thus reflect in no way on them as people. If OP didn’t actually respect them, if OP didn’t actually care about treating them well, OP wouldn’t have bothered writing in to AAM to ask what to do to not be rude.

      8. Observer

        Does it really matter?

        The attitude of the letter is fundamentally disrespectful. It doesn’t matter why the OP is being so disrespectful. It is just fundamentally wrong.

    8. Seeking Second Childhood

      For what its worth, I used to work for a white guy named King. A lot of Southerners use last names for children’s given names.

      1. Eliza

        It’s not unheard of in the rest of the US, either, especially historically. The founder of the Gillette razor company was named King Camp Gillette and born in Wisconsin.

      2. PhyllisB

        There was a letter from a reader several years ago who went by King. (I think this person was female?) One of the office workers refused to address her as such because “there is only one King” (Lord and Savior.) Now I am Christian and all that, but to me THAT was ridiculous. (Her refusing to use the name, not the name itself.) As has been stated, no one has the right to decide your name is inappropriate and call you something else.

      3. Aveline

        There are a lot of noteworthy Americans with objectively unsususal names by our cultural standards.

        Judge Learned Hand
        Dankwort Rustow

        Both, um, not typical names. Both men made a real impact on our country and on the world.

        Maybe Princess Johnson would be equally as important if we just got out of her way and stopped judging.

        1. Meghan

          Hilariously, the reason I knew this was because Martha Kent was Martha Clark before she married Jonathan.

        2. Liz T

          I often wish my parents had done this! Almost changed my first name to Quinn in college.

          (My mom kept her last name, but my sister and I have our dad’s last name. I love my last name and would never change it, but “Quinn” is a boss first name.)

    9. Femme D'Afrique

      I think OP1 should think this through a little bit (I’m going to be extra generous here): If she *does* go through with the “call me Empress Sweetie Boo or something equally ridiculous,” how is she expecting the other person to respond? Does she think they’ll have a lightbulb moment and think, “You’re right! My name is stupid! Call me Jane!”

      This is one of those letters where I wondered what she thought Alison’s advice would be.

      1. Czhorat

        Bias is one heck of a drug.

        From the comment that “I feel bad because they didn’t choose their names” it appears to me that OP thinks that the co-workers think the same and dislike having “unusual” names.

      2. aebhel

        I think it’s one of those ‘oh no this is a terribly awkward situation I’ll make a joke to defuse the tension’ kind of deals. Thing is, OP is likely the only one experiencing it as a terribly awkward situation. She’s assuming that her coworkers must be embarrassed by their names, when that’s unlikely to actually be the case–if they were, they’d be using nicknames.

      3. Liet-Kinda

        I think she’s hoping the target will burst into peals of self-deprecating laughter as they revel in the now-shared recognition of the name’s notional ridiculousness, thereby relieving her of the discomfort of being the only one who wants to laugh at it and making her feel like less of a bad person.

      4. chi type

        I, too, question OP’s sincerity since you really don’t need to avoid speaking to people because you don’t like saying their name. You actually very very rarely need to say someone’s name in conversation with them! I know this because I spend all day talking to people who I have no idea what there names are. Often the same person multiple days a week for years! This is not difficult just say “hi how are you today?” and take it from there. O_O

        1. Akcipitrokulo

          So… for various reasons, my mother doesn’t get the title “mum”, “mummy” or anything similar because she doesn’t deserve them… but it would be rude/awkward to call her by anything else… so for 30+ years I’ve manages with pronoins only around her…

          Not ideal, and the co-workers absolutely deserve the basic, foundation level respect of using their names… but you also don’t get to avoid the peraon either!!!

    10. Anon for this

      I volunteer as a princess for sick children, and I absolutely LOVE it when kids are named King or Princess. The other princesses and I call children “prince” or “princess” anyway, so when something similar is their actual name, we go NUTS with enthusiasm and the kids are so happy.

      1. Hmmm

        This sounds amazing and I want to do this! Did you set it up yourself, or is there a group one could join?

        1. Anon for this

          It’s through an organization in Florida! Link is in my username. :) They love new volunteers! If you’re not local, they encourage long-term visitors.

          I’m an original character princess, but if you have a Disney-ish look and a decent costume, you can do it in most hospitals anywhere. Generally you would offer an appearance as “Rose Princess” or “New Orleans Princess” to avoid legal issues, but once you’re actually in the hospital the kids would call you Belle or Tiana and Disney doesn’t go after it too hard.

    11. Ryan

      This!!! Cultures and traditions are not up for interpretation by those that are not a part of it, but they are open to acceptance by everyone even if it’s not understood!

    12. wittyrepartee

      Also, all of these names are kind of lovely when you think about it. The nobility of King and Princess. The sweetness of the name Honey.

    13. kittymommy

      This actually reminds me of a letter last year where LW wanted the colleague to change her name plate from her actual name to a nickname because it embarrassed the LW (the name was of Asian descent and sounded improper in the English language). You don’t get to dictate other people’s names!! How is that confusing.

    14. Justin

      Yeah Alison made the relevant point that thinking these names are silly but not, I dunno, Abcde is… well…. it’s not a good look.

      1. Jules the 3rd

        If it’s pronounceable, and not ‘Bobby /DropTables,’ or something referring to a crime that harms people (eg, Adolf Hitler Jones, referral to genocide), it’s fine by me. Abcde is ‘Ah-be-cee-dee’, no longer than ‘Penelope’, and has an anglicized nickname (Abby) built in if the kid wants it later.

        While society has some right to limits on names, I prefer those limits to be very generous. If everyone did that, there’s be less of the racist hiring problems we see in the US, where people with non-English names get fewer call-backs and interviews for the same resumes.

        If we were all the same, life would be boring. Enjoy the rich pageantry.

        1. The Original K.

          In the story that recently went viral about the TSA people who made fun of a child with the name Abcde, I believe the mother said it was pronounced “AB-city.”

        2. PSB

          Even if it IS something that refers to a crime you still mostly have to just adapt. I once had a distant professional connection to someone whose last name was Raper. He had a common first name, so we frequently had to use his full name to refer to him around the office for clarity’s sake. I cringed every time for the first year and never became comfortable with it, but it was the guy’s name.

          To make matters worse, he worked in a correctional facility.

          1. Vicky Austin

            Well, to be fair, people who commit rape aren’t called rapers. They are called rapists. I can still see how that would be awkward, especially if he worked in a correctional facility.

      2. Observer

        That’s on the parents. You still don’t get to tell someone that they can’t use their name. As for the gate agent? They deserved to be fired.

        That said, I *am* side eyeing the parents pretty hard.

        1. Justin

          Yes, basically this.

          I wasn’t saying to make fun of that poor girl, just that if OP1 is saying these names are silly but that one isn’t, there’s a bias at play here (point being, not to see any name as beneath us).

    15. Joe in Frederick

      #1 – Saul, the progressive voice of the My-T-Sharp Barber Shop in Coming to America said it best: “A man has the right to change his name to whatever he wants to change it to. And if a man wants to be called Muhammad Ali, godammit this is a free country, you should respect his wishes, and call the man Muhammad Ali!”

      1. ThisIshRightHere

        I absolutely read that in his voice. Coming to America is the only movie that I can literally quote word for word.

    16. NotTheSameAaron

      I would be uncomfortable using those names because those are also common pet names.

      Maybe they have middle names that could be used instead?

      1. Nanani

        Your discomfort doesn’t matter. Maybe your name is a pet name in another language – it’s still your name. Same applies.

        Call people by their names.

      2. aebhel

        Maybe they do, but if they want to be called by their first names, you call them by their first names.

      3. neverjaunty

        “Could be used” is an interesting use of the passive to avoid saying “Maybe they could let me call them something else?”

      4. Liane

        So, you’d be totally okay if I don’t want to use your name because I think:
        Your parents misspelled it
        It means (Something good) and you aren’t
        It is too long/short
        Names starting with L are anti-My Religion
        It is the name of my high school’s rival and reminds me they won the championship when I was captain

        1. Liz T

          My parents have a dog named Jasper. A friend, who has met said dog, just named her baby Jasper. When I met (human) Jasper, my friend told me he was named after the dog, and I wasn’t sure she was joking. He’s a really great dog, after all.

          1. Joielle

            My dog is named Jasper! No joke, my husband and I have a long-running list of potential baby names just in case we have a kid someday, and when we adopted the dog, we looked at that list and picked out one that seemed a liiiiiiittle too twee to name an actual human child. Of course, I don’t tell that story to most people since you never know whose dad/kid/uncle/best friend has the name.

          2. Tiny Soprano

            Omg my first dog was called Jasper! But I’ve since heard more people than dogs called Jasper, and it never strikes me as weird. Maybe because I like human names for pets?

        2. AvonLady Barksdale

          Number 1, hands down, favorite dog name I have ever encountered is Rachel. She’s a dachshund. And her name is RACHEL. I love it so much.

      5. Liet-Kinda

        If they actually wanted their middle names to be used, they’d have introduced themselves as such, but what really strikes me as fascinating about this post is the inherent assumption that it’s your discomfort that should be centered and assuaged in this situation – not the person who would be made uncomfortable if you suggested their preferred and given name were unacceptable to you and proposed using their middle name for your comfort.

      6. Observer

        Why should they change their name to suit you? What makes you the arbiter of what is “proper”?

      7. Kaybee

        But do you feel that way when you interact with people named Toby, Jack, Cooper, Duke, Max, Sadie, and Lucy? Everyone’s mileage varies of course, but I’ve met way more pets with those names than I have pets named Princess, King, or Honey.

        1. The Original K.

          Literally all the pets that belong to people I know personally have people names (as opposed to, like, Spot or or Champ), and among those there are two Lucys and two Maxes.

      8. SheLooksFamiliar

        NotTheSameAaron, I don’t mean to be unkind but your comfort is irrelevant here. If someone tells you their name is Snowball or Fluffy or Spot or Bootsie or Sparkles or Precious Widdle Diddums, you can roll your eyes in private – but you use the name they provided, and you do so respectfully.

        Also, I knew a great German Shepherd named George, so George is a pet’s name to me.

        1. NotTheSameAaron

          I was just trying to suggest a middle ground. I thought that people would get my point, that some people initalize their first name and use the middle name, especially in a professional setting. I wasn’t suggesting that I would deliberately give offence to anyone.

        2. PhyllisB

          My dog’s name is George. He was named that when we adopted him, and several people asked me if I was going to change it, but I liked it. Besides, he was a year old and I would think it would be confusing.

          1. Cactus

            I love the name George, and I’m not planning on having kids, so I will more than likely be naming a pet George at some point in the future.

      9. Maggie

        My name is also commonly a name given to pets. I’ve met MANY people with dogs named Maggie. I would be irate if someone asked me to go by a nickname because that is their dogs name. This situation is absolutely no different.

        1. Maggie #2

          Other Maggie here! Not to derail, but isn’t it funny that it’s such a common dog name? (My mom always says it’s for people who wanted to name their kids Maggie but weren’t brave enough, whatever that means).

          1. Original Maggie

            Yes! I even had relatives with dogs named Maggie. Everyone either has, had or knows a dog named Maggie. It doesn’t bother me, but it is super common.

        2. KTB

          At my last job, a colleague joked that since she and my dog shared a name, I had to change my dog’s name. Which of course I didn’t do, but it was a vastly more appropriate joke than if I told her she needed to change her name!!

      10. BluntBunny

        I think you and the LW mean awkward rather than uncomfortable. Uncomfortable suggests that someone or something is causing you to feel discomfort. Whereas awkwardness is often just an individual internal response. I would understand if LW felt uncomfortable calling someone what felt like a vulgar term in their language or was offensive in some other way eg Adolf

        1. ChimericalOne

          There’s nothing wrong with “uncomfortable” here. Something *is* causing OP to feel discomfort. That something is a combination of things (the names themselves, OP’s lack of knowledge of the context around their origins, OP’s socialization / lack thereof, lack of diverse cultural competence, etc.).

          “Uncomfortable” doesn’t imply fault, vulgarity, or offensiveness. And something can cause you discomfort without that thing itself being bad. For example, I can be “uncomfortable” calling my MIL “Mom” without it either being her fault or a vulgar/offensive term. (Maybe it’s just a personal hangup on my part, etc.)

      11. Sabina

        Yeah, no. How would you even approach doing this? “Hey, what’s your middle name ’cause I’m not comfortable calling you “Bob” ’cause I had a dog named “Bob” and he used to pee on the rug and then ran away and got hit by a car”.

      12. Hrovitnir

        I’m not sure why everyone’s being so harsh today! I agree, use their name, but where “pet name” means the name you will call someone you’re very close to – and thus is commonly used by boundary pushers and creeps – it has potential to be genuinely awkward.

        As I said, I absolutely agree that you just need to suck it up, and you’ll get over it. But calling someone “Honey” does feel a bit harass-y, can be perceived that way if people don’t know, and will take extra getting used to over the likes of King.

    17. Nanani

      This.

      Use. People’s. Names. This is not hard; your discomfort is NOT more important then respecting them as fellow human beings.

      Would you write the same letter about “discomfort” if the names were from another culture than yours but DIDN’T sound like English words? It shouldn’t be difficult to grasp the problem with refusing to call someone by their name because it sounds “foreign”, so surely you can grasp the problem with refusing to call someone by their name in this situation as well.

      1. Czhorat

        Yes. And by “names”, we should mean “what they tell us to call them”, whether or not it’s the exact words on their birth certificate or drivers’ license.

        Ones name is a fundamental descriptor of ones identity. It’s everyone’s right to define that for themselves, and our responsibility to accept and respect it.

        This should not be at all controversial.

        1. Database Developer Dude

          Should not be at all controversial, but it is. Case in point: my family. That’s one of the reasons I live 500 miles away from them.

      2. CommanderBanana

        Seriously, and also, if someone is THIS uncomfortable because someone else’s name happens to be King or whatever, I kind of wonder how they get through life.

    18. Sally

      A few years back, I worked with a (white) woman called Sunshine. At first I was like, “huh…” But then as I got to know her, I grew to love her name! I mean, who wouldn’t want to hang out with Sunshine?! She matched her name perfectly. :)

    19. t.i.a.s.p.

      I actually didn’t know some of this stuff about names, so this is interesting.

      I relate to the awkward feeling because I used to get that when girls were named boy names and vice versa, because it used to be that THESE NAMES ARE FOR BOYS and THESE NAMES ARE FOR GIRLS. But you live, learn and grow. I distinctly remember the time I had to speak to an older guy who had what I thought of as a girl’s name and having a moment of huh, I guess names do change genders and that’s normal.

    20. beepboopin

      Years ago when I was training as a Guardian ad litem, we were told that it was crucial to make sure we knew how to correctly say our client’s (children’s) names. The reasoning they gave “because sometimes their name is all they may have.” I know a different situation but a powerful reminder of how important names are and calling someone by their correct name as a way to confer respect, no matter their position in life. That advice has always stuck with me as I meet new (and diverse) people with names that are different than what I am used to.

    21. AshK413

      Absolutely, agree with you!

      Although I’m sure it’s unintentional, I read the first letter as being a bit racist (because these names are associated primarily with the black community) . I wanted to call that out in particular because I’m sure the OP wouldn’t want to come across that way.

    22. Essess

      Do you avoid using the name “John” because it is a word for a toilet, or if a coworker’s name was “Dick” (whether his preferred nickname for Richard or legally named the short version), or “Pat” because it involves a word for touching, or “Sue” because it also means a vindictive court case, “Willie”, etc….? Many names that we consider “normal” also have other language meanings but no one usually even thinks to pause over saying them because they are JUST NAMES to them. As other people have said, use the person’t actual name and treat it as their name instead of focusing on alternative meanings. Practice at home saying them out loud while think of the person if you need to get comfortable using the name in normal conversation without tripping on it.

    23. Ann Perkins

      I had a colleague who would just straight up refuse to say any name that she perceived as “foreign.” She’d say, “I can’t pronounce that,” to names like “Chavez” and “Santiago.” When she was forced, she’d struggle and giggle her way through it. It was so embarrassing and disrespectful.

    24. Curiouser and Curiouser

      My first name is difficult to pronounce – there’s more than one pronunciation, and people usually default to one different from my actual name. I politely correct them when it happens, and usually give them a rhyme to jog peoples’ memories. Most people are polite, but you wouldn’t believe the other responses I’ve gotten…

      “But [mispronounced name] is so much prettier.” (Thanks, I like the name “Julie” but it’s also not my name.)
      “Oh it’s just my accent.” (There’s no accent that comes into play here, and generally the people saying this don’t have an accent).
      “So sorry! You’re going to have to remind me of that every time, probably.” (But…why? I reminded you now)
      “Oh, man, it must suck that your parents named you something so difficult!” (My name is 4 letters. It’s not that difficult)

      And I don’t even have the added racial piece that’s in play with OP. It sucks to have your name insulted or diminished. I don’t care if you don’t like my name. It’s mine. Don’t be that person.

    25. LCH

      i had an intern with the given first name Baby but luckily she went by a shortened form of her middle name. going through life as a ‘baby’ isn’t as dignified as Princess, King, etc. buuut i guess i would have called her Baby if that is what she used.

    26. MystikSpiral

      I worked with a woman named Princess about 20 years ago, when I was pretty new to the working world. In my naiveté, I thought it really odd and felt weird using that name. But Alison is correct, once you start using it it becomes just another name.

      I’m sure there are plenty of people who think Bob is a strange thing to call someone.

    27. Barney Stinson

      Um, I work with people named “Princess” and “King” and they are not people of color. I still call them the names that are given to me to use.

    28. Lynn Marie

      OP is not “mock(ing) them by making up our own exaggerated names to mimic theirs, nor s . . . refus(ing) to use their names”. She is acknowledging her own problem and asking for help.

    29. BaronessGodivaDelicousVonPants

      It is surprising the amount of people you are already referring to as King or Princess.

      From Gaia’s examples
      Jane: Gift from God (Hebrew)
      Sarah: Means lady, princess, noblewoman (Hebrew)
      Raj: Means Royalty (Indian)
      Chen: Old (Mandarin surname)
      Karl: Manly (Danish)

      Others
      Leroy: The King (French)
      Frederick: A peaceful Ruler or King (German)
      Harry:House Ruler (English)
      Regis: Ruler (Latin)
      Erica: Eternal Ruler
      Candace: Queen Mother

    30. epi

      This is really good advice. Lots has been said in this thread about this topic, but I wanted to add one thing I didn’t see addressed too much, which is *how* to better handle the discomfort. The OP knows her instinctive response isn’t appropriate, so I read her as not wanting to know what to do instead, so much as how to rise above those impulses.

      I used to work in research in a children’s hospital, so I was seeing names that were new, unusual, or “weird baby name” list fodder pretty regularly. Then meeting those children and their parents, during their day at the hospital. Usually to be treated for either a brain tumor or a congenital heart disease. Let me tell you, there is nothing funny about a name like Miracle, Princess, or Precious on a child when you and their parents know they are lucky to be alive. I never had a real problem with these names to begin with, but that experience forever changed my perception of these names to something that is overwhelmingly loving and positive, that always warms my heart.

      Health care isn’t just diverse in terms of workforce– it’s even more diverse in terms of the patients and clients you will serve. I’m guessing that the OP is not dealing with patients by mocking them or just not seeing them if she doesn’t like their names. She needs to think about how she manages to do that, and try to translate those strategies to her colleagues. For example, are there values that guide the OP in her daily work, or her decision to be a health care provider, that could apply more broadly to everyone? While we have special obligations to our patients, the values on which those obligations are based are usually more universal. Examples might be the need to treat others with respect, to care for others, to soothe or guide someone going through something stressful, or to help others live up to their potential by removing obstacles in their lives. How does the OP speak to patients when she has to do something she knows might be uncomfortable or annoying? That tone, those phrases, might be good ones to adapt when the OP wants to convey that she knows she is not quite being natural about this, but wants to do better. (And in both situations, the only acceptable humor is self-deprecating humor! It is also more than OK to just not use humor at all.)

      Another thing that helped me in health care, when you often need to put aside strong feelings to do your job, is to consciously work on changing how you think about a person or situation. What if the OP tried taking these names at face value when she notices herself thinking negatively about them? Interrupt that thought process once you notice it, and sub in the positive judgment that is implied by the plain meaning of the name. I would often get excited to meet these amazing children who inspired such lofty, beautiful names. Who doesn’t want to meet a princess, a king, or a miracle? Or to get to deal with parents whose first act was one of such love, protection, and dignity for their child.

      The OP might also want to read more general advice on how to break bad habits and build good ones, and how to manage or tolerate strong emotions to avoid acting impulsively. These reactions to unusual names are habits of mind that can be changed, if the OP wants to.

      1. EventPlannerGal

        “Who doesn’t want to meet a princess, a king, or a miracle? Or to get to deal with parents whose first act was one of such love, protection, and dignity for their child.”

        I love this. This is a really thoughtful, lovely response.

      2. Former Employee

        What a beautiful post and I believe it gives the OP an entirely new and thoughtful perspective on the situation.

        I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out that some of these parents had planned to name their baby something more traditional such as Robert or Jane until the baby was born with a life threatening medical condition, which made them feel that a more appropriate name for this particular child would be something like “Miracle”.

    31. Reluctant Manager

      1. I think this was in Freakonomics (which had a chapter on name trends): Father decided to be cute and name his first son Winner; later he named another son Loser. Did it affect them? IIRC, Winner went to prison and “Lou” became a cop.

      2. A political candidate had some ads a few years back. She explained that she was a serious person with lots of accomplishments unrelated to the fact that her father, Mr. Ball, thought it would be great to name his daughter Krystal. (Don’t know if she won.)

    1. Princess Cimorene

      This spot on advice is why I am always so enthusiastic to recommend Alison’s blog to people. I know even when I haven’t been here for a while because of life’s whatevers, that I can trust her sound judgment, her respect of others, and her honesty.

    2. Blue Cup

      Its very good advice but I remember learning this in my first job at a grocery store at 15. My Co-workers name was Jesus and being 15 I thought that was so funny for that to be on his name tag and sadly called him Jesus the first time I talked to him as in same name as Christ the Lord. He quickly corrected me and let me know to pronounce it Hey-Seuss. We have heard of celebrities naming their kids very different names for years Satchel, Apple, and pilot inspector, which is what I was looking for OP to say an different name was not Queen, Princess, or Prince because Prince has been around for a while. So even living in an all white bubble if OP has internet access or TV names different than hers should not be that odd. It just seems odd that OP has had several jobs and hasn’t learned this.

      1. Hey Karma, Over Here

        I thought the letter was going to be about names of foreign employees that sound well, obscene in English, or could appear obscene phonetically.

        1. sheworkshardforthemoney

          I work with international students, one name was Fart, yes, pronounced that way even though it wasn’t spelled that way. No one ever mocked him.

          1. Gabriela

            I work on a very diverse college campus with a large international student group as well. I’ve never heard students make fun of each others’ names (and I am not in a particularly liberal part of the country). There have been names that have creative spellings that I have rolled my eyes at before (not anymore!), but seeing that the students accept each other’s different “weird” names without exception highlighted some of my own inherent bias. OP, I’m glad you wrote in and I hope you are addressing your own bias.

        2. Joielle

          I went to college with a guy whose last name was Cooch. Professors were always a little weird about saying it, but he always seemed to get called on less in Socratic-style lectures, so I guess it worked out for him?

      2. hbc

        If it makes you feel better, it wasn’t an off-the-wall wrong pronunciation. I remember a teacher not known for patience or tolerance doing attendance on the first day of school resulting in:
        Teacher: “Jeezus? There’s someone here called Jeezus?”
        Jesus: “Um, it’s HaySeuss.”
        Teacher: “But it says Jeezus. J-E-S-U-S.”
        Jesus: “…My family says it HaySeuss.”
        Teacher: gives some major side-eye, continues on, then later: “Jee…I mean, HaySeuss.”
        Jesus 2, in the quietest voice possible: “Um, actually, it’s Jeezus.”
        Teacher: head explodes

        1. Hobbert

          I work with a Jorge in an area with a large Hispanic population. I only see him a couple times a year but I cannot keep it in my head that he prefers “George”, not “Hor-Hay”…I try to just think of him as George, not Jorge.

          1. Bennett

            Aaand that was literally the first time I’ve realised that Jorge is not pronounced George.

            Give me a break, I’m a Brit, I’ve only ever seen it written down…

            1. EvilQueenRegina

              I think I first learned that after hearing the actor Jorge Garcia on a DVD commentary in the extras on my Lost box set (fellow Brit who had also only ever seen it written down).

          2. Teapot Tester

            My son played soccer with a Joaquin*. He had only heard the name and never seen it written, so one day he was looking at the roster and said, “who’s Joa-quin?” When I said that’s how you spell Joaquin he was shocked.

            *and yes I realize the humor here with Wakeen a common pseudonym on AMA

            1. Hobbert

              We hired a Joaquin and, before I met him, I mentally said his name as “Joa-kwin”! One of those names that I’ve seen written but never pronounced. We also have a Joachim but he goes by Joe so I have no idea how to say his name. I like interesting names, though. Wouldn’t life be boring if we were all Jane and Johns?

          3. Alli525

            I have a friend who dated a “George” Jorge, then a year or so later dated a “Hor-hay” Jorge. THAT was confusing.

          4. JB

            The first time I encountered this was during a military exercise. I ran into someone whose name was “Jorge” and I thought it was incorrect because the guy’s name was clearly “Horhay.” I made a big deal about the ‘mistake.’ In front of a dozen people. All of whom knew perfectly well how Jorge is pronounced.

      3. Dragoning

        When I was in high school, a kid I assumed was white introduced himself as Tomas (To-MAS, the Spanish pronunciation), and I kinda laughed it off and assumed he was being a pretentious high school boy and asked “Do you mean ‘Thomas’ ” and he shut me down hard.

        Turns out, his legal name actually WAS Thomas, but Tomas was what his beloved, dead Spanish grandmother called him. YIKES.

    3. Beancounter

      I had no idea that’s why some in the black community give those names to children (or use titles as nicknames). I worked with a woman who went by Queen. I had no idea it was to garner respect. Knowing that now, I can see how she worked hard to prove herself to others. I will keep this in mind. Thanks for the lesson Alison.

    4. KAW

      Agreed. I’m a teacher, and have had kids in my class named:
      Queenie
      Princess
      Princesstiffany (all one word, do not call her just princess or just Tiffany)
      Commander
      Sir
      Heavenly
      West (long before North West!)

      …and a whole other host of names I find interesting. It’s absolutely on me to use their accurate names, as they deserve that basic respect. They might find OP’s name weird. Oh well.

      1. JB

        Good luck. I don’t know that I could say “Princesstiffany” with a straight face. She would very quickly become “Ms. Smith”

  2. Avid reader infrequent commenter

    OP 5 here – Thank you for answering my question. That makes total sense, so I’ll just set it aside for jobs that explicitly ask for it. I actually stumbled upon a job in academia just today that requires 3 letters of recommendation, so at least it’ll come in handy there!

    1. Fizzchick

      Although even then I would be careful – academia often expects the letters to be confidential, and the recommenders submit their letters separately (or that you use a service like Interfolio, who basically holds the letters until you tell the company where to send them). This doesn’t mean that the letters are confidential, but it does mean that in certain corners of academia, you will be frowned at if you upload all your own letters.

      1. Avid reader infrequent commenter

        Ahh, I had no idea, so thank you for that tip. I’ll definjtely take a close look at the posting to see what they expect.

      2. Smarty Boots

        Correct, or your grad school will have its own service for letters of recommendation. Very handy to use these services, btw, because people retire, become unable to write a letter, pass away…

    2. FabTag

      I DO recommend including a reference letter if it is spectacular. I have been involved in hiring several hundred people over the past three decades and found an excellent reference letter can help your application stand out from the crowd, especially if it’s a position attracting many applicants.

      1. Avid reader infrequent commenter

        Can I ask how they submitted it to you? Was it simply included with all the other materials, did they mention it in the cover letter…?

      2. BRR

        Do people just send it in with their cover letter and resume? Ive never had it happen but I think I’d be turned off if someone included one. At the very least I’d be indifferent if I didn’t ask for one.

      3. EPLawyer

        How can a generic recommendation letter really help? It is not like the letter is tailored to the person’s skills relating to the job they are applying for. Sure they might have been awesome at their previous job and everyone loved them, but does that transfer to the job for which the person is looking to hire?

        As Alison said, hiring folks have the questions specific to the job they want to ask. A generic recommendation that can go with any application can’t help that. Just like a generic cover letter doesn’t help.

        1. Michaela Westen

          I had a recommendation letter that talked about my skill with detail work and gifts with research and analysis, and it definitely helped!

      4. Rusty Shackelford

        We actually chose to interview (and eventually hired) a candidate whose skill set was marginal, but she enclosed a cover letter from a known entity raving about her skills, her attitude, and her ability to pick up anything. So yes, there’s a possibility it can weigh in your favor if it’s truly outstanding. (She was a good hire, too!)

    3. MusicWithRocksInIt

      Back when I was beginning my career, coming out of a PR internship (a.k.a the bad place) I had a portfolio of some projects and articles I had worked on which I included several letters of recommendation in. I know that it impressed the boss enough to get me my first job, but I also know he was super old fashioned and when that company closed down he gave me a letter of recommendation to use instead of letting me use him as a reference, and it was not at all helpful while looking for my next job. At that point I was no longer using the portfolio because I wasn’t doing that type of work anymore and had no place to put it, and no one who asked for it. He also made me write most of the thing myself, which at that point in my life was one of the most awkward things I had ever done.

    4. SheLooksFamiliar

      Hi, OP – I think LOR are more impressive in some fields (academia) than others (corporate America), so know your audience! After 30+ years in corporate staffing, I can tell you a LOR won’t help much. I don’t know who wrote it (too many self-written letters to count), it’s usually too generic to be helpful, and it’s quite often used in hopes I will forget the candidate is not a good fit in part or whole.

      But it sounds like you’re set if the employer asks for one. Good luck to you, please keep us posted!

      1. Avid reader infrequent commenter

        That’s what I’m learning from this question, so I’m glad I asked, and I’m so glad to have extra input from others! It’s true, so far the only posting I’ve come across that asks for LORs is a position (admin) at a university.

        Thank you! It’s a huge change. I love my job here and what I do, but I can’t imagine not following my family to this new home. To make it extra challenging, my industry has an extremely limited foot print in my new home, so the chances of me carrying on in the industry I love and have thrived in are pretty much zero at this point. I’m trying to stay positive and look at this as an exciting new challenge, however.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar

          I hear you! Changing your location AND your industry can be challenging, but I bet you have a lot more to offer your next employer than you might think. Your previous successes are due to your skills and personal traits, and employers will appreciate hearing about your transferable experience. And if your boss is willing to be a reference (in addition to the letter!), you have a lot going for you. Please update Alison when you land, you know how we love success stories here!

    5. Michaela Westen

      I meant to say I don’t agree with Alison’s advice this time. I was laid off several years ago and given a letter of recommendation.
      I included it in my applications for staff jobs and it really seemed to make a difference! I ended up with the best job I’ve ever had by far.
      Of course it depends on your industry, if there are norms you should be following.

  3. Nobody Here by That Name

    OP#1: Presumably you’d be comfortable with people named Regina, Jesus, or Lily, right? Just because King or Honey aren’t the versions of names you’re used to doesn’t mean they’re weird names, meaning-wise. Maybe thinking of it that way can help you get past your discomfort. (In addition to AAM’s excellent point about culture.)

    1. Geoffrey B

      Yep. So many familiar names are based on a royal/noble title or something similar.

      Alison mentioned reasons why royal names are common for Black people; Sikhism does something similar, where it’s standard for Sikh women to use the surname Kaur (“Princess”) as a social leveller.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Kaur doesn’t mean “princess”! It translates as “prince.” There’s a long explanation of why women are given an explicitly male-gendered surname, but it boils down to gender inequality and the significance of saying that women should be valued at least as much as men.

        (But I agree with your larger point.)

    2. Lady Blerd

      Exactly. Many traditional European names had original meanings that mean king, queen etc. I understand OP’s hesitation to call it those names but at the end of the day, it’s their legal name. I know a Princess who switched to her middle name as an adult but that wad her choice.

      1. ssssssssssssssssssssssss

        My neighbour had two daughters with “normal” names and a son who was named Dieudonné, which translates as “god-given.” I had never heard that name before. (and I thought that was unfair to his sisters but it turns out it’s not that uncommon from where the mother was from (I fail to remember which African country)). Here in Canada, the son decided in his teens to have people call him Diego.

        And I worked with someone who’s name was Mama (she was North African). It felt odd to me the first time I called her by her name as she was not my mama! Then I got over it.

        It’s good to acknowledge that these names feel odd to you as your feelings are real. But then take those feelings, and grow a little, grow up a little and then call them by their names. There’s no way around it.

        1. Femme D'Afrique

          Dieudonné is a fairly common name for boys/men in Francophone Africa. I’ve met men with that name from Cameroon, DRC and Congo. I posted a link below (probably still in moderation) about names from Zimbabwe too. I also get that hearing an unusual name can be startling but yeah, get over it and move on.

        2. Constanze

          It is quite common in France as well.

          There is a stand up comic very well known with that name (he goes by his first name as a whole stage name), but got infamous lately for really antisemitic comments and behaviours. So, now, this particular first name is associated with this in France…

      2. OlympiasEpiriot

        Yup. My (very common, broadly accepted, European) name means Princess in its original language.

        Lots of names in their original languages have meanings that would feel odd to say translated. For instance, Alexander is our version of a Greek name that meant Defender. Or Duncan…nice Scottish name, right? Just means Dark Battle.

        Soooooo, Duncan Hines…cake mix and frosting company…means Dark Battle Home Power. (Hines is an americanization of Heinz, which is a nickname for Heinrich, which means Home Power or Rule.)

        I like the varieties of names families use nowadays for their children. No matter what, people may decide to change their name as they age, or not. My mother was named Judith, but hated being called Judy, so changed her name to something she liked.

        To OP1, maybe thinking about the meanings of all the names of your family would help? Also, if someone tells me to call them by a name, I’ll use it no matter what. It is their name.

        1. Hope

          Dark Battle Home Power is kind of an awesome name for a cake mix company, when you think about it. Like a home chef who’s ready to throw down in Kitchen Stadium.

    3. nom de plume

      I was going to say the exact same: Rex = king in Latin; Augustus = august; Amy = beloved (quite literally – it’s from the French “aimée”)… the examples go on and on.

      Please, whatever you do, do NOT joke about wanting to be called Empress Sweetie. It’s not funny, and it’s just wrong. This is your discomfort, and while understandable to a point, the onus is on you to overcome it.

    4. MuseumChick

      I agree Nobody Here. To add to that, names like Sarah for example, mean princess/noblewoman in Hebrew. I doubt the OP feels uncomfortable calling someone Sarah even though it’s basically calling them Princess.

  4. Yvette

    #3, Your boss is a jerk. That being said if it is your responsibility, maybe you could attach a note to your car keys, or, if you feel comfortable doing so, leave your car key with the cabinet keys.

    #1 I totally agree with Alison, the only (slight, slight) issue I have is with someone named Honey, and that is only because I would be concerned that patients, the general public etc. might not know that was her name and might think I was being inappropriate or overly familiar or condescending.

    1. lyonite

      But if they’re in healthcare and dealing with patients, they’re probably wearing nametags, right? Regardless, I think that treating your colleagues with respect is worth the risk of the occasional misunderstanding. (“Did you just call her honey?” “Oh, that’s her name. Now hold still; this’ll just sting a little.”)

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch

      The general public can get over it. Same goes for saying Princess or Precious, those could be misconstrued as well. Then if they complain they can pick their pride up off the floor when told the woman’s name is indeed Honey.

      1. Phoenix Programmer

        Well the thing is a lot of people don’t speak up in the moment. Instead they complain to your boss that you are being inappropriate and using “pet names” when it is actually the person’s name!

        Something similar happened to me. Someone I work with exclusively via phone is named Honey. I had a a lot of calls with her one week and after a particularly long one my boss asked me sarcastically what honey was making for dinner.

        After some confused back and forth it came out that Honey was her name and my boss admitted to me he thought I was on calls with my husband all week! His dinner joke was his ice breaker to reprimand me I guess.

        I poked around the office some and it turns out a lot of people thought I was on personal calls. It was irritating. :/

        That said I still call her Honey. Yes I am uncomfortable using that name on the phone but oh well. It’s her name.

        1. Goya de la Mancha

          This was my thoughts when reading that post.

          It’s their name, and I will call them by it, but names that lean toward the “pet name” side of things will forever make me uncomfortable.

    3. zaracat

      I’ve found that people tend to say an actual name like Honey differently from the way they would say it as a nickname or generic gendered reference; I’m not sure how to explain it exactly except that it’s to do with the way you stress the word (eg when people are mocking they’ll tend to draw the word out longer), that usually makes it obvious which one is intended.

      1. Laura H.

        Also maybe the words you use around it or the placement in the sentence in addition to inflections. I know a Precious and a Lovely- I cant exactly put my finger on how
        the proper names differ from the adjective forms when speaking them but they do!

        As a side note, the two aforementioned people are wonderful and also fit their names very well!

        1. Nanani

          I went to school with a Precious and she pronounced her name more like “Preshees” – different final vowel. We all had the same language background so it wasn’t an accent thing.

          1. Le’Veon Bell is seizing the means of production

            And that’s really close to the name Precis, which I think is pronounced “pray-see” and is French maybe? Not usual in my cultural context, but not hard to learn and get used to!

    4. LQ

      I’ve worked with Honey’s and as soon as you stop using it with familiar or condescending tones people know it’s a name and not a term of endearment. People often call people’s names with a slight tone of endearment when they are asking a favor, but if you just use it like you would a name in a normal conversation and not that tinge of endearment you’ll be fine and people will hear name rather than endearment. This is really WAY more about tone than word.

    5. Barbara

      I recommend using a pop up reminder on Outlook, or your phone. I used to have one reminding me every day at 3:30 to pick up the mail, and it took months before I stopped needing it.

  5. Engineer Girl

    #3 Checklists!!!!!
    Create a checklist that you will look at every night before you go home. Pilots use checklists. Engineers use checklists. They are a wonderful thing. They save so much aggravation.

    1. Engineer Girl

      Also – put an open/closed list on the cabinet. It would have date, time, initials. That way if someone opens the cabinet after you leave you have proof that you did indeed lock it for the day.

      1. Lynca

        This is what we do for our cabinets. I think this combined with the checklist will give the OP more tools for dealing with this situation.

        1. valentine

          Are you expecting others to fill out the list when they’re not even locking the cabinet, or for OP3 to note when she last locked it? Neither is proof.

          1. Engineer Girl

            There is proof OP closed it for the day if there is a date-time note and initials.

            If the cabinet is being opened by others after that then OP has proof and can ask to keep the keys secure.

      2. BluntBunny

        I think a sign in/our sheet is good idea especially if the contents of the safe are really important. But I wonder if the people still left in the office still need to access the documents after OP has left whether it is practical/reasonable to expect the OP to always lock it. This could maybe give the OP some standing to say that maybe the last person would be better placed.

    2. Startup HR

      Good idea. You could also add a “lock the cabinet” phone alarm that goes off 10 minutes before you leave everyday, if you always leave at the same time. Either way your boss still sucks.

      1. Cambridge Comma

        You could probably find a way to set an alarm that goes off when you leave a defined location.

      2. Kes

        This is the obvious solution to me. Set a regular alarm shortly before you normally leave to remind you to lock the cabinet

    3. Thanks! Wait what...

      Oh come on. That comes across so demeaning.

      5 times in 2 years. Given the 80minute round trip commute, if they were going to exaggerate they would have.

      While i dont know OPs methods, I think its safe to say they have a very reasonable set up to remember their duties.

      OP is not the issue.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        The OP’s boss is a jerk, but it’s also true that the OP is sometimes forgetting something she needs to do, and it’s becoming an issue at work. There’s nothing wrong with suggesting a way to handle that.

      2. Engineer Girl

        BTW I worked at a facility that had a three strikes and you’re out on security. First offense, a write up. Second offense, three days suspension without pay. Third offense, walked out.
        There was no annual reset.

        I realize that OP is not in that situation. But some folks are. And we have to learn how to deal. So keys in the safe, checklists, signout sheets, etc.

        1. Database Developer Dude

          Not the point, Engineer Girl. The keys to the cabinet are hanging on a hook on the outside of the cabinet. Security’s not an issue here for this OP.

            1. Database Developer Dude

              It’s a meaningless job requirement. Not to mention, part of the OP’s training said that the last person in the office locks the cabinet, and gaslighting boss told the new employee they should have known that wasn’t correct. There’s no wiggle room here.

              1. Engineer Girl

                We don’t know why boss wants cabinet locked. OP does state that it contains “personal files, organizational records, and petty cash.” All if these should be locked up at night.

                The OP will have a much harder time finding another job if they have been fired from this one. It is in their best long-term interest to lock the cabinet while they search for a job with a boss who isn’t a jerk.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Checklists are not demeaning if OP creates one for themselves? It might not even be demeaning if it came from OP’s boss. To be sure, the boss is behaving in a jerk way—I don’t like his methods at all. But helping OP coming up with strategies to prevent the situation from occurring, again, can be helpful.

        1. LQ

          Checklists shouldn’t be demeaning at all. They save lives and send people to the moon. Checklists save lives. They aren’t demeaning. If they can save lives they can help you with something less important than saving a life.

          1. Antilles

            Correct. And interestingly, many of the items on the checklist usually have a story behind them – there are 17 items on the checklist is because when we previously had 16, people kept forgetting ___.

          2. pentamom

            Hidden Brain podcast has a fascinating episode about this, dated October 30, 2017. I just listened to it the other day.

            1. Teach

              Atul Gawande’s book “The Checklist Manifesto” is the basis for that episode and a very interesting read!

      4. Jen

        I train (and was trained myself) with checklists for my job and we also used them in our grad level lab. There is nothing inherently demeaning about checklists.

      5. EPLawyer

        I wonder if OP is not the issue too. If the key is right there, did OP really forget? Or did someone who was still there re-open the cabinet after she left and then didn’t re-lock it?

        That’s the problem with the whole system. No one has the responsbility of unlocking it. It just hangs open unlocked until OP has to leave. But if OP locks it and someone else is still working and needs something, they go unlock it. And may or may not lock it back up. Because the key is hanging right there.

        If they are going to make it OP’s responsibility then she gets to keep the key. She unlocks it in the morning and locks it at night. If anyone needs it when OP is not there, oh well.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood

          THIS.
          There is NO WAY that OP can be sure the cabinet stays locked overnight if the keys are right there.

          1. Rusty Shackelford

            It does make you wonder what would happen if she said “No, I locked the cabinet. Someone must have opened it afterward and left it unlocked.”

        2. Antilles

          That was my thought too. It seems like OP has realized that in these particular cases it was just forgetting, but given that other employees work later and may need something for the cabinets, it’s entirely possible that OP locks it and someone else goes in and forgets to re-lock it.

        3. OlympiasEpiriot

          THANK YOU!

          I was wondering the same thing.

          Having the keys “right there” makes no sense if the cabinet is supposed to be locked.

          [Also, if the cabinet has to be open every day all day when the office is open, that makes me think more than just one person needs access to it and there’s free access to everyone in the office. There might be a need for people staying late in the office to get in there. Having one person with the keys changes people’s ability to do their jobs.]

        4. Glitsy Gus

          I do wonder if the OP could make herself a sign off for locking the cabinet (so she is sure she did it) and then if the Boss finds it open she can know that it was someone else would be helpful.

          As I and a few others mentioned, sometimes things needs to be locked for regulatory/safety reasons and not for security reasons (even if they sounds stupid, sometimes regulations sound stupid even though they exist for a reason), so her keeping the keys may not be a viable alternative. What she can do, however, is double check herself so she can 1. know for a fact that she did lock it, and 2. find out if the issue is someone else needing something from the cabinet after she left.

          It may or may not fix her jerk of a Boss’s reaction, but it may go a ways to saving her own sanity and give her the next step- finding the person unlocking them and making sure they know to re-lock if she’s gone (if that is the case).

      6. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

        I think they are the problem here.

        Yes the boss is being a jerk about this, but obviously it’s a hot button for them.
        Locking the cabinet is the OP’s responsibility whether it makes sense to them or not. I’ve never had much luck picking and choosing what job responsibilities I’m going to do, but individual results may vary.

        I think this one of those situations where the reality isn’t going to change and it’s going to fall on the OP to manage. I don’t see how giving advice to help them do it is demeaning in any way.

    4. Engineer Girl

      I suggested below too –
      Put your car keys in the open cabinet. You’re not getting far without them.
      I had to do that with my safe.

      1. Traffic_Spiral

        This is a good idea. I mean, yeah, the boss is a jerk, but he’s being a jerk within his authority, so LW is just going to have to deal for now.

      2. PhyllisB

        This reminds me of my mother!! Her trick (at home) is to put the car keys in the fridge or freezer; even if you’re not taking something cold with you. When you go get your keys out of the freezer, it reminds you of what you’re supposed to be doing/taking with you. Works like a charm!! However, with new computerized keys I don’t do this anymore because I’m afraid the cold will not be good for them. Instead I lay them on top the the fridge. The point is to do something that jogs your memory. Yes, your boss is an ass; but if it’s your job to do it, then you must find a way to remember it.

      3. Seeking Second Childhood

        Yes! After leaving my laptop home twice, I started latching my car keys to my laptop case on the times when I brought it home.

        1. Dragoning

          I did that twice, and now there is an alarm on my phone that goes off five minutes before I walk out the door that says “BRING YOUR F****** COMPUTER” with no snooze option.

    5. L.

      Even as a sales person, I am constantly evaluating and adjusting the checklist I use for my sales. I’m in the process of currently revamping mine, as my boss and I determined that the two we have available are insufficient. So we are combining the best of both.

      Having a checklist has saved our butts many times.

    6. nom de plume

      This misses an important point, which I’m surprised that Alison also brushed aside: this boss’s behavior is *absolutely* abusive. The gaslighting (telling OP they should have known it was their task when they were told otherwise); the humiliating (forcing them to come back for no reason); the denigrating and warping of reality (the cabinets are holding back OP’s career?!?! for real?!?!) — all this is more than “jerk” behavior.

      I really want to emphasize this bc this isn’t behavior worth accommodating – checklist or no checklists. When someone is this far out in the land of irrational assholery, the thing to do is GTFO of there. If it’s not the cabinets, it’ll be something else.

      Please remember, OP – it’s not you, it’s (asshole) him.

      1. Loose Seal

        I agree that the boss is definitely on the asshole spectrum but that doesn’t absolve the OP from doing everything she can to correct this performance issue. He hasn’t asked her to do anything illegal or immoral. He’s just asked her to lock a cabinet.

        Frankly, once I had the conversation with OP about it being her responsibility to lock that cabinet before she left, I’d be irritated* to have to address it again. Because at that point, it’s not just an unlocked cabinet. It’s whether OP can follow directions she doesn’t necessarily see the need for. And possessing an essential skill set doesn’t eliminate the need for following direction.

        *I don’t know if I would have made her drive back to work to lock the cabinet but I don’t think it’s “abusive” that OP’s boss did so.

        1. Tiny Soprano

          Plus what’s the bet if he’s an arse about the cabinet, he’s probably an arse about other things too. Eliminating the cabinet locking problem just gives the OP more high ground if they need to go to HR about further arsery later.

          1. valentine

            Loose Seal, even if no one else locks the cabinet, how would you know OP3 left it unlocked? Maybe OP3 locked the cabinet at 5:00 and left, boss unlocked the cabinet at 6:00, found it unlocked at 9:00, and called her back to lock it.

            1. Engineer Girl

              That’s why you have an open/closed sign in sheet. OP would have proof that they had closed it for the day.

        2. Database Developer Dude

          I dispute that this is an *actual* performance issue. The keys are kept hanging next to the cabinet. What’s the purpose of locking it, especially when OP isn’t the last one to leave the office? It’s basically giving a pass to a boss who wants a person doing a meaningless task.

          1. Colette

            Bosses are allowed to want their employees to do meaningless tasks. No pass required.

            (It’s not a great idea, but they do have that authority.)

            1. Database Developer Dude

              Yes, pass required. It’s called making sense and not being an asshole for no reason. There is no mission-related reason for the OP to have to lock the cabinets every time THEY leave, if they’re not the last one there, and if THE KEYS ARE HANGING ON THE SIDE OF THE CABINET!!!

              This makes my blood boil. Required meaningless tasks are an abuse of authority. It’s not mission related, it’s just a dick measuring contest. There is no moral justification for this sort of thing.

              1. Colette

                Maybe there is a reason we – and the OP – don’t know. Maybe it’s just a preference. What it comes down to is that the OP is literally getting paid to do it – the boss gets to make the call.

              2. Joielle

                I mean, sure, but when it comes down to it, the options are remember to lock the cabinet, or run the risk of getting fired for not locking it. Is it a totally useless task and a ridiculous reason for OP to get in trouble? Yeah, probably. Can the boss fire her for it? Yep.

                If OP wants to die on this hill and see if she’ll be fired, she can do that and she’d be morally in the clear! But if she doesn’t want to risk it, she should come up with a system for remembering to lock the cabinet. She can try suggesting alternative ideas, but if the boss doesn’t go for that, we’re back to square one.

                No matter how irritating this situation is, it doesn’t change the facts at hand.

              3. LJay

                There is if locking the cabinet is their job, not somebody else’s job.

                We had a similar issue where I work. There is a gate that needs to be locked when the last warehouse clerk scheduled to leave leaves for the day (and this is a specific person who is responsible for it who is scheduled to leave 30 minutes later than the others and perform duties like this, shutting off the lights, ensuring all UPS and FedEx packages have been picked up, etc).

                Sometimes the last warehouse clerk scheduled out is not the last person to actually leave. Sometimes I am still there when they leave. Sometimes the inventory manager is still there when they leave.

                Both the inventory manager and I could lock the gate. And there could be an instance where the inventory manager or I might open the already locked gate.

                But the occasions where we would open the gate would be very rare. In most instances we would n0t. I don’t think I’ve ever opened the gate after the employee has left for the day.

                And it doesn’t make sense for me or the inventory manager to be responsible for locking the gate. It’s not related to either of our job duties. I travel for business at least 60% of the time and so am not there to lock the gates for weeks on end. The inventory manager is scheduled to be out 30 minutes before the assigned person, even if he stays later than that.

                If the gate isn’t locked overnight, it’s probably not the end of the world. But we’re in a not-great part of town, and the gate remaining open makes it more likely that someone will come onto the property and rob us than if the gate is locked.

                And, having one person assigned to the task makes it easier to have accountability. If the rule is just “last one out” then there can be arguments over who exactly was the last one out for the day. Someone could think that someone else was still in the building but in the bathroom or something and so not realize that they were in fact the last one out. Someone who was the actual last one out one day might never really be the last one out and not remember that this is a task that needs to be done.

                We had a new person in the role, who was struggling to remember to lock the gate (and do other things like turn off the lights and make sure the packages were all picked up), and I did consider it to be a performance issue. If part of your tasks are to close the gate, and you’re not closing the gate, you need to come up with some method to remember how to do it.

                I wouldn’t call someone back from home to make them close the gate, but I would consider writing them up if it continued to be a problem.

                As it is, the person turned out to be not a fit in a bunch of ways and quit shortly after hiring.

                (In the OPs case, yeah, the keys hanging on the side of the cabinet is stupid because then anyone, authorized or unauthorized could get into the cabinet. At this point I don’t know why they bother locking it at all and it makes me wonder if there was a training issue where the key was supposed to be left by the cabinet during the day when there is someone there to monitor who is using it but the key is supposed to be moved at night or something. Or this is a case where people are valuing compliance over common sense, in which case any auditor worth their salt should write them up anyway – if the rule is that the cabinets have to be locked because they contain personal information, locking them but having the key right there is not really protecting the personal information. Or maybe it does make sense – someone above mentioned that maybe they are fireproof and need to be locked to maintain fireproofness. Or maybe they have to be locked to prevent someone from inadvertent opening it but someone accessing them maliciously is not a concern for some reason. In our case it’s a combo lock and only authorized people can open it.)

                But the larger point stands – even if someone else in the place could lock the cabinet, if the OP is the one that is assigned to lock the cabinet and they’re not doing it, it’s a performance problem.

              4. ChachkisGalore

                THANK YOU. This is absolutely abuse of authority and nothing more.

                Yes – realistically speaking if this is a matter of being homeless or doing a completely pointless task consistently, then yeah, hands are tied and playing along with this bafoonery is the only actionable option.

                However… I really hope that we can all agree that the boss is not just a jerk for making the OP drive 40 min back to the office as punishment, but is just as much a jerk for requiring such a completely pointless and illogical task in the first place.

      2. LawBee

        But in the meantime, OP still has to deal with jerkboss (I hesitate to call him abusive based solely on this letter), so GTFO sure if she wants but in the meantime – checklists, leave the cabinet locked during the day, store the car keys in it, set an alarm on the phone, whatever it takes.

        1. New Job So Much Better

          If OP isn’t the last to leave, how can she be sure someone else isn’t re-unlocking the cabinet again?

          1. LawBee

            Take the keys with her. Tell people not to unlock the cabinet after she leaves, as JerkBoss wants it locked after she leaves. As suggested upthread, put up a chart saying what time the cabinet was locked.

            There are things she can do, this part isn’t hard. It’s annoying, sure but I’m sure there are harder aspects of her job than something she forgot to do a few times.

      3. Colette

        I don’t read that as gaslighting. The boss could legitimately have thought the OP knew, because he wasn’t the one who trained her.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood

          The part that bugs me is him saying “obviously you should have known that was wrong” about the written materials her predecessor gave her.

          1. Colette

            It’s possible that the boss was legitimately surprised that the OP wasn’t trained properly. It’s also possible that he said something that wasn’t phrased well. I’m not inclined to give a great deal of significance to one sentence (unless it was something truly abusive or awful, which this is not).

            1. aebhel

              Eh, he might just be a jerk. I had a couple of moments like that with a coworker when I started at my current job; it was so ‘obvious’ to her that things had to be done a certain way that the fact that I had been told to do the opposite was irrelevant and I should have known better.

              It happens sometimes when people have worked somewhere for ages. They forget what is and is not common knowledge.

              1. Colette

                Maybe – but every one of us has said something jerky at one point or another. Maybe the boss is truly terrible – but maybe he’s just a flawed human like everyone else.

      4. Rusty Shackelford

        I really want to emphasize this bc this isn’t behavior worth accommodating – checklist or no checklists. When someone is this far out in the land of irrational assholery, the thing to do is GTFO of there. If it’s not the cabinets, it’ll be something else.

        But assuming the OP wants to keep her job in the meanwhile, suggestions for how to best meet the boss’s irrational demands are appropriate.

        1. Colette

          And it’s possible that when the OP considers this job (pay, commute, benefits, work, etc.) against other jobs she could get, taking steps to make sure she remembers to lock the cabinets is still her best option.

      5. hbc

        “…this isn’t behavior worth accommodating.” But the accommodation isn’t for the boss’s crappy behavior, it’s adjusting to meet the needs of the job. Accommodating his behavior would be clearing her schedule for 3 hours past her normal leaving time so she can always be ready to run back if he demands it. Accommodating a stated job duty that is a relatively easy (though of dubious necessity) daily task is a pretty minimal requirement for holding down a job.

        This is not a hill to die on.

    7. Liane

      The checklist would be great for a reminder–I use them for many things. However, OP also needs a solution for the “Key is right there so anyone can unlock it later” portion of the problem that others have identified.
      Should OP include a checklist item to page/group email 15 minutes before leaving, “You have 5 minutes to get stuff from cabinet”? Lock the key in her desk? Call her boss to come watch her lock up? Text her boss a time and date stamped picture of the cabinet with the locked lock clearly visible? All of the above?

      1. Engineer Girl

        That’s why I suggested the open/closed sign in sheet taped to the cabinet. OP date-time stamps the time and then initials it (in ink) when things are opened/closed. If the cabinet is opened after leaving then there is proof that OP had locked it.

        If the cabinet is getting opened after OP has signed off in it then OP can present an argument for keeping the key in a secure location.

      1. Observer

        Unless we get an update where it turns out that, as someone put it in a comment on another update, the “the molehill is a METAPHOR for this mountain underneath it!”

    1. namelesscommentator

      This feels like one of those letters where the real dram happens in the update. Where there’s smoke there’s fire and all.

      I’m also highly WTFing why a boss is so fixated on cabinets. Doesn’t he have is own job to do? If it’s so important these cabinets be locked at the end of the night why aren’t they only opened when you need access?

      1. Rusty Shackelford

        I’m also highly WTFing why a boss is so fixated on cabinets.

        Especially since the key is literally ON THE CABINETS. It’s not like locking the cabinets is a security issue.

        1. LCL

          Yes. The whole locking up something while leaving the key out is just weird monkey motion and accomplishes nothing. Except to emphasize that he is the boss. I believe if OP wanted to, she could make a very long post detailing boss’ controlling and demeaning behavior towards her and other workers.

      2. Princess Sarah

        Also, if the boss is waiting for op3 to come back and lock the cabinets, doesn’t the boss have somewhere to be? Why are you waiting for upwards of 40 minutes after work for op3 to get back to the office? Go home!

    2. JamieS

      I’m more jaded. My outlook for 2019 is there’s going to be a letter where a boss does something like punch an employee on purpose and still won’t make the contenders cut. Y’all heard it here first.

      1. MatKnifeNinja

        Yeah, for cabinet boss to be a contender, he’d take the tip off of one finger, and make OP drive home with no bandages.

        I’ve worker for some bosses that would totally do this as a punishment. Like if I make it miserable enough, you’ll remember to do your job.

        As, it doesn’t matter if the boss is hands width from the keys and cabinets. The boss calls the shots. He’s not a worker bee.

        (It would be wonderful if he wasn’t a DBag, but yah know…)

        1. Sick of excuses

          So, maybe OP should be fired instead? I’m unclear why a simple, and truly it is simple, job expectation cannot be met by the OP. Make a note, a list, an alarm on the phone, and do the deed. It doesn’t sound like you are getting in trouble for others behaviors-or that others are unlocking the cabinet behind you-just being held responsible for your own failure to complete a simple task. I’m guessing boss is trying negative reinforcement to get compliance because simple discussion isn’t working to his/her satisfaction. IMO the person being childish is the OP.

          1. JD

            I mean…it depends on how important it is to keep the cabinet locked. Like, if it’s critically important that those cabinets get locked at the end of the day 100% of the time and the boss has assigned OP to be in charge of that, then yes OP should be expected to remember it every time, and not just nearly every time. But, if it’s that important for the cabinet to be locked at the end of the day, then as other people are pointing out…why is this something that anyone else can just unlock after OP has left, and do we even know that OP did forget every time? Like either it’s important enough to make a big deal out of, in which case the key *should not be available at all* after OP leaves (or there should be some way to hold other people responsible if someone else unlocks it and doesn’t re-lock it), or else it’s a very minor aspect of the job, in which case forgetting two or three times out of a couple hundred workdays a year shouldn’t be a big issue. It can’t be so minor that someone else could leave it unlocked by mistake with zero consequences, but simultaneously so major that it’s a huge deal when OP leaves it unlocked by mistake. OP’s boss is handling this badly.

            I previously worked at an aquarium where something vaguely like this was going on. Basically, docents like myself were supposed to tell visitors to not take flash photos of an octopus that was a considerable distance away from where we were telling them that. There was also a dimly-lit, hard to see sign next to the octopus tank. This was clearly not sufficient to keep visitors from taking flash photos of the octopus and it happened all the time. Usually the visitors didn’t even know an octopus was in there, since they tend to hole up during the day. And yet we’d get in trouble (verbally reprimanded — I don’t think anyone got written up) if we didn’t do our wildly-insufficient part of keeping this thing that happened all the time from happening. (I always did, but my coworkers didn’t always and I can’t really blame them, it felt like an exercise in futility.) Whereas people with far more authority than I had could have, I don’t know, put the octopus somewhere else or at least bought a bigger sign.

      2. Database Developer Dude

        JamieS – any boss who would physically assault an employee is Just. Effing. Stupid ™. You never know who you’re stepping to.

    3. Tysons in NE

      I bet that even if the OP does lock the files up, the boss would unlock it and still blame it on her.

    4. Le Sigh

      An early contender who will quickly be eclipsed by the boss who insists their assistant constantly babysit their beloved dog, who sheds all over the office, despite the assistant being very allergic. Said boss will get mad at assistant for not being a cultural fit and being dramatic by wheezing all the time, then illegally dock assistant’s pay and write them up for not getting their work done and taking time to go to the doctor but failing to get a note.

      And then, said boss will demand their assistant donate a kidney to his dying dog or be fired. Said boss will also make the assistant stay with the dog post-surgery since boss is out of town for work, then call at 3am demanding to be picked up from the airport, and then get mad at the assistant for leaving the dog alone to pick the boss up and wearing jeans. To deal with the tension caused by all of this, said boss will insist they all go to group therapy together, dog included.

      To cap it off, said boss will write to Alison wondering how to write a kind but firm email expressing disappointment that said assistant quit, choosing to visit their dying grandmother in the hospital instead of take beloved dog to doggy day care, and how the assistant really needs to learn about responsibility.

  6. Mike C.

    What’s the problem with calling a grown woman a princess, is that is her name or title? “Princess” isn’t even a diminutive term. The title itself doesn’t mean that someone is young or childish, it means their parents are still ruling. There are lots of adult princes and princesses throughout nations which still have these systems going.

    The crown prince of England is an elderly man for goodness sakes.

    1. Edith

      “Princess isn’t even a diminutive term.”

      It absolutely is. It’s not relevant to LW’s situation since that’s a person’s actual given name, but we shouldn’t pretend there’s nothing condescending about directing it toward a grown woman who isn’t 1) actual royalty or 2) named Princess.

      1. Approval is optional

        Well, diminutive in this context actually means a shortened form of a name (eg Jenny for Jennifer) so Mike C is correct. And he said ‘[if] that is her name or title’; he wasn’t addressing the use of the word in other situations.

        1. Edith

          His stated use of the term was young or childish. There was nothing in there about shortened names.

          1. Approval is optional

            I’m not trying to be argumentative, but I was responding to your statement: ‘“Princess isn’t even a diminutive term.” It absolutely is.’ The context I was referring to, was how the term is used in reference to names. So Mike C’s statement is correct. And even if he is ‘mis-defining’ it as ‘young or childish’ he was talking about the ‘title itself’, not the use of the word as a ‘nickname’ (for want of a better word), so he is, again, correct that the title ‘Princess’ is not only used by royal children.
            I totally agree that calling someone ‘Princess’ when it’s not their name or their title is condescending, but it isn’t fair to suggest that Mike C was ‘pretend[ing] there’s nothing condescending about directing it toward a grown woman who isn’t 1) actual royalty or 2) named Princess’, when he was only addressing circumstances when it *was* a royal title or a name.

            1. Mike C.

              Yes, specifically this from the OP:

              I don’t feel comfortable calling a grown woman “Princess.”

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Princess doesn’t refer to youth or a childlike status—it refers to a familial relationship. There are plenty of grown women who are named Princess, and it’s not condescending to call a grown woman whose name is Princess by her name.

        1. WS

          I think they mean calling a girl or woman “princess” as a demeaning term to indicate she is fussy or demanding – “Here you go, princess,” for example.

        2. Ruth (UK)

          When Princess is not an actual given name of a person, I would say there are two main uses, those being when it is the actual title of the person (based on the familial relationship as you state) and when it’s used as a pet name, usually for a child.

          Where I live it’s a very common pet name that a parent might affectionately call their (especially young) daughter. They may also talk about them as their ‘little Princess’ etc. (However it’s not really common though not unheard of for boys to be called prince in the same way). It’s also sometimes a term I have heard men call adult women whose name they don’t know is in the same way they might say ‘love’ ‘duck’ ‘doll’ etc. While some of the others I’ve compared to may also be used by women on women or even on men, I would say this one I only hear used by men on women.

          So I think despite the actual meaning of the word when used as the title falls secondary to how it is often used when addressing people with the pet name being more common as most people are not actual princesses using it as a title. I also think that outside of discussing real royalty people tend to think of the Disney Princess type of princess (ie. A child) rather than a person who carries that title particularly. This is why it seems like a diminutive and therefore feels weird to say for people who aren’t used to it being the given name.

          I have never come across it as a given name though I’ve heard of it being one. As for when it’s a person’s given name, a agree you need to just get comfortable with saying it. While I haven’t come across that one, I have come across other names that seem weird to say at first for similar reasons.

      3. Traffic_Spiral

        I think it depends on where you’re from, but where I’m from, if you’re calling someone “Princess,” you might as well be calling them “Princess Useless Bitchy-Pants.” Or it’s your cat – and you still mean “Princess Useless Bitchy-Pants,” but you mean it affectionately. Still, if it’s their name you just gotta roll with it – like if there was someone named Dick.

        1. Rusty Shackelford

          Yes, this. Princess can, and often does, have its own unpleasant connotations. But still. If it’s her name, and she hasn’t asked you to call her anything else, use her name.

        2. Database Developer Dude

          I am well acquainted with a cat that has been nicknamed “Little Lord Rotten-ass” by its owner

      4. Nonsensical

        Someone at Google, where they allow you to make up your own titles as long as it is not misleading, calls herself the Security Princess.

    2. Jen

      I Don’t think put of context meaning matters at all. We have a guy at work who goes by “Trip” because he’s His name III. One of my uncle’s was commonly called “June”, which is a woman’s name more typically, because he was a Junior. Everyone knows we aren’t using the noun form of those.

    3. Not Australian

      “The crown prince of England is an elderly man for goodness sakes.”

      There is no such individual; you’re referring to the Prince of Wales.

        1. London Calling

          Well technically there is no such title in the UK as ‘Crown Prince,’ but if there were it wouldn’t be the Duke of Edinburgh – crown prince is the male heir apparent. It’s just much more usual in Britain to refer to the Prince of Wales or Prince Charles.

        2. Fiorinda

          Well, given that the Prince of Wales is seventy and the Duke of Edinburgh is in his nineties, he could be talking about either. Or both! But the Duke of Edinburgh is the Prince Consort, not the crown prince.

      1. Constanze

        Actually, on the birth certificate of his chilren, Prince William wrote “Princess of England” for Kate Middleton’s job. I can’t remember what he wrote for himself, it might have been “Prince of England” or “helicopter pilot”.

        1. Sick of people saying England when they mean UK

          Actually, he put “Princess of the United Kingdom”. And he put his as “Prince of the United Kingdom”.

      2. RUKiddingMe

        Most Americans don’t keep up with all the minutae of specific titles but I assumed they meant the POW.

        1. Sandy

          I think they very clearly did and I’m not sure what the commenter is responding to— that they said the crown prince of *England* or the *crown prince* of England. If the former, they are correct and if the latter..well, the Prince of Wales is the crown prince; it’s just that he has a more specific associated title he is known by, unlike other royals.

  7. False Security

    Why is no one else weirded out that #3 boss is making such a big deal of locking a cabinet with a key that *hangs on the side of that cabinet*?

    1. lyonite

      OMG. Maybe the key goes somewhere else once it’s locked? (The only reasonable explanation I can think of.)

      1. Approval is optional

        That would give it a whiff of sanity! But if ‘Anyone can lock or unlock them them at any time..’ then it doesn’t seem this is the system.

        1. Psyche

          Yeah. I think they should just leave it locked by default then. No remembering required! Anyone who needs it can unlock it since the key is right there. Of course leaving it unlocked at all times is easier but this guy does not seem rational.

      2. Llamalawyer

        Came here to say this! That was my first reaction. There are a lot of privacy requirements to have certain info locked up in various industries, but I don’t think that having the key right there in the open is compliant- defeats the purpose.

        1. LJay

          Yeah, at least in my industry, any auditor worth their salt would consider that to be the same as “unlocked” and deem it a violation if the requirement was for it to be locked. (Though generally they use the term “secured”, maybe for this reason?)

      1. only acting normal

        Given anyone can unlock it at any time, and at least two people work later than the OP… how does the boss know for sure that the OP didn’t lock it before they left, but it was then reopened? I’d be willing to bet that is exactly what happened at least one of the times the OP has been called back to work.

        1. Sarah M

          This is exactly what I came here to say. There is nothing secure about locking a cabinet and then leaving the key next to it on a hook. If other people are still in the office, how exactly does Boss know the cabinet wasn’t locked by OP and then unlocked by another employee? The whole situation is ridiculous.

    2. Yvette

      Maybe we were all so angered at the outrageous act of making her come all the way back, that very common sense detail escaped us. But yeah, good point. Then again nothing else the boss did was logical. “All but one time he was in the office the entire time, and the one time he wasn’t, someone else was going to be pulling an all-nighter there. “

    3. t.i.a.s.p.

      Right?! I’d be awfully tempted to lock the cabinet and take the keys home every night since cabinet security is so important.

      1. only acting normal

        It’s one way to help remember – keep the cabinet keys on you car-key-keyring. OP doesn’t lose anything, because they currently have to drive back if they forget (because boss is a loon), but it would prevent anyone reopening the cabinet after the OP leaves (whether innocently or maliciously).

        1. valentine

          I wouldn’t steal the keys, but I also wouldn’t stay in this job because who is tracking the cash?

    4. thankful for AAM.

      This. But I got stuck at, “you have to drive 40 minutes back in the snow so I can make a point and show how awful I am” so I had nothing to spare for the key is on the cabinet part.

    5. SS Express

      I read it as the keys are on the side of A cabinet – i.e. a different cabinet. But I did still wonder why it’s so important to lock it when the keys are presumably accessible to anyone who’s inside the building anyway. I’d bet a good amount of money this is just a power trip.

      1. Falling Diphthong

        … And suddenly this letter is the most interesting letter.

        If this is the sole barrier that keeps the brain sucking aliens out of our world…

        1. Marthooh

          …and here we’re being so cruel to the boss! When he’s the only thing standing between us and the Suck-Brain Apocalypse!

    6. Bella

      Came here to say this! Not that this helps the OP deal with the boss, but I’m so confused as to why it’s a big deal if the cabinet is locked when the keys are right on the side of it, and anyone can access it?

    7. Guacamole Bob

      Yeah, this got me, too. I can understand it being a big deal to forget to lock a cabinet, but only in cases where security is important enough that you don’t keep the keys hanging on the side of the cabinet!

    8. kittymommy

      The boss is a jackass and I would be very tempted to lock the cabinets and pocket the key and go home (don’t actually do this though!!), because how does the boss know who left the cabinet unlocked. I’m also not sure how the LW was supposed to intuit that she was supposed to lock it before going home since 1.) other people are using the cabinet (ostensibly) and 2.) she was told exactly not this!!

      1. Smarty Boots

        “I’m also not sure how the LW was supposed to intuit that she was supposed to lock it before going home since 1.) other people are using the cabinet (ostensibly) and 2.) she was told exactly not this!!”

        That was true initially, but now she knows and she’s still forgetting (= not making it a priority and finding a way to ensure she remembers). It doesn’t matter what she was told before. What he has told her since, is to lock the cabinet. So she needs to lock the cabinet. Really, why would anyone want to die on this hill? It is so not worth making a fuss about it. It’s an easy task, the boss wants her to do it, so the OP needs to do it. Every day without fail.

        1. jack

          Honestly, about 5x in 24 months is a pretty good success rate. It seems like she remembers 99% of the time.

          1. a1

            Right! I’m not sure why people keep overlooking this. She doesn’t need strategies to remember. She doesn’t need to get over herself to do her job, and not die on this hill. She is remembering, and doing her job. The real question is what to do on the rare occasions she does forget and boss insists she drives back to lock it even when there are several other people there that can lock it. The answer may be just to do it, and accept boss is a jerk. But she wasn’t asking if she should ever do it, or slack off, or anything like that. Not sure where the assumption is coming from that she keeps forgetting.

          2. LJay

            No, it’s not.

            If I had an employee who was forgetting to do one of their tasks once every couple of months, when the task was a simple as locking something up, I would consider that to be a performance issue.

      2. Peter the Bubblehead

        If the WRITTEN INSTRUCTIONS the OP received when she started the job state “The cabinet is locked by the last person in the office” but the boss insists this WRITTEN INSTRUCTION was not true, couldn’t the OP go to HR and get clarification? I think it is entirely possible the boss has taken it on his own initiative to change policy and put the responsibility for this cabinet on the shoulders of the OP. Will HR or the Grand Boss agree with this assessment?

    9. Smarty Boots

      It doesn’t have to make sense. It’s an easy task, he wants it done, OP needs to do it.

    10. RUKiddingMe

      Since the key is in an easily accessible (by anyone) place, what stops others from unlocking it, and leaving it unlocked after OP leaves?

      1. zora

        Also, if someone is breaking in to steal something, the key is Right. There. These cabinets are not ‘Secure’ at all. This was my first reaction and I am super annoyed with this boss.

    11. hbc

      I’m not weirded out because I know far, far too many people who follow the letter of the law with either complete ignorance of its spirit, or even who delight in undermining the intent.

      The rule says the cabinet has to be locked at the end of the day. Mission accomplished.

      1. Arjay

        It reminds me of Sir Didymus in Labyrinth when he strongly insists no one can cross the bridge without his permission. After going back and forth a little, Sarah asks him for his permission to cross, and he’s very amenable to that.

  8. Annastasia von Beaverhausen

    OP 1, as someone with a…peculiar IRL name, please get over yourself.

    Using your coworkers’ names, even if they aren’t what you would choose for your own child is being professional. All your listed options are not.

    Also, ‘royal’ names are common in lots of non-English languages – Fatima means ‘queen’ for instance.

    Your lack of exposure to names such as these is really no excuse to treat your coworkers poorly. Which is what mocking their names, or refusing to interact with them would be.

    1. PollyQ

      It’s the extra “n” in Annastasia that throws people off, right?

      But seriously, OP1, this is very, very simple: someone tells you their name, and then you call them by that name. No muss, no fuss, no second-hand embarrassment (?) — just do it. (See also: pronouns).

    2. Blarg

      +1. And please avoid asking about their name origins, stories, etc. This is the perfect example of people who ask about unusual names (including my own) because they think they are owed an explanation.

      It can also be helpful to remember that many mainstream names could be considered odd if we weren’t used to them: Brandy is a booze. Christian and Christina are a religion. Virginias aren’t all virgins. Etc.

      1. L.

        Asking about the orgins of someone’s name can also bring up some unpleasant family history that you may not be privvy to otherwise. I have two fisrt names. The second have of my name is from my mother’s country of origin. But it’s spelled with the American spelling. Without context, it sounds southern (think “Mary Ann” for example). But asking for context, I then feel like I have to explain (as someone who looks 100% white) that 1. Yes I am a fair part [nationality]… 25% to be exact, 2. No I don’t speak the language 3. No I’ve never been to that country and 4. Yes my mother was really born in another country, I am part that nationality and no I’m not close to that side of the family.

        1. Lynca

          Exactly. My full name is a combination of a beloved deceased relative of my mom’s and a traditional Irish family name from my mom’s side. I didn’t really get the full implication of it until I was an adult so there was a lot to unpack emotionally. I’m fine with it (in fact I really like my name now) but I don’t like having to go through the explanation. It’s personal.

        2. Shamy

          Definite yes to this. My fiance comverted to Islam and then changed his last name. People often ask about its origins since it is an Arabic name, and my fiance tells them he changed it because his previous birth name belonged to the slave owners of his ancestors. This seems to make people extremely uncomfortable. I personally think it is a fantastic eff you and love that he wanted to shed the ties to them.

          1. Jules the 3rd

            Yeah, seriously, I love this. Iirc, this was part of Cassius Clay’s decision to rename himself Mohammed Ali.

        3. NYer, the Upstate Kind

          For the record Mary Ann is my first name. I don’t have 2 first names. I’m not from the south but am an ethnic NY’er. I have come to accept that at every job there will be one person who calls me Mary but at 62 am still annoyed when in a formal setting someone shortens my name to Mary.

        4. Rikki Tikki Tarantula

          My last name is somewhat unusual. Occasionally a client will ask about it, and I’m happy to tell them: my husband’s grandfather emigrated from Lebanon, and the surname was modified to be less “foreign” when he went through Ellis Island. This helped me bond with one client, who’d changed his name from something like “Pascowitz” to “Parker” when he went into business.

      2. JamieS

        I find it odd that people assume there’s some story behind a name. Sometimes the parents just saw/heard the name and liked it.

        1. Anoncorporate

          This is my case. Every time people ask me what my name means, I just shrug and say “idk”. It’s kind of a lie, I do know what it means, but I don’t have to divulge the history of my name with every rando I meet.

        2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego

          Yes. I had a great aunt named Juanita, but my family has no Hispanic heritage. My great grandparents just liked it. Just as my own name is neither Scottish nor German which are the two main ethnic groups I am descended from. It’s a bit odd to assume that every name has some interesting story. Sometimes they do but that seems more unusual to me than the other way around.

          1. Serin

            Just as my own name is neither Scottish nor German which are the two main ethnic groups I am descended from.

            Think about how many “normal” “traditional” first names are Hebrew. (Two of my three names are Hebrew in origin.)

          2. Clisby Williams

            I’ve known three white southern women roughly the age of my mother (so born mid-1920s to mid-1930s, say) who were named Juanita. No Hispanic background. I suspect it was related to popular culture – maybe there was a song, or book, or movie that featured the name and people just liked it.

          3. Dust Bunny

            Juanita was very popular there for awhile in the . . . about the second quarter of the 20th century. Sometimes spelled Waneta. I run across it pretty often in (nursing yearbooks, in my case). We also have some stuff donated by a woman named Senorita. It actually says in her biographical blurb that her parents saw it somewhere and just thought it was pretty.

        3. Submerged Tenths

          Yeah, my first name was my grandmother’s middle name. When I asked her where it came from (was there a family history with that name) she said, “My mother must have been reading a book.”

        4. Rusty Shackelford

          I think Blarg is referring to people who have decided your name is unusual enough that no one would pick it unless there was a Good Reason.

          1. Jules the 3rd

            Or someone who knows meanings for a lot of names.

            I love names and their meanings. When I run across one I don’t know, I’ll memorize it to look up later. I used to ask, but realized it was intrusive / othering a decade ago. However, if I say ‘I love your name’ and someone *volunteers* the meaning, we usually go to town. One neighbor explained all five of her children’s names (Arabic and French) and we spent most of the party talking about that and languages and living in a new country and…

            1. Rusty Shackelford

              Yes, there’s a difference between “Oooh, what a cool name” and getting the story behind it and “Hmmm, that’s an unusual name, and you wouldn’t have it unless there was a Good Reason, so explain the Good Reason to me.”

        5. Alli525

          Some people (me and my brother) were raised to know the meaning of our names. We had little wallet-sized cards stuck on our bedroom mirrors that showed our name, its Biblical meaning, and a short Bible verse related to our name/its meaning. So it’s very easy for me to assume there’s a story or meaning behind someone’s name, especially if it wasn’t particularly trendy around the time of their birth.

          Now, mind, I don’t usually ask. But I still wonder.

    3. namenamename

      seconded, a fellow person with a weird name. And to add, LW1, I can TELL when people avoid talking to me because their uncomfortable with my name, it’s not subtle and it’s a real hassle.

    4. McWhadden

      Titles as names aren’t even that uncommon in English. Duke and Earl are old fashioned now but are known names in English speaking countries.
      It’s a rather arbitrary aversion.

      1. WS

        Depending where the OP is from, they might not be common names – in the UK and some Commonwealth countries, it’s illegal to give a child a title as a name. Judge, Princess, Sir, Baron etc. are all banned. I agree that it’s an arbitrary aversion (since they include “Honey”), but the names are genuinely unusual to some of us, and it was very interesting to me to understand a bit more about the history of such names in a US setting.

        1. Not Australian

          “in the UK and some Commonwealth countries, it’s illegal to give a child a title as a name”

          Maybe, but the point is that the person is legally named in the place they come from and therefore there is no excuse not to address them properly.

        2. media monkey

          that doesn’t appear to be true for the UK at least – according to the bbc, the UK permits any name aside from those deemed offensive. it lists several Supermans, Gazzas and Arsenals as examples. presumably you might struggle with Hitler or BinLaden or a swear word, but seems like the examples you gave would be OK.

        3. Bagpuss

          I cant speak for other parts f the commonwealth, but in the UK it isn’t illegal to give a child any of those names.
          A registrar can refuse to to register a name if they consider it is offensive, but this is very rare.
          As a general rule, in England you can call yourself whatever you like, as long as you are not doing so with any fraudulent intent. I’m personally aware of someone’s whose legal name is King Arthur Pendragon, and ‘King’ is part of his legal name.

        4. RUKiddingMe

          Racism in the US is pretty historically, and contemporarily complex. It is in other places as well (Brasil for ex) and kind of unique to each place that had African/Black slaves.

          If you aren’t from here…there’s lots of things we kind of take as a given that others dont.

          Husband has lived here almost 12 years and I find that on occasion he says something and though it seems innocuous on the surface has racist foundations and so I have to explain it to him.

          I think it’s like that everywhere though. Those from X just *know* ABC and those if us not from X need it explained.

        5. Observer

          That’s clearly not the issue, though. The OP is specific that they don’t think that Princess is appropriate for a “grown woman”. And that they are “ridiculous”.

      2. Gen

        Most names have a meaning somewhere in their history- Rory is ‘red king’, Orla is ‘golden princess’, William is ‘resolute protector’, Harold is ‘army leader’, etc etc. Like when surnames used to relate to people’s jobs – Cooper, Fuller, Faulkner, Wright. Most folks can say ‘Mr Harold Cooper’ without feeling awkward because he doesn’t have an army or a barrel repair business.

    5. Phoenix Programmer

      There’s no need to be rude to OP. They wrote in for advice. It’s a good thing they did because what they were thinking was not the way to go but that doesn’t mean they need to get over themselves.

      This is an advice column. People will write in with bad ideas. We still need to be nice to them as we advise per the commenting rules.

    6. Pippa

      I agree with you, Anastasia, but cannot keep myself from adding one admittedly trivial thing: ‘Fatima’ means ‘one who weans a baby’, rather than ‘queen’. (But it’s popular as a name because it was the name of the Prophet Muhammad’s daughter, not because of the literal meaning, of course).

      Names are interesting because they’re so very socially important and can convey so many different things about ethnic identity, aesthetics, genealogy, religion…. Mocking someone’s name is egregiously ignorant, and it’s nice to see pretty much the entire AAM commentariat agree on this!

      1. Constanze

        Yep about mocking someone.

        I had a coworker who was really shocked when we had a new intern called Islam. “Why do people insist on calling attention to their religion like that, nobody needs that etc…”.

        This coworker’s name was Christian.

        1. Nervous Accountant

          Pls pls tell me someone pointed the irony out to him?

          I admit I bristled so hard @ reading letter 1… like ugh.

        2. Hey Karma, Over Here

          I don’t care if this story is true, but oh my god please let this story be true!!! Did he ever catch on to the irony?

          1. Constanze

            This is absolutely true.
            And although on the whole, this story is quite sad and representative of the way muslims can be treated, I really like telling it. The irony is just too good.

            I did call out my colleague on it. He did not seem to think there was any irony in it because “Christianity is really different” or some other malarkey.

      2. NYer, the Upstate Kind

        I think that most names have a story behind them even if it is just my mom liked it. I have the blandest of American names and even I have a back story.

    7. RUKiddingMe

      I know several males named Angel and one woman, though most people assume and call her Angela until she corrects them. It’s pretty common-ish name for males in some latino/hispanic cultures. FTR the one woman just ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ and says “it’s Angel actually.”

      No one seems to have an issue with them bring named after “heavenly/divine” beings. I don’t see why anyone would get all knotted up over royal names. I mean I think “Angel” beats up “Princess” in the hierarchy. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    8. Michaela Westen

      I’ve known 3 people named Queenie. Two in real life, one was a character in a book.

    9. Dust Bunny

      I’m as white as they come but have an obscure, faintly “ethnic”-sounding name that people frequently misspell, mispronounce, and misinterpret. And, frankly, I suspect a lot of people are just too lazy to learn it.

      Suck it up and call them by their proper names. Stop making this All About You. It’s not. There is zero reason for you to be uncomfortable with this.

  9. EllaHCP

    OP1 – Alyson’s advice is spot on. Beyond that, having served several healthcare institutions across the US I would hazard a guess that this might be in reference to Filipino coworkers, as they tend to be heavily recruited as nurses in US hospitals. I’ve had a number of Filipino colleagues, with the exact names you spoke of. It’s a cultural convention, one which sounds initially funny to English-speakers not familiar with the culture, but is very common. This article has a lot more detail if you’re interested: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/from_our_own_correspondent/9435751.stm

    1. Mystery Bookworm

      Yup. My first thought was also that these are not uncommon names in Filipino communities.

      But regardless of any historical background or context, we should still strive to call people what they want to be called.

    2. Tiny Soprano

      The only time it’d be a problem was if it was indeed a common name in a certain place and you then had multiples of the same name you needed to differentiate between. But even then you still might have Princess from Radiology and Princess from A&E without having to do away with someone’s first name at all, the same as if you had two or three Matts.

    3. Femme D'Afrique

      Zimbabwe (and, to a certain extent, many other Southern African countries) also have names that come across as unusual to outsiders. I do get the initial startled response to names one hasn’t heard before, or names that are phrases or titles, but making fun of them is not the way to go, obviously. It’s someone’s name. Call them that.

      Here’s an article about Zimbabwean names:
      https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Africa/2015/0512/What-s-in-a-name-For-Zimbabweans-it-s-Obvious

    4. CoveredInBees

      Also common in many parts of English-speaking Africa. I worked with a woman named Princess who was born in Ghana. It is actually pretty common worldwide but if you’re not a native speaker of the language they are naming in, you won’t notice.

  10. Zelocity

    OP 1 – As a fellow member of the healthcare field, my firm opinion is that you have to call your colleagues by their chosen name. There is no way for you to dispute their chosen name without appearing insensitive, racist, and unprofessional. The baseline rule that I subscribe to is that jokes about an individual’s name or body (expand on this list as you see fit) are not appropriate in a professional setting. Please apply the spirit of this rule to your situation.

    1. Sleepytime Tea

      I get prickly when people call me by a nickname I don’t like after specifically introducing myself as something and then even specifying that I DO NOT go by that nickname. I don’t care if you don’t like someone’s name. And feeling bad for them that they have it? For all you know they love their name. Maybe they were named after someone special in their family. Maybe they just like the way it sounds. You’re right that they didn’t choose it, but if you hate your name you can easily ask people to call you by a nickname or a middle name or something. Don’t assume that someone with a name like Princess or whatever else is secretly ashamed or embarrassed by it. If they wanted to be called something different, they would likely go by that.

  11. Flash Bristow

    OP1: my real first name is Flash. As you can imagine it gets a lot of attention on first meeting (from people who aren’t polite enough to just accept it, anyway) and as I always say, it’s just a name! Start using it and in a few days’ time it’ll be as significant (or otherwise) as Sarah or Jane.

    Also, you don’t get any say in someone’s name! Would you really say “I find your name, Princess, hard to process – so I’ll be calling you Priscilla from here on”?

    Bear in mind, too, that it might work both ways. Suppose that your own name reminded a colleague of a school bully or an abuser. Or perhaps your name is shared with a loved one who died. Names have all kinds of connections, but I think the best you can do is to be courteous, not make a fuss – and in return expect others to call you by your name without issue too.

    1. Edith

      This. I’ve been accused of forgetting an acquaintance’s name by third parties who thought I was saying “hey you!” instead of “hey Yu!” It’s a thing that happens with names sometimes. But the risk that a bystander might misconstrue things is far outweighed by every person’s right to the dignity of being called by their name.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood

        Apologies for a humorous side track: A friend went to school with a guy named Acar. In the grand tradition of college students, he was quickly nicknamed Truck. Friend says when someone tried to get his attention outside, passersby would look around for an approaching vehicle…in the grand tradition of college students, this was hilarious. ;)

    2. Phoenix Programmer

      That’s a really good point about name connections. Even names like John can carry baggage for some.

      1. Story Nurse

        For me it’s Bob, to the point where I had a calligraphed button made that said “BOB-FREE ZONE”.

        I’ve been very fortunate not to have to work with too many Bobs. When I do, I cope. It’s not their fault that I have a particularly lousy Bob in my history.

        1. Flash Bristow

          I know the feeling. I had an abuser with the same first name as my mother’s maiden name. Doesn’t come up very often but yesterday I was on the phone to my bank, they asked the question and I had an “…oh” *gulp* moment, from being unexpectedly triggered.

          But that’s nobody’s fault, so you deal and move on. You have to, tbh.

          1. Bagpuss

            Can you change the security question? (I mean, your answer to it) – the purpose of those questions is to have something which is easy for you to remember and hard for other people to guess – perhaps you could switch and use your grandmother’s maiden name, or father’s middle name , instead.
            I don’t use my Mum’s maiden name (in my case, partly for increased security but mostly because I got bored with the fact that people would argue with me about the pronunciation/spelling)

            1. Strawmeatloaf

              Or don’t use a name at all. All they’re looking for is the answer that was put down, not the correct one.

              So you do this: What’s your mother’s maiden name?
              mounteverest

              Where would you like to visit?
              Orange

              What street did you live on?
              Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious*
              *don’t do this one, would probably be too long

      2. Rusty Shackelford

        I remember, many years ago when I was an admin, helping a new employee get set up. I told her it would take a while for her personalized note pads to be ready, but in the meanwhile, she was welcome to use the ones left behind by her predecessor, Robert Andrew*. She flinched and said “my ex husband’s name is Robert and my ex boyfriend’s name is Andrew, so I’d rather not, thanks.”

        *Not his real name

      3. The Original K.

        I have a terrible ex named Mike. This isn’t a big deal – I have a lot of distance from the relationship, lots of people are named Mike, and I know more good Mikes than bad ones – but when I started at a previous job, I was looking over a vendor list and saw that one of the vendors had the same first and last name of my terrible ex and I thought “OH NO.” A quick LinkedIn check assured me that it was a different person and I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

        (Logically I realized that the odds were against it being the same guy – the vendor didn’t do the same kind of work my ex did and I had moved states by then – but still, there was a brief flash of panic.)

      4. Rikki Tikki Tarantula

        My high school frenemies were Victoria and Stephanie. I have no issues with the names in real life, but I’ve retaliated against them in my fiction by giving those names to mean girl characters.

      5. EvilQueenRegina

        My horrible ex from university was called Andrew, but went by Astro to his friends because he studied astrophysics and there was another Andrew in his friendship group so they both had nicknames to differentiate them. In the job where I had two coworkers called Andrew, it wasn’t an issue because it’s a common name that I’m always going to keep coming across in different contexts, these guys are nothing to do with my ex and just happened to share the same name, I saw them as different people and didn’t connect them to him.

        However, I did have some gritting teeth moments regarding the nickname Astro – I used to watch the TV show Fringe, and for anyone who doesn’t know it, there was a character called Astrid, and another character, Walter, had a real mental block over her name and was always calling her things like Asterisk, Asteroid etc. Quite a few times, Walter called Astrid Astro. It bugged me when he used that one, and I gritted my teeth, but I knew it was coincidence and it didn’t bother me enough to actually quit watching over it.

        I only really started thinking of it as an issue when my SO warned me that a character in the book I was about to start reading was called Kris (without getting into that whole saga, Kris is the name of someone he had history with and isn’t exactly my favourite person). At the time, I didn’t understand it – as far as I was concerned it was just a coincidence, the character shared the name but was nothing to do with that person, and it bothered me more that he’d made an issue out of it and thought it would be a big deal to me than that the character had the name in the first place.

        Later I realised, actually I could see how I might have given him the impression that it would be an issue. Not long before we got together, he’d thought he was going to get together with someone called Gordon who had then abruptly ended it. I’d inadvertently upset him in a conversation about Gotham by referring to the character Jim Gordon as “Gordon” without thinking, and felt so guilty about it that I’d vowed that if I was ever talking about that character again I’d call him Jim. Even long after we got together and Gordon the Moron was ancient history, I still found myself only using Jim to refer to that character. I’d tried not to draw attention to it, but then realised that maybe I’d been more obvious than I’d thought, and he thought the name bothered me.

    3. Not Australian

      The most you can do is ask if they have a nickname you can use. Otherwise, yes, I’m afraid it’s a case of getting over yourself as quickly as possible.

    4. StellaBella

      I had a high school biology teacher who named her son Flash (this was in the 70s, I think – not sure when he was born) but she got to pick the name if the baby was a boy and her husband got to pick it if it was a girl. It was awesome as their last name was that of the super hero and I was always jealous of that kid. :) I love your name.

    5. EventPlannerGal

      “You don’t get any say in someone’s name!”

      +1 to this paragraph especially! OP – even aside from your impulse to mock these people’s names, which has been covered extensively here, think about this logically. What other option do you think you have here?

      Refusing to use their names at all is both rude and impractical, especially if there are many people in your workplace with names like this – you can’t call them all “hey you” forever. You cannot ask them to go by a different name. If you start calling them all “Ms. Jones” or something, that will only draw attention to your refusal to use their given names. At most you could ask if they have a nickname, but that – or any of these options – will not really do anything to lessen your discomfort in the long run. You really don’t have any polite or acceptable way to avoid using people’s names simply because you don’t like them, and the reason for that is that it’s not an acceptable thing to do.

      The best way to deal with this is exactly as Alison says: just use the names. They will become more “normal”-feeling to you the more you use them, and it’s just basic respect.

    6. RUKiddingMe

      Exactly. My neighbors, a couple have names that remind me of other people.

      His is the same as my abusive step-dad’s and hers is that of my deceased son (a female version, but the nick name is the same…think something like “Chris”).

      I deal with it and them. They are lovely oeople and I consider them friends. Their names belong to them not my step-dad and son.

    7. Serin

      I once knew a woman named Krista whose in-laws said, “Krista doesn’t seem like a real name to us. We’re going to call you Kristin.” So disrespectful! I would have really hesitated to marry into that family, honestly.

      1. RUKiddingMe

        OMG! Who the hell did they think they were? Did she correct them? As in “no, my name is Krista and thst’s what I answer to.” What about her fiancé/husband? Sorry this just pisses me off all the way through the other side of the internet.

    8. Ciela

      hey Flash, that’s a great name. :)
      I once knew someone named “Justice Powers”. When we first met, I did tell him that his name was awesome. Internally, I thought it would be a great super hero name.

  12. Karyn

    “My boss has told that, other than the cabinets, I’m an outstanding employee who often goes above and beyond my job description. I possess an essential skill set, but the cabinets are holding me back.”

    Your boss is gaslighting you. He’s using the cabinets as an excuse to not promote you or give you a raise, when the task itself is trivial. “Oh, I’d absolutely give you a better performance review, except that you keep forgetting this one piece!” When there’s apparently no reason for the cabinet to be locked in the first place. If there were, the key wouldn’t hang on the side of the durn thing!

    You’ve been there two years, you’re a go-getter. Look for a new job.

    1. nom de plume

      Yes, thank you – I said the exact same thing above. Boss *IS* abusive, and this is absolutely gaslighting. There is no rational reason for his demands that can’t be accommodated with a better system.

      If not the cabinets, it would be something else. OP, GTFO of there. Your boss is abusive.

      1. Loose Seal

        Would it be something else though? OP has been there two years. She says they were instructed it was her responsibility to lock up the cabinets two months into the job. OP has had plenty of time to see if the boss is unreasonable or overly demanding or abusive about anything else. She doesn’t mention any other issue. Surely if the boss got his rocks off on abusing his employees, there would have been another example in that time frame.

        Boss is handling this poorly, no doubt. But there isn’t any evidence to show (at least from the letter) that if OP successfully locks the cabinets every day from now on, that the boss will move on to some other method of torturing her.

        1. Hey Karma, Over Here

          Building on this, though, the boss can be using OPs willingness to come in as a test to see if she, well, will put up with his shit. How much of his shit she will put up with. And how closely she is willing to look at his shit and call it shit. Boss found himself a good, steady worker and and easy way to keep her right there.

    2. Dr Wizard, PhD

      I agree. It’s all about control. If it wasn’t the cabinet it would be something else.

      What’s the clue: ‘You should have *obviously known* the written instructions were wrong and that it was your job.’

      I’d go so far as to say OP should make plans to get out and get something better, because this won’t stop. She shouldn’t have to feel hounded about this ridiculous cabinet all the time.

    3. Loose Seal

      I thought gaslighting was making you believe that something else happened when you know it did not. Perhaps I have the definition wrong but I fail to see what the boss is doing is gaslighting. He told her two months into her employment that locking the cabinets is her responsibility. She admits that she has forgotten numerous times. He has told her this is a serious performance issue. Just because she (and most of the commentariat, it seems) believe it’s trivial, doesn’t change the fact that it is clearly now part of her job duties.

      In most jobs, if you don’t perform your duties satisfactorily at minimum, you don’t get promoted. In fact, at many jobs, if you fail to meet expectations repeatedly, you are let go. It does not matter if you think those duties are trivial. If you stay there and take the paycheck, then you have to do those duties (if they aren’t illegal or immoral, as is unlikely when it comes to cabinet-locking).

      1. Zweisatz

        Yeah it’s not. Gaslighting would be e.g. if he opened the cabinet repeatedly after the LW left and would then tell her she left it open and make her responsible for it.

        To head off any fanfiction: I do NOT believe this is what’s happening judging by what the LW described.

        But it’s fine. We can acknowledge that what the boss is asking (driving 40 minutes back to work when there’s a person present who could close the cabinet) is unreasonable even when it’s not a concerted campaign.
        We can further acknowledge that this procedure is at best quite ineffective, if everybody in the company knows where the keys are.

        LW, seeing as you’re an outstanding employee if it wasn’t for this Terrible Cabinet Issue I concur with Alison that you could benefit from looking closely if this is the only weird issue with your boss or if signs point to a general mistreatment, which could be better resolved by looking for a different job (easier said than done, as usual).

        1. Colette

          Agreed. Making the OP drive back is ridiculous (particularly to lock a cabinet where the keys are readily available) – but there’s no sign that the boss is gaslighting her, or even a terrible boss. Maybe he is, but maybe he just really wants the OP to remember to lock the cabinet. Bosses have idiosyncrasies. A different boss may not want the OP to wear headphones, or not allow eating at her desk, or require her to call in and talk to a person when she’s sick. This boss cares about the cabinet.

          If the boss cares about everything being done exactly how he wants, maybe the OP should consider whether it’s time to move on. If it’s just the cabinet, she should throw her car keys in the cabinet when she gets to work so that she doesn’t forget to lock it when she leaves.

      2. Super dee duper anon

        I wouldn’t say it’s the best term to use in this situation (gaslighting), however I do believe it’s somewhat applicable to the fact that the boss is trying to making the OP believe that this is a legitimately critical task, that having an employee drive 40min back to the office is an appropriate form of punishment (and management technique) and that the cabinets alone are holding her back in her career. The boss is trying to gaslight the OP into not trusting their own (completely reasonable) assessment of the situation as a whole.

        That all said, I do believe term gets thrown around inappropriately quite often

      3. Karyn

        Here’s why I say that it’s gaslighting: Boss says that remembering to lock the cabinet is such an important task that it’s this one thing holding back an otherwise stellar employee. But it can’t actually be so all-fired important that the cabinet be locked if the keys are kept right next to it, and anyone can lock or unlock it as needed.

        It’s not that he’s pretending a *fact*–unlocking the cabinet and saying she never locked it–it’s that he’s pretending an importance that isn’t accurate.

        If it is, as suggested above, important that the cabinet be locked after hours because of possible break-ins or that it’s a fire safe that needs to be locked to ensure effectiveness, then there are other solutions. Everyone unlocks it and re-locks it at every use, and after hours the key goes somewhere else. Or last one out locks it, and moves the key somewhere else. Or OP locks it at 6 pm, and the key is handed off to the manager, who leaves it somewhere else when he leaves.

        If this task was really super-important, and it was a huge problem that OP (otherwise a stellar employee) had missed it fewer than half a dozen times in two years, then a good boss would help figure out a better system. This is why I say that if it weren’t this task, there would be some other reason he’s not giving you a raise or promoting you. There’s be something else ‘holding you back’.

        1. LJay

          But why does there need to be other solutions/a better system when the OP has been told that their responsibility is to lock the cabinet, and they’re not doing that?

          The OP was told to lock the cabinet before they leave. Why does it matter where the key is going after that? Whether it is handed off to a manager, or locked in a drawer, or hanging on the side of the cabinet? They would still need to remember to lock the cabinet, which they are not doing right now. They presumably would forget to hand it off or lock it in the drawer or do whatever else to it as well.

          (And likely the reason for not having an “everyone unlocks it and relocks it when they get what they need” or “last one out locks it” method for dealing with it is accountability. It’s easier to ensure that something important gets done if one person is responsible for it and can be held accountable for it rather than if the person responsible shifts constantly and could fall to someone who might not even realize that they are responsible. Or when everyone swears, “but I didn’t use the cabinet today,” or “Well I used it but I know I locked it afterwards,” but clearly someone didn’t.)

          And missing it fewer than half a dozen times in two years is still missing it, and missing it enough that if it were for compliance or safety issues that in most places I’ve worked a person would be fired by now.

          If the payroll clerk misses processing someone’s payroll once every two months would that just be okay because they did most of it right most of the time? Or would you expect them to have a method of double checking in place to ensure that everyone got paid on time?

          Why is it the bosses responsibility to come up with a better system rather than the OP’s responsibility to come up with a way to stop forgetting to do one of their assigned tasks? Why would I want to promote someone that foists responsibility for completing one of their simple tasks back on me rather than making sure that it’s done? How could I know that they are going to be responsible enough for taking on increased and higher level duties when they can’t do the ones they have now?

          1. EventPlannerGal

            “If the payroll clerk misses processing someone’s payroll once every two months would that just be okay because they did most of it right most of the time? Or would you expect them to have a method of double checking in place to ensure that everyone got paid on time?”

            You’re talking about somebody failing to perform a function that is objectively a central part of their job; a payroll clerk processes payroll, and if they don’t do that they are failing at the main point of their job. The OP, however, is not employed as the One And Only Ordained Locker Of The Cabinet with that being the main purpose of her job; locking the cabinet is a minor task that has been assigned to her role alongside whatever other tasks and projects she is employed to do.

            In an ideal world, yes, every employee would perform every task perfectly every time, no matter how minor, but in reality people will occasionally make mistakes or forget something and it’s important to maintain a sense of perspective. If you worked with me and told me that you had a high-performing employee with key skills who often went above and beyond their role, but you would never promote them because they occasionally forgot to lock a cabinet, I would seriously question your judgement.

          2. JD

            IDK, I had a part time job where I had, hang on, 6 or 7 paychecks during my time there and every. single. one. was late or short in some way. And my boss seemed to think I should be OK with that because I always got paid the right amount eventually. I didn’t think it was OK, and left the job. But no one got in trouble over it. (But also, apart from the central/incidental issue EventPlannerGal pointed out, OP is messing up about 1% of the time, and missing payroll once every two months is about 25% of the time, assuming once every two weeks or twice a month payrolls. Really the two situations are so different I’m having trouble assuming that you’re arguing in good faith.)

            Why would you promote someone failing to do an assigned task 1% of the time? Because that person is otherwise a “stellar employee”, that’s why. And it’s on the boss to come up with a better system because even if OP was doing the assigned task 100% of the time without error, the system is still failing *because the keys are right there.*

  13. mythbri

    OP1, happily there is no reason for you to try to deal with any of your coworkers’ names with humor or give yourself any nicknames as a joke. Because there isn’t anything funny about their names, and by avoiding those coworkers you’re actually deepening your level of discomfort rather than reducing it. The more you address your coworkers with respect, with their names, the less strange it will seem to you.

  14. Holly

    Just want to note for #1 that names like these I’ve seen in Chinese communities (Happy or Queenie come to mind personally). It’s not as weird as you think – just call them by their name!

        1. LawBee

          Or the girl I went to college with whose middle name was Sunshine – and she went by Sunshine instead of her very common first name. It was unusual for the first few minutes as I made up the crap for her door, but then it was just her name.

    1. DaniCalifornia

      I’ve also seen this with some Chinese grad students we mentored. They sometimes pick an English name if they know people will have a hard time saying their real name and it can be a word they find interesting or beautiful or something they’ve read but don’t quite know the history of in America. We had lots of Summers, Autumns, Mays, month and season names. That and we had several semesters with lots of Rachels, Joeys, Monicas and Ross’ (That group really liked a certain 90s sitcom)

  15. Lady Blerd

    LW3, you have my sympathy because I’m notorious for leaving cabinets unlocked, is like I get tunnel vision when I leave work. But it’s a security breach when that happens so my direct reports lock things up and I don’t open anything when I work alone if I didn’t have to. I’ve turned back on my way home because I was certain I left things open. The initial write up is dumb but you need to find a system.

    1. anonagain

      The car keys idea is brilliant.

      I was wondering, too, if there aren’t locks that automatically engage when the door is closed and you just use a key or code or whatever to open them. In other words, as long as the cabinet is closed, it’s locked.

      I don’t think that would help the letter writer, because they would need to persuade the boss, but it sounds like you’re the boss and maybe something like that would be useful for you (if it met security requirements).

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch

        They sound like personnel files. Sadly the rule is it needs to be behind double locks, even though it defeats the whole purpose to have the keys being communal. I’ve got a desk drawer for that and I leave my regular keys in there too.

  16. Someone Else

    OP1 does this help?
    Are you comfortable calling someone Rex or Regis? If you are, then King is no different. If the same word in Latin feels name-ey enough then using it in English should be name enough as well.

    1. AcademiaNut

      I don’t think that’s really true. Sure, the names have the same root meaning, but the first one is mostly associated with a name to English speakers, while the second is not for a large fraction of them. The discomfort comes from using a word that you automatically associate with a word in your native language, rather than a given name.

      It’s the same way that when you meet someone whose first name is John, you don’t automatically thing “toilet” and have to stifle giggles, because it’s a familiar name, but if you encounter someone named Table your brain automatically goes “wait – what?”.

      You do need to learn to stifle your reactions and call people by their name with a straight face, however, particularly if you work in an international or multi-cultural environment. It does get easier with practice.

      1. Someone Else

        Yes, I understand all of that, but I was trying to help OP reframe it in their mind. Iwas intentionally giving examples that are not an issue of “root meaning” (like for example Michael means “like g-d” but I’m not suggesting that as an example for being comfortable for a person whose name is literally Godlike). Take words that are a literal translation, not associated as “names” in one language but just regular words.
        I suppose we could even go another direction:
        Cooper, Hunter, Parker – both words and names. It shouldn’t feel weird. It doesn’t matter if it’s “familiar” or not. The end goal is person says my name is XXX, then that’s their name. If OP is in the US, we’re not a country where you need to register a name or a name needs to be governmentally sanctioned as “a name”. So the mindset of deciding “gee this word is a name but that other one isn’t” isn’t helpful. Someone says “that’s my name” you call them that. Does it feel weird? Well here are examples that probably don’t. so use those to try to stop feeling weird before offending someone over their name.

  17. nnn

    A self-psychology idea for #1:

    Do a LinkedIn search for people with the same given names you feel awkward about, and look at all their accomplishments. Just spend some time immersed in the profiles of skilled professionals named Princess. Read highlights out loud to yourself, using the name every time. “Princess graduated summa cum laude.” “Princess was recently appointed Chief Teapot Officer.”

    You can also work on making sure your internal monologue about work includes your colleagues’ names, factually and neutrally. “I’m working Friday and Princess is working Saturday.” “Princess is taking care of the patient in room 305.” The habit should form quickly enough, and then it won’t feel awkward any more.

  18. PurpleMonster

    Hopefully not derailing, but I found #1 interesting, because in New Zealand where I live you aren’t allowed to register names that are also titles. So Sir, Princess, King, etc. are out. There have been quite a few cases of people trying to find ways around not being able to name their kid Justice (title for a judge) and being denied.

    What about those names makes you uncomfortable? It’s just a name, even though it seems a bit peculiar to you. Maybe it’s worth examining that, and if you can figure that out you might feel easier about it. But there’s no other way round it – you have to call people by their correct names.

    1. Approval is optional

      Sort of makes sense in a country that has a monarch, and that perhaps still confers knighthoods, or at least has some living knights/dames.

      1. Teapot PR consultant

        Exactly. Australia has a similar rule that says you can’t give a baby a name that corresponds to a title recognised in Australia — so Sir, Princess, Majesty and Captain would be out.

    2. Mia_Mia

      OP1: call them by the name they ask you to call them. No inserting humor into a situation that isn’t humorous, just say their name when you need to and you won’t be rude. Those names really aren’t unusual. As others said, there are plenty of title names in use. For example, Prince’s first name was, in fact, Prince.

      1. AFPM

        This was my first thought too – and you wouldn’t think of calling him anything but that (even though he famously changed his name to the symbol for a while). I also heard an interview with Chris Martin (from Coldplay) on Howard Stern, and Howard was making fun of his daughter Apple’s name, and Chris said that every name started somewhere, and should be respected. It’s perfectly normal.

    3. Phoenix Programmer

      I know for me I find pet names uncomfortable because it’s an intimate nickname and I’m a private person.

      But I still use their names and don’t avoid them or anything. My discomfort is simply something to deal with.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale

        But the names we’re discussing are not pet names. “Pet” names are nicknames. These are people’s given names.

        1. Hmmm

          I think Phoenix Programmer’s point is that “Princess” and “Honey” are frequently used as pet names. Even if it is someone’s name, it doesn’t change the fact that some people use the same words for pet names. I can see how that would make someone uncomfortable, but agree that using someone’s name is the only course.

      1. WS

        (Australian – we have the same rules here): King as a surname is fine. This law only applies to people choosing a name in NZ or Australia – so Jane King can’t change her name to Justice King or call her child Princess King, but Baron King can move here from the US with no problems.

      2. GermanCoffeeGirl

        Naming laws/restrictions usually only apply to babies born in that country. Germany has strict naming laws for babies born in Germany – for example, you can’t name your child Jesus if you or your partner aren’t from a Spanish/Hispanic country (if one or both parents were from Spain (for example), naming their child Jesús would be allowed).
        If somebody from Argentina named Jesús Schmidt moved to Germany and worked here, they wouldn’t have to change their name.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood

          I’m curious – are there exceptions for naming a child after a beloved family friend? I knew someone named after his mother’s best friend’s husband who died young & childless. It did lead to a mismatched name-ethnicity.

          1. GermanCoffeeGirl

            You have to register your child’s birth and their name at the birth registry of your city/town (usually at town hall) and the registrar decides if the name is allowed or not. The decision is based on different factors, e.g if the name forbidden/against the law, has a court ruled that the name is allowed/forbidden, does it match the child’s assigned gender at birth, etc.). If a registrar refuses the name (for example due to a mismatched name-ethnicity) it’s possible to contest the decision and go to court. So depending on the registrar is might be possible to get an exception.

            But depending on the name mismatched name-ethnicity isn’t always a problem – French or English names can be used without the parents being from a French or English speaking country.

    4. OlympiasEpiriot

      In Spain, if you wanted to name a child by a name that wasn’t officially Spanish, you had to prove (in a legal context) that (a) the name is an “accepted” name and not “just made up”; (b) there was no equivalent name in Spanish (like the Swedish Katerina would be named Catalina in Spain); and, (c) you had a specific reason for naming your kid this. I recall a family from the UK who wanted to name their daughter Samantha, I think. I was bewildered because I knew Samanthas from more than one Hispanic country. Spain was on a whole other level.

      1. DaniCalifornia

        That seems a bit too high maintenance. Was the UK family successful in naming their daughter Samantha? If not,, remind me to never have a baby in Spain!

        1. OlympiasEpiriot

          I can’t recall. It was around the time I was moving away and I only knew them slightly. I’ll ask a friend who knew them better and post something next w/e open thread.

    5. Strawmeatloaf

      There are some names that they have ruled that you can’t name your children here too though.

      Adolf Hitler for one.

      There aren’t a lot of restrictions, but there are some.

  19. L.

    OP 1. Please address people by their name, or the name they introduce themselves (or are introduced) as.

    While not on the same level as far as name origins go, my name is something akin to “Mary Beth”. If I introduce myself as such, that’s what I expect to be called. Only people I’m fairly familiar with get to call me “Mary”. And only people I’m close to get to call me “Mar”.

    I was once in a two day meeting lead by one of the VPs of the company (about 4 levels above me). Day one, he called me “Mary Beth.” Day two, he jumped all the way up to “Mar” and it made me uncomfortable because it implied a level of close-ness that I was uncomfortable with after only knowing him a day. However, because he was one of the VPs, and I’d only have another 8 hours or so of interaction, I just rolled with it.

    1. sheworkshardforthemoney

      I really dislike nicknames for that reason. It implies a level of closeness which I don’t have with my co-workers or people I don’t know.

      1. Quoth the Raven

        I’m the opposite — I don’t really like people calling me by my full name instead of my nickname because, with the exception of a handful of people out there, it makes me feel they’re mad at me. I introduce myself as “Jess”, not “Jessica”, and I would want that honoured.

        It feels really patronising when people insist on calling me “Jessica” because “Jess”, to them, sounds childish/immature/unprofessional — and it’s not even a name that carries a strong cultural/family background, as might be the case for OP1’s coworkers. Personal opinions about someone’s name do not trump their right and desire to be addressed as they choose to present themselves.

        1. SarahTheEntwife

          This might be hair-splitting, but to me “Jess” then isn’t quite a nickname — it’s your name, which happens to be a shortened form of your full legal name. I’m also vaguely uncomfortable with nicknames among coworkers, but the two Jenn’s at my workplace are just…Jenn. Calling them Jennifer would make me feel like I was their mother and they hadn’t cleaned their room. But I would never call Matthew Matt because that’s not the usual name he uses at work and it would feel weird and over-familiar since we’re not outside-of-work friends.

          1. londonedit

            I use a shortened version of my name because I really don’t like my full first name. I don’t feel that it suits me. To the extent that most people I’ve met in the last 18 years, since I went to university, aren’t even sure what the full version of my first name is. I’d change my name legally to the shortened version that I use all the time, if it wasn’t for the fact that I know it upsets my mother that I’m not keen on the full name my parents gave me.

            Yet some people I’ve only just met will still insist on asking ‘Oh, is it short for [say] Alexandra?’ and then calling me Alexandra. Which I find quite rude. If I tell someone what my name is, that’s the name I expect them to use. I don’t expect them to find a different name that they decide they’d rather call me.

        2. Constanze

          Most of the time, especially in a work context, I will not call someone by a diminutive of their first name, even if I hear people around using it, until specifically asked by the person.

          It is not because I think it is not professional, but I don’t want to assume anything about their name. As far as I know, they are called William, not Bill. Until they tell me Bill is fine, I will call them William.

            1. londonedit

              Yeah, I’m always very careful to make sure that HR and IT use my preferred name whenever I start a new job. At my first ever job, I didn’t know you could do that, so everything was set up with my full first name, and even though I had my preferred name on my email signature people would still use the ‘wrong’ version. So now I have my preferred name on my CV (back in the olden days I didn’t realise you could do that, either – I thought it was an ‘official document’ so you had to use your ‘full name’, i.e. the one on your birth certificate) and I make sure that before I start a new job, I let them know that I want my shortened name to appear in the company directory, my email address, etc.

        3. DaniCalifornia

          I get this. So many people ask my why I don’t go by Danielle and if I hate it. Nope. I’ve just never been called that in my 30 plus years of living! It’s not so much that I don’t like it, it’s more that when someone said Danielle it wasn’t directed at me. When they call me by my full first name I often won’t answer because it doesn’t register in my head.

          I know this is one of the reasons that people will just name their kid Dani in the future and not have it be a nick name but I’m sure that kid will then spend the rest of their life explaining that ‘No my name is just Dani, and it’s not short for anything.’ as I’m sure do many a kid now named Will.

    2. aebhel

      Yep. I have a long name that lends itself to nicknames, but I don’t use a nickname at work and I find it really off-putting when people apply nicknames to me without asking.

  20. Mommy MD

    Cabinet Boss is a massive jerk. Set an alarm on your phone for 15 minutes before you usually leave to remind yourself. Your boss is a controlling piece of work.

    1. Corky's Wife Bonnie

      Right, I actually do this. I leave at 5:00 so I set a reminder on my Outlook to go off at 4:45. It gets locked then and I never forget since I’ve set this alarm. I agree, he is a controlling piece of work.

  21. KT

    Re: OP1 – I work with someone named Princess (who goes by Princess), and it’s never been awkward to use her name, because no one makes it awkward. The only reason it’s still awkward for you is because you’re dwelling on it. A name is a name and the less energy you spend on worrying about what your coworkers call themselves, the happier you’ll be.

    1. Not Alison

      My boss’s mother-in-law was hired at our company and because she addressed the new hire as “Mom” we all called her “Mom” as well. And Mom became just a name, rather than a title (i.e. no one got all worked up by using the same pronunciation for her that they used for their own mother).

      I also worked with a woman nicknamed “Blah” and although that name seemed to have a negative connotation to me at first, after a while it just became her name and no one who worked with her thought anything of it.

  22. sheworkshardforthemoney

    LW#1 Please address your co-workers’ with their correct name. Their name is their own and should be used in a professional setting. You can’t change it or bestow a nickname that makes you feel more comfortable. My name is fairly common but people often change it another variation of it because they “like” it better. It is beyond irritating.

  23. Tela

    The only time I’ve skirted around a name was with a similar title to “King” and it was a very awkward relationship where “King” was a sexist toadhead who used his name to make women uncomfortable. Even then I felt so torn because I mean, its his name. But eventually his behavior was so bad that I was addressed him with “pardon me” to his face and used his name neutrally in discussion.

    I highly doubt any of the Princesses you work with are insisting you curtsey or making you feel awkward for breaking some royal protocol so I’d just move past it.

    1. PurpleMonster

      Suddenly I’m reminded of the lady who wanted all her coworkers to refer to her partner as her ‘master’…can you imagine having a dick boss whose actual name was Master?!

      1. Seeking Second Childhood

        And then there are all the Richards I have known & worked with who used the nickname you just used as an adjective. THAT made me uncomfortable — but I got over it and addressed them with a name that would be an insult in another context.

        1. EvilQueenRegina

          I can remember a time when one headteacher of a local school said to another that even though he had introduced himself as Dick she couldn’t use that because it made him…Dick Aird.

          (He did use his full name professionally.)

  24. nnn

    For #4, if you’re getting a lot of recurring pressure, the “don’t plan around me” script could be enhanced with “I just can’t commit to anything at this point.”

    Because you literally can’t. There are too many unknowns at this point, all of which you could elaborate on if you get pushback.

    Or you can say “If you need a definitive RSVP, I’ll have to decline, because I can’t commit to anything at this point.” And if they give you the “Well, stop by if you can,” you can say “If I can, but I can’t promise anything.” And then cheerfully stay home and enjoy your time with your baby, content in the fact that you’ve given them fair warning.

    1. Foreign Octopus

      Yeah, I agree with this.

      It’s nice of the person to remember you and schedule around you but you’re going to have a new born and will probably be exhausted; use nnn’s scripts to thank her and get out of it. If I were you, I wouldn’t want the hassle of dressing up and heading out after having birthed a human.

    2. MLB

      +1, and also OP, they CHOSE to re-schedule the party so don’t feel bad for declining. Your first priority is to yourself and your new baby. You really owe them nothing, including a guilty conscience.

    3. Consuela Schlepkiss

      Yeah. I mean, this is so unreasonable an expectation by Planner that you can just respond with a shocked air using these lines, like no sensible person would ask this of you. And then promptly forget this party exists because you have way more important things to attend to.

    4. Ginger ale for all

      I am not a parent but I have heard that you have to be very careful about taking young infants out in public because their immunity systems are not strong enough yet. If this true, just let your office know that you are going to do what is best for you and your baby by staying home.

      1. aebhel

        Yeah–I mean, healthy newborns can go out in public, but a crowded holiday party, which will probably be inside, where they’re liable to have loads of people pawing over them? Not a great plan.

    5. OP 4

      I particularly like this non-committal addition to the script. I live in the midwest, and any softening language when saying ‘no’ is always helpful.

      1. agmat

        It’ll be flu season with the potential for bad weather. The first month is a hazy blur and you’ll most likely not know what day it is (not in a terrible way…this was just 6 months ago for me and I loved it, for the most part, but committing to anything that first month(s) should be 100% off limits).

        Be soft at first if you must, but be totally firm after that. What they are asking of you is completely ridiculous.

    6. Lucille2

      Came here to say the same thing. There are so many unknowns before baby is born that it’s really difficult to make definitive social plans around that time. And even if you want to go, there’s always the possibility that baby will keep you up all that night or baby is not easily left in the care of others for more than a very short amount of time. And taking a young infant to a social event is not really a good idea. They are pretty vulnerable to viruses at that age, and people will want to coo over baby and ask to hold him/her. Some babies don’t like to be passed around or be around lots of new people so social situations can make them fussier than normal. Most people will understand why you’re not there.

  25. Shoe on My Cat

    OP#3 I feel for you! I mean, if the keys are right next to the cabinets. What is even the point of locking them? And considering your boss is such a jerk about explaining your locking responsibities during the not-training …for 2 months?!! I would not be surprised if he made this up as a THING he could complain about since you were so good at everything else. Finally, again with regard to your coworkers claiming he’s a jerk, I would also not be surprised if HE unlocked the cabinets on purpose then called you in. For an hourly job, do not pick up the phone! He can leave a voicemail, you check it and answer at your leisure. If it’s a drive back here in bad weather, so sorry, voicemail messaging system went map looney with the icy weather. Get out!! Look for a new job ASAP

  26. Princess Cimorene

    #1 – It’s not only professional to use your coworkers names and to get over how you feel about it, it also makes you a decent human being. Things are only “weird” because we say so. Once we normalize anything, it is no longer “unconventional” or weird and who truly is the key holder to convention anyway? If we stop allowing things to continue one way just because that’s the way it’s been done (always ask yourself, “and by whom?” Because who is being left out of, marginalized or hurt by “what’s always been done?”) then the things one group says aren’t right will no longer be not right, right?

    People’s names are what they are. Any supposed “rule” book about what people should be named is pretty arbitrary and subjective. Call people by their names (or what they want to be called. period) because surely you want to be a good person, no?

    1. Anoncorporate

      I’m wondering if this person grew up I a very homogenous community and has trouble processing things that are remotely different from what they’re used to. Where I’m from, names like Princess and King would be unusual but people wouldn’t think twice about calling someone by their actual name. I’m really not a fan of LW1’s attitude is what I’m trying to say.

      1. Harper the Other One

        Yes, I wanted to be sympathetic to the LW but it feels a bit mean spirited to suggest that you’ll sarcastically ask to be called an exaggerated mockery of someone’s actual name. It feels like those old, ugly jokes featuring “names” like Wanahockaloogee or Sum Hung Gai. OP, I don’t think you’re a terrible person but I do think you should examine your assumptions about what is “normal.”

    2. KC

      +1000. I appreciate OP1 writing in to ask. It’s a learning experience, But when the letter mentioned diversity and what OP1 felt were odd names, it reminds me of the majority culture being uncomfortable, not understanding, anything “other”. As a society this has to stop.
      Incidentally I was married to a white guy named King and later a black woman named Shanika. Many awful assumptions were made about both people. It’s not ok.

  27. Talia

    Not just academia and law; there’s one town government around here that for whatever reason insists on *three* letters of recommendation in your application materials for every position. I have thus only ever applied for one job there, when I was desperate. They’re the only ones in my field that do this and it *baffles* me every time I see a posting.

  28. Anoncorporate

    I don’t understand LW1s discomfort. The only time I feel uncomfortable with someone’s name is if it has a bad/silly sound in it, like “Butt” or “Pupula”

    1. londonedit

      We had a teacher at school whose first name was Richard, but he always went by Dick. It’s a fairly common, though slightly outdated, name in the UK. You can imagine the hilarity that ensued among the students every year when each new batch of kids arriving at the school discovered what that teacher’s first name was, yet he stuck with it, because it was his name.

        1. The Original K.

          I know several Richards who go by Dick. They’re all my parents’ contemporaries (over 60). I would be surprised to meet a 25-year-old who went by Dick, but I think it’s a common nickname for that generation. (Dick Cheney, anyone?)

      1. Middle School Teacher

        There’s a part in A Christmas Carol where Scrooge is with the ghost of Christmas past and sees his fellow apprentice, Dick Wilkins. There’s a lot of “oh, Dick! Dear Dick Wilkins! He was very attached to me, was Dick!” You can imagine how that went over with my grade 7s. (Small wonder that in the version of the play we saw, the apprentice’s name was changed to “Will”.)

    2. Delphine

      Butt is a common last name in my parents’ country. It was funny to me as a child, when I moved back there after growing up in the US, but the more I heard it the more my brain realized that it’s a word that has two meanings. Familiarity and exposure are great ways to get past discomfort, I think. I’d advise the OP to use their coworkers’ names and use them freely! It’ll help change their mindset.

      1. Aitch Arr

        There is an attorney in a nearby town who is named Richard J. Butts. The name is prominently displayed on the shingle outside his office. I giggle every time I drive by.

  29. Black Targaryen

    Wow honestly OP1, as a black woman with a *very* non-white name that was/is often on the receiving end of comments, I implore you to resist all urges to “joke” around about people’s names. It’s not funny. It’s never funny. And I guarantee you anything you think is funny, they’ve already heard two hundred times. I don’t even know what my response would be if a coworker said call me “Empress Sweetie Boo” (or whatever “equally ridiculous” thing you think is witty, but know deep down actually isn’t). Sadly you’ll have to keep reining it in so as not to affend us PC snowflakes.

    Also, Alison was gracious in her answer by explaining cultural context. But I’m pretty sure you didn’t need it since you prefaced your dilemma by noting you work in a diverse environment.

    My comment might seem harsh but I’m not buying any naïveté you’re selling. Call us by our names, ridicule in your own time, and keep it moving.

      1. Lynca