What's in a Name?

First off, apologies for the cheesy title. It is Monday. Like Nick's, this post started as a comment that got big and merits its own comments.

So Florian said,

"Another thing with name, is when i introduce myself as florian axt, people start calling me florian-san. Why? As far as i know there is no such custom in japan. Normally people are called by their familiy name, even if their are friends. For me this is disrespectful. Children are called by their first name, but not adults."

That's interesting, Florian.

When I introduce myself, if the people know that my family name is "Welty," they try to say Uerutei-san (it takes a couple of tries. I keep the katakana handy, since I don't expect most people in Japan to be able to pronounce either of my names). However, I explicitly tell them that I'd prefer to go by "Jesse," and at that point they switch to "Jieshii-san".

Actually in class today, we needed to use my last name (and shame on me for slipping in class and calling it a "last name") so it would fit the dialogue and I realized that only maybe two kids in the class knew that "Jesse" is NOT my family name.

How do names work in Germany? In America, there tends to be a preference for peers (and often people above or slightly below you) to use your personal name.

Forgive me for citing Weekend at Bernie's, but people DO have this mentality:

"Please call me 'Bernie'. After all, 'Mister Lomax' is my father!"

Being called by your last name implies that you're old .... And as we all know, being old is tantamount to committing treason in America!

So a perfect stranger might call my "Mister Welty" until we were formally introduced. It's true that in America, my kids would probably use my last name, but I shudder when I think of being addressed that way. I mean, I'm only 24! I'm not ready to be a "grown up!" Also, having one title is a heck of a lot simpler.

As far as what the Japanese do, I look at this as a cultural lesson. I don't mind being called by my first name... it seems like most of the ALTs choose to use their first names only. I wonder why they do. Maybe it's easier if you've come straight out of college. (My school was small and like a big family, so I didn't know many of my fellow students' last names!)

But it's ultimately a personal choice. I don't really get picky about an honorific. If the kids want to show some respect for my by using "sensei," I appreciate the thought. (I do get annoyed when they try to translate "sensei" as "teacher," as in "Jesse-teacher!").

As a CIR, your role is different from ours and I could see where using your family name might be better, especially for meeting people and doing 1-shot presentations. I think it's more professional.

Do the people you introduce yourself to know that "Florian" is not your family name?

When I was studying in Europe, I noticed that people often put their family names in all caps to identify them. I wish more people followed this practice. I think it's a good way to clarify things. Also, surnames-as-first-names are getting more popular in America, so it's getting increasingly difficult to tell which is which.

Interestingly enough, my hanko uses my family name. And I like it that way.
For one, I think that ルテ looks a lot cooler than . Also, it's more official, which is what I use my hanko for--official documents.

Like Nick and Florian, I think that names are very important. I'm sorry that I can't learn all of my students names. I really try. And I always try to find out how people spell their names if there's a possibility that there is more than one spelling. My biggest pet peeve is when people misspell my name. It annoys me so much that I will almost always correct it if someone writes it in an email or on paper. I know it sounds extreme, but if I'm somehow mistaken about someone's name, I would like to know as soon as possible so that I don't keep misusing it.

What really gets me is when I change it in someone's e-mail reply text AND include my name at the bottom of an email and people persist in misspelling it. It blows my mind that people are too lazy to notice things like that. I don't want to work with people who are that careless.