Sunday, July 27, 2008

Aspies and Names

Names never seem to come easy to aspies. We're often introduced to someone and lose their name in less than five mintues.

Often we don't feel comfortable using names and sometimes even hearing our own name in conversation makes us cringe.

On the flip side, I'm sure that our friends, relatives and spouses are tired of being referenced using nicknames or being addressed simply as "hey you".

Short Term Memory
I think that part of the problem is the awful short term memory capabilities of the aspie. If we need a name to stick, we either have to repeat it a lot in the first few seconds or find a good association (eg: same name as my sister).

Unfortunately, such associations are rare and most social situations don't allow for name repetition. The aspie is left in a position where forgetting is inevitable.

Confusion over Names
Aspies quickly get used to other people joking about names but often, although we know that something is funny, we don't always know why.

At my school, we had a large breasted librarian, Mrs Perriot (pronounced pere-o-tay). My best friend at the time used to call her "pair-o-tits" but I always "heard" it as "perritit" and figured it was the proper pronounciation of the French? name Perriot. I was very fond of this librarian, so luckily I was pulled up for the name by a teacher before I used it in front of her. Even then, I remember the teacher getting angry when I said, "but that's her name isn't it?".

Another funny names thing happened in my school years as a library monitor. There was a boy mucking up and I duly asked for his name and wrote it down. He was still abusive after being given a warning so I reported Mr Condom's activities to the librarian. I still didn't see the problem when she flew into an outrage and hurried down to talk to him. It was the sight of my best friend laughing hysterically that clued me in.

From that point onwards, I stopped trusting all names given by third parties.

Good Mornings
There's something about a name that makes it just a little too personal for my liking and I find it very uncomfortable to do.

Most of the time I just burst into conversations with no preliminaries or use the word "hey" to attract attention. I'm sure it's probably bad manners but it doesn't make me feel bad. At work, I reply to "good morning, Gavin" with simply "good morning" or, more often "hi". Nobody seems to mind. Recently I've set myself a target of using one name per day but it still grates on me when I do.

The only way I can feel comfortable about names is to use nicknames. I found a great compromise with my wife by calling her Joey (her name is Joanne) but I've never thought of the name Joey as a short name. In Australia, it means a small type of Kangaroo.

My close friends all use nicknames too and both of my children do too. Luckily, I usually try to choose nicknames which are close enough to the originals to not offend.


Fugue said...

I find names (and remembering them) worst when it comes to social interaction. Because I hardly ever remember people's names, it often leads to embarrassing situations when I have to introduce them to others. More than once I've ended up stuck at social occasions, anxiously wedged between two individuals I clearly know but can't identify.

Even worse is when you combine this with difficulty remembering faces (prosopagnosia, or face-blindness). A person's facial features would need to be extremely exceptional for me to remember them. I know face-blindness is something a lot of Aspies have, but are there any studies on how common it is?

Asdquefty said...

I find that I have problems with remembering names, because I don't get the chance to drive them in, and I also don't like using names or having my name used. It make me feel tense.

Meredith said...

I HATE my real name because it was used most of the time in a gerogatory context in primary school (and most of high school). People who used my real name to address me were people who bothered me and bullied me, and others simply let me play alone which I greatly appreciated and didn't call me at all. However, I needed a reference for the thing that was known as me, and because the word "me" was referring to other people as well, I chose nicks and callsigns for every aspect of my personality. Then I settled with just one nick as I got access to the internet (a great blessing). I still can memorize nicks and fantasy/SF names quickly and quite well - it has to sound pleasant and unusual for me to pick up really. Real names confuse me as there are people with the same names and it makes hard to discern them. So that's why I insist on using online names IRL as well - it's just more comfortable, and at most times more reasonable! I had to change my nick on most of my accounts recently (on this one I couldn't do it yet), because at the university we get IDs generated from some letter of the real name and some random letters. Since that would be the ID to use in the uni's administration system, and I canbe easily identified with it, it's kind of official, but still a nick-sounding nick, so I'm glad to have it. (Belqaad, in case you were wondering.)

TR Kelley said...

Names: WOW. long mystery solved.
I didn't know this was an aspie thing, the uncomfortableness with USING names or being called by my name. I can use someone's name if they're not in the room though, it feels different. I never like my birth name, contrived cutesy spellings for first and middle (1962-vintage) and a too-long surname. I cringed to have to say it or hear it said. It's not even a n "odd name" to most folks ears. But to mine it's unpleasant.

The name i wear in public is a combination of a nickname and a married surname, but really feels more like a convenient label since its appeared on CDs, festival programs, said on the local public radio, printed in newspapers etc. If you are a person interacting with the public, they have to call you something. Make it something you can stand BEFORE you release a piece of art or get known for something.

I even refer to myself by that name now 3rd person. It's a comfortable distance. I have a secret name for myself that no one knows, that's not even a word, more of a growl and a gesture i do in private to greet myself when finally alone to coem out and be me. That "name" adds another layer of insulation identity and i can let the outer layers of names (the "stage" one, the legal one, the family one be less close and therefore less anxious.
I got diagnosed six years ago at age 40. I'm still finding "aha!" nuggets like this, shared things that i always thought were just personal weird deficiencies because i "wasn't trying hard enough" and wouldn't just "shape up and stop acting like a damn retard".

I'm NOT the only one! BWahahahaha!!!!

Anonymous said...

I was diaognosed in 6th grade, and I immeadiatley understood everything after they explained what asperger's syndrome was. It felt like they were spying on me, especially of the whole name situation. I always hate going to new schools because...

1. it is hard to make friends
2. I can't remember anyone's name

I called 4 teachers the wrong names for almost half the year. Thank goodness I am moving into High School. I couldn't stand walking by them in the halls, I always had the flashbacks and confused them with eachother, though they clearly looked nothing alike except for the age factor.

(no rudeness intended with the age thing, they were just, well, old)

Anonymous said...

Your librarian story reminds me of something that happened to me when I was younger. I thought that "cow-patties" was the name for hamburger patties. (cow-patties are really just cow-shit). So we were at subway and my mom asked me what I wanted and I said cow-patties. Then she got really mad at me and told me I needed to stop embarrassing her and I couldn't understand why. Not exactly mixing up a person's name but the name of an object. (I think I am an aspie but not sure).

Anonymous said...

I'm discovering this webpage five years too late! I'm dating someone and she got angry at me last night because I never refer to her by name. I don't have a problem remembering names as others have stated, but speaking someone's first name literally puts a bad taste in my mouth and I can only use a first name with great difficulty. Ever since I was a little kid (perhaps 6-7 years old) I could never use my siblings' first names. I bestowed all my family members with nicknames, which used to infuriate my dad. I have no problem with last names, so I refer to my coworkers as "Mrs Smith" or "Mr Jones" and they just think I'm being polite. I'm also OK with using a first name as long as it is also used with a last name. I can't bring myself to say "Bob", but I can say "Bob Wilson". Anyway, back to the girl I'm seeing... I tried to explain that I just can't bring myself to use first names and she thinks I'm intentionally being rude. Well.. at least I'm not the only one.

Triffi Hoola said...

Suddenly everything makes sense. I have a son who has been diagnosed with Aspergers and whilst I haven't been diagnosed I believe I have Asperger traits. I've always been terrible at remembering names, sometimes even when I've known the person for years. I've never had any uncomfortableness with referring to a person by their name (on the occasions I can actually remember it!) but I have noticed that my 12 yr old son has struggled with this for some time. He mostly refers to his dad as "Thingy me gig" or "What's his name" but I never realised it was an Aspergers thing. This has helped me understand us both a little more.

Klem said...

Can't believe it, I've always struggled with names & face association, it's been a lifelong problem the anxiety & self distrust it causes Is extreme. Just today I referred to someone I've know for a couple of years, all be it infrequently, by his sons name, which was a very embarrassing & alienating experience. Has anyone found that because of these misstakes it's better to inform people about the Aspergers, or is it better to allow them to think badly of you, for continually getting names wrong.