Sunday, June 26, 2011

What’s in a Name? Pronouncing Somebody’s Uncommon Name Correctly Is Your First Sign of Respect For That Person Plus Much More

The “name-botching” incident at Wimbledon last week when, in the middle of the match, German tennis star Julia Goerges lambasted the umpire for repeatedly mangling her last name, reminded me of an incident at a Toastmasters’ speech contest here in Houston some ten years ago. Hugh Vrsalovic, an accomplished speaker and my long-time friend, was one of the participants. When it was his turn to deliver a speech, here’s how the evening’s emcee (referred to as the “Toastmaster of the contest or event”) announced his name: “Our next contestant is Hugh V…R…S…” and then, after some further struggle, she came up with a badly mangled version of Hugh’s last name which, in actuality, takes only a few seconds to master, if you ask him. It is vruh-SAHL-uh-vik.]

Clearly, the contest Toastmaster had not done her homework. As any responsible emcee, she should have taken a few moments to familiarize herself with the names, speech titles, etc. before the event started. Sure, her blunder may have helped wipe off, for a second or two, the ever-pleasant expression on Hugh’s face, but the real damage was to her own reputation. She created a poor impression with that evening’s huge audience by demonstrating irresponsibility and a cavalier attitude.

If a new acquaintance’s name happens to be an uncommon one, then pronouncing it correctly (the same goes for spelling it, if and when writing them an email) is your first indication of respect for that person, provided you’ve had an opportunity to find out the correct pronunciation. It helps create a good first impression by signaling that you are meticulous, thorough, caring, thoughtful, urbane, and so on.

INTERVIEW CANDIDATES, please make a special note of the above.

© Copyright 2011 V. J. Singal

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