The Sweetest Word in Any Language


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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