First of all, weirdness is relative. But if you meet someone and you consider their name unique, weird, or unusual, here are some things not to say.
How am I qualified to write this post? Because my name is Jimmie. And although Jimmie (or Jimmy) is about as boring of a white bread name you can get, it’s very unusual for a woman. I’ve faced a lifetime of strange reactions to my name, and this is the wealth of my weird name wisdom.
1. Is that your real name?
variations: Is that short for something? Is that your nickname?
Don’t ask this.
If I introduce myself as Porky Pig, what difference does it make if that’s my real name or not? It’s what I want you to call me.
What is a real name anyway? If people call me by that name, it’s real. It counts. I think the questioner means, “Is this your legal name?” And that’s really not any of his or her business. After all, when you meet someone named Rob, do you instantly ask, “Is that short for Robert?” No, because it doesn’t matter. Rob goes by Rob and wants you to call him Rob. End of story.
Unless you are helping me fill out a tax document or passport application, you don’t need to know what my legal name is.
I’m Jimmie; I go by Jimmie. It’s a real name.
After all it’s not my real name, I’m probably using this unique name because I hate my real name and I don’t want you to force me to reveal it.
By the way, Jimmie is my legal name.
2. Did your parents want a boy?
Wow. Let’s strike directly at a person’s root insecurity of not being accepted by his parents, shall we?
Don’t ask this.
If I say, yes, my parents wanted a boy, I’m admitting that my gender was a huge disappointment to my parents. (What jerks they must be!) How does that leave me feeling? Like a piece of feminine failure, right? Is that really how you want to start off a conversation with a new acquaintance — emphasizing their disappointment to their parents?
No, for the record, my parents didn’t want or expect a boy. They wanted a healthy child. If that child was a boy, he was not going to be named Jimmie. Jimmie was the name they chose for their daughter. Yeah, it’s strange. But I didn’t choose my name. They did.
3. Is that a Southern name?
I heard this one recently from a woman with a strong Northern accent and a condescending sneer on her face.
I get it. We have regional differences. Most female Jimmies are in their nineties and live in nursing homes in the Deep South. But as a product of the South, I don’t appreciate having both my name and my region being criticized in one fell swoop by an obvious outsider.
Maybe her snotty question was a reaction to a few too many of my Southern pals asking her rudely, “You ain’t from around these parts, is you?” Maybe this was her way of getting revenge. Okay, I’ll take one for Team South.
So when you meet someone with a unique name, what should you say? Here are a few suggestions of rejoinders that are not offensive.
1. How do you spell that?
This is a smart question because it demonstrates genuine interest in my name and will also help you to remember it.
2. That’s a neat name! How unique, original, clever, etc.! I like that!
Say something positive about my weird name! Even if you are merely commenting on how memorable it is, a positive remark goes a long way. I instantly like the people who say my name is cool. I can’t help it; it’s endearing.
3. Are you named after someone/your dad?
This is a thoughtful question that can apply to people with non-weird names too. It gives me a chance to explain that I am named after my dad. But don’t be tempted to follow it up with the three no-no questions above. Even if you’re dying to know, just don’t ask those until you know me better.
I hated my name for many years until I realized that it was very memorable. And although I still hate to get interrogated about my name when I meet someone new, for the most part, I have accepted my name. I hope this post will help the world to accept the weird names out there or at least react in a less irritating way.