A quick few paragraphs on a topic that came up this morning, on the correct way to address me, and what’s acceptable to me. It’s something that comes up once in a while and as with all things of this nature, I’ll think furiously about it for a bit as if I’m explaining it to someone, and then I’ll forget about it until the next time it comes up. Today it came up in a Twitter room (or channel, or group chat) and I thought, I’ll write about it. Why not, it’s a workout for writing prose of some description. And thanks to Friney for inspiring this!
My name is Kevin. If you’re here reading this, you surely know that much about me. But how you address me, that depends on how you know me, and when you first got to know me, and how you work with people’s names (which is a whole world of factors of itself). If you know me well or for a long time, I’m invariably ‘Kev’ to you. Neither you nor I think any more of it. That’s what you call me. If you’re from my family, this might even be ‘Keff’, thanks to quirks of Dutch pronunciation. If you know me from college or from certain periods of my professional life, I may be ‘KT’ to you. That’s highly specific, and I think something that evolved organically without much input from me. I’m okay with it, our social history is what it is, like growth rings in a tree.
My name is Kevin, but I identified myself to people as ‘Kev’ for a number of years. I’m not sure why but maybe I felt it was more informal, cooler, briefer; I’m not entirely sure. An effect of that is that across the Internet my user handle is still ‘kevteljeur’ as a side-effect of that, which has a knock-on effect that I’ll get to. However, some years ago I decided that I was an adult (your mileage, as they say, may vary on that point), and I should formally identify on first contact as ‘Kevin’. That’s my full and correct name, and that’s how people should learn to identify me. The informal can come later, depending on how our relationship develops and how they and I feel about it. But if know each other and I’m well-disposed to you in an informal way, ‘Kev’ is fine.
My name is Kevin, but how do we know when it’s ok to call me one or the other? I found my delimiter on the bus service from the office where I work (or did work, since I’m now entirely working from home, and in any event the bus service – run for the office, not a public service – was pushed to become uneconomical for its users as a prelude to cutting it) when one of the drivers, a man who occasionally filled in for the regular drivers, made a point of addressing users by the informal version of their name. I made a point of correcting him since I didn’t know him, and he had pointedly referred to me as ‘Kev’, in spite of what was on the list in front of him. Is that petty? I don’t think so. I’ve run into variations of this, and I think that each iteration has made me harder on this. In 2015 I had to get house insurance as part of buying a house (haha, now there’s a story that needs telling! Well, after the divorce goes through, if indeed it ever does; you’d be amazed at how long it takes a property conveyancing solicitor to write a draft divorce agreement.) and the young man at one point called me ‘Kev’, and got flustered after I corrected him, but it really should be a first principle of sales to not be informal with your customer unless either invited to do so, or if it is part of your act, in which case your brazen approach is your sales technique. And a few short years before that, a man doing door-to-door utility switching sales (it was either gas or electricity) who was very cool and dynamic, called me ‘dude’, and I had a moment, in which I realised that time had moved on, I had matured, and no-one trying to sell me anything could be so familiar with me as to call me dude, especially standing in the door of my home, with his sales materials in his messenger bag.
Side note: A few years ago I bought a Mazda 6 in the UK, in Wakefield. The salesman in the dealership referred to me (as I think he did everyone) as ‘pal’, which I thought was a regional mannerism. I accepted it. Does that make me inconsistent? Maybe. A hypocrite? Possibly. I don’t know if I would accept that now.
My name is Kevin, and these days most people use that as their starting point. However, if my handle is your starting point for knowing me,
you could assume (as many people do on social media) that ‘Kev’ is fine. And as it happens, mostly that is with people I interact with frequently,
that I feel comfortable with. And some people are given to contracting people’s names. Not just; I have a friend who is given to contracting
people’s names, and adding ‘ee’ to the end (a little like how in Australia, everyone becomes their contracted name, with ‘o’ at the end; I’m ‘Kevvo’ there, and to be honest, there it will stay). So if we’re good and comfortable with each other, and we’re relaxed and getting on well (not always easy to judge, but when you know, you know), then I’m fine with being ‘Kev’ for you. I like when people ask, and that reflects well on them and their consideration of the people around them, but often when we’re all getting along well enough to do that then we’re already there.