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The Sweetest Word in Any Language

Sign with letters spelled out to say "The Sweetest Word In Any Language" with a pink background and turquoise letters. To the right are three diamonds.

Nombre. Nom. Jina. Naam. Pavadinimas. Nome.

Me llamo. Je m'appelle. Niitwa. Sono chiamato. Aš vadinamas. Ik heet.

It was the mid-nineties. I enthusiastically tried to be the sports player that I truly didn't want to be - and of course only made the "C Team" for seventh-grade volleyball. It was a struggle to finish out the season, but I did. And I learned a valuable lesson-the sweetest word in any language is one's own name.

I'm sure it wasn't intentional. I am sure it was an oversight on the roster by a coach who was paid pennies to sacrifice her afternoons to work with squirrelly middle-schoolers. But for me, it was a lesson. Learn your participants' names. We were a few weeks into practice (probably over half-way through the season) when I got frustrated and said, "That's not my name!" I don't remember what she had called me, but it was no wonder I didn't know that she was talking to me-she wasn't using my name.

Fast-forward to college where I attended a small liberal arts college. The faculty to student ratio was less than one to twenty. And I had a professor who didn't know my name, despite having two classes with her in the same semester. For a college that was proud of the fact that you were a name and not a number, it was heartbreaking for me to have a professor that didn't know my name.

Probably due to these two vivid experiences, I work hard to learn names of people I encounter. I use their name often in conversation and I am sure that it helps that I have trained myself to pull names off of a roster to teach classes or swim lessons, but I also know that we all enjoy hearing our names called.

In a world where Mr., Ms., and Mrs. are being questioned, I wonder if it would be okay to just use a first name. After all, one's name is the sweetest word in any language.

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Be Kind to The Water

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