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  • Writer's pictureerikaraskin

what's in a name i can't remember?

I was in town recently and saw a woman approaching who looked alarmingly familiar. She waved before I could study my shoes, sending me to the name bank from which I returned empty-handed. Panicked, I did what I usually do in these situations– enthusiastically asked how she was– all the while hoping my lack of formal greeting would go unnoticed. It didn’t. In fact, X retaliated by attaching “Erika” to almost every word she uttered.

It was like a new language.

I was practically on my knees.

Aggressive name usage seems a common reaction to having one’s own moniker unspoken. Masters of this conversational comeuppance often raise the ante by asking after every one of your family members, neighbors and pets–while you’re still trying to figure out what social context they belong to. Mother of son’s friend? Dental hygienist? Relative?

As feigned recognition is most likely exposed when introductions are expected, I cower at the notion of large group functions. Parties are particularly hazardous. Although my husband has been trained to offer his hand and introduce himself whenever anyone advances, this does create the dangerous possibility of him re-presenting himself to someone he should know. But that is, as they say, a personal problem.

The other night I was using the greatest invention of modern times– the info button on the television remote control-when I had a brilliant idea. It came to me right after I retrieved the title and plot summary of the movie I was watching: an app with facial recognition capabilities that would not only retrieve someone’s name but also pertinent tidbits.

Think of it.

Files could be created, cross-referenced and coded for overlapping social circles. Names of new spouses would be automatically added, eliminating the risk of asking after previous title-holders. The Acquaintance Data Device would be like having your own assistant announcing well-wishers throughout life’s long receiving line. A personal assistant you could carry in your purse!

If I had access to such an app (and if I really knew what app meant) I would have been armed with the vitals of the aggressive name caller and been able to match her nicety for nicety. If, however, the device reminded me not only of X’s stats but also her right wing politics — then I could have chosen not to use her name. Imagine her confusion. (“Does Erika have an Acquaintance Data Device? Is it broken? Maybe I’m not even included?)

Until some nine year-old-techie can come up with a prototype for my invention, perhaps people wouldn’t mind wearing name tags. Or sandwich boards with a little more information.


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