(Anyone that knew me prior to seventh grade and family are excluded from the meaning in this post. Of course, these people routinely call me Randy and that’s perfectly fine. Also, my wife is like the Queen in chess and can call me whatever she wants.)
We humans are good at naming things. Not so good at understanding the point of view of what we are naming.
Take, for example, my name: Randal. Straightforward, utilitarian as its Teuton origins. Supposedly it means “Shield wolf,” or “Protector.” I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be protecting, but if I ever run across a sword, a shield, and other implements on one of my hikes, I think I’m as likely to shrug my shoulders at my good fortune and turn the other way.
When introducing myself, I always, without fail introduce myself as Randal. Never Randy, Randall, Russell, Robert, Reginald, or anything else. Simply Randal. I won’t say how many years this has been my standard practice, but let’s just say the consistency kicked in at about seventh grade when I changed schools.
Somewhere in the last six or seven years, I’ve taken to the practice of introducing myself as, “Randal, Randal with one ‘L’.” This spurred one workplace, a funeral home, to nickname me “One-L.” Greetings were always accompanied by the “L” sign held somwhere in front of, but not above, the face. That is due to the sign commonly used for “loser.” Thankfully, I didn’t get associated with THAT.
But what’s the big deal, you say?
I’ve come up against a rash of people who insist on calling me “Randy.” First, Randy is not diminutive, it is actually another name altogther. Secondly, my birth certificate says Randal, not Randy (although you would have no way of knowing that.) Lastly, and this is really, really the point: When I reach out to you, smile and introduce myself as Randal, and you immediately, with my hand still in grasp, return the greeting with Randy, you not only show your utter laziness, but your complete ignorance.
If you introduce yourself as something, that is what I will call you. If later, you say, “call me such and such,” then I’ll do that.
Some reading this may think I’m straining gnats, but think about it. My hand is still warm in yours and my eyes are still looking into yours and I’m opening myself to you and well, do I really need to touch you to get to know you? I mean, do you really have to shake my hand? Can’t you just get my name right seconds after receiving the information? If you are really interested in getting to know me, then know my point of view. IF not, then why do the whole “Chamber of Commerce” handshake dance. Really, I don’t find it necessary or intimate.
If your mouth just cannot make the difficult acrobatics required to say my name correctly, you are welcome to reduce me to “one-L.” I find that name perfectly acceptable and even a term of endearment. There are certain friends, when we cross paths, they call me “one-L.” For those few friends, I dont even care if they remember my real name, because they use a moniker developed in shared experience. And so, I make a public declaration to anyone that thinks Randal is too difficult, you may use “one-L” without further prompting.
But if you cannot even do that, just stand in front of a mirror and put the “L” sign over your forehead.