Longbored Surfer

2007.03.05 By Last Name Only

People refer to somebody else by their last name in only small number of cases (and it should stay this way). I'm willing to take the time to dissect those situations, and discuss (ad nauseam) why this is ever permissible.

Here are the situations:

P.E. Class
We were all asked to write our names on our clothes when we were in P.E. I understand that this was to help the dykes "teaching" this subject to help take attendance, as opposed to just learning our names. Consequently, that's the name written on your clothes by which everybody else learns your name. I can guarantee you that if I came upon Travis Setzer at some future point in my life again, he would only call me by my last name, all thanks to P.E.
Probably a carry-over from P.E. and because people's name are on the back of their uniforms, it seems acceptable to call people by their last name here. It seems that this is less common, and that more frequently someone's entire name is used. The shift in pro sports is to use someone's first name alone if they're really famous… like LeBron, Kobe, or Dwyane (which I like to say "dew-yane" since that's how it's spelled (Please see my entry about invented names.)) Overall though, this is of course an acceptable time to refer to somebody by their last name only.
Very famous and well-founded people
Lincoln, Picasso, Crichton… no first name needed. These people are firmly planted in their reputations and knowledge. They are widely known (some less than others, but that's okay). You could be in almost any circle in the US and say one of those names, and people would know who you're talking about.
To avoid confusion between similar first names
You know two people by the same name and are constantly around both of them, and possibly around both of them at the same time? Okay, I guess you can start using last names. I once worked in a place that there could have been 4 women by the same first name around at once. Since I could only claim friendship with one of them, I had no part in deciding that this one should be called by the shortened name, this one by the full name, and these two by their last names. All in all though, it was acceptable to me.

That's really all of the reasons why I can imagine that people should be called only by their last name. I admit that some of those situations are a little subjective, but this is my blog, so deal with it.

The other day I heard somebody refer to a person only by their last name. They said, "Covey said…" whatever. Maybe it's just the place in which I live, or the people by whom I am surrounded, but I didn't (and don't) feel that Stephen Covey deserves to be referred to only by his last name. For the most part, he wrote one book about which people seem to obsess. I just don't feel that he deserves to get that honor of being called only by his last name. Some would say, "Well, what other 'Covey' do you know?". Good point. Despite this, he's still on a full-name basis with me.

Let's come up with some cases in which it would not be acceptable to be call somebody by only their last name:

  • You're stuck in the 80's mentally still in high school on the football team and you wear muscle tees to work.
  • You're accustomed to emailing people referencing their last name and you're just lazy. Nokay.
  • You feel that you deserve to be referenced by only your last name, and in effort to get others to do that to/for you, you call others by their last name.

If you find some other reason (subject to my review and possible approval), please feel free to let me know below in the comments.

Tag(s): soap_box

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