Bad With Names

I have always been bad with names. Close family members are not a problem and my wife’s name trips easily off the tongue at this stage but all others remain difficult.

These days I have come to terms with the problem. The trick was to stop trying to bluff my way around the fact that I obviously haven’t a clue who you are. Generally, I’ll now come clean and just say, "I’m sorry but I’ve forgotten your name again." This honest approach seems to work well.

But this lesson was not learned easily. There were many stumbles along the road to realising that I have a head like a sieve. The final knock - also the worst - was the one which made me give up trying to muddle though, once and for all.

I had just started in the Architects office where I then worked. On my first day I had been introduced to fourteen very fine people and, true to form, I had immediately forgotten every single one of their names. All except the boss - I’m bad but not that bad. After three weeks of bluff, counter-bluff and confusion, a new recruit came to work in the office. I was no longer the ‘new-boy’ and I resolved I would make a clean start by committing this new man’s name to memory and never ever forget it again.

My happiness knew no bounds when we were finally introduced. His name turned out to be Finnegan... Michael Finnegan. "Now this will be easy," I said to myself, "I actually know a song about a man called Michael Finnegan. If I mentally file his name away with that song then I will never lose it." As I recall, I even sang a bit of the song to myself, to embed the knowledge in my brain.

"There was an auld man called Michael Finnegan,
he grew fat and then grew thin again,
he caught a fish and threw him in again
poor auld Michael Finnegan.
Begin again."

I had this one sorted, no bother. I looked forward, with great anticipation, to my amazing recollection of the new guy’s name.

I didn’t have very long to wait. A client was coming into our office and Michael was due to meet him. I was asked to look after the initial introductions. A request like this would normally have got me scribbling on my cuffs but not this time. This time I was in control.

This client and I were busy tucking into tea and digestive biscuits when the new man came in. Immediate introductions were required and I sprang to the task with no small measure of enthusiasm.

"I would like," said I, "I would like to introduce you to the man who will be dealing with your project from now on. His name is... Patrick McGinty."

So, if we ever meet and, with a smile, I admit that I can’t seem to remember your name, please forgive me.

It is definitely better if I don't try.


Jim Murdoch said...

Don't worry about it. I won't remember your name either. I'm very good with faces though.

Catherine @ Sharp Words said...

You're sort of forgiven, but not entirely... since this is a text environment after all, and my name was tagged to the post you were commenting on!

I'm pretty good at remembering names but I'm actually terrible at putting them with faces. Which is awkward.

And the first day/week on a new job is always awful for learning names. All of them only have one name to remember while you have a dozen or more! I've been in my place more than 4 years and there's still a few faces I can't connect with names.

Lynda Meyers said...

I too am a face rememberer, but pretty much stink at names. I wonder how many of us there are?

Oh well. One cannot possibly be good at everything. Think how silly it would be if we remembered only people's names but couldn't remember a face to save our lives!

Anonymous said...

Wow if I could bottle my ability to remember names and faces, I'd sell it to all of you! :)

Ken Armstrong said...

I'm having fun with it, I know, but really this name thing often gives me difficulties. If I could wish for a super-power, I think I would do for super-name-remembering-ability. Then super-villains would never surprise me ("Hey... I know who you are...)

Laura Brown said...

That's just sad. :D I thought I was bad about names but you had the Michael Finnegan song and everything. My Grandmother told me that song I hadn't thought about it in a long time.

Ken Armstrong said...

True, Laura, I *did* have the Michael Finnegan song but then the Paddy McGinty song just came along and messed me up.

And that, you know, is my life-story in a nut-shell :)

Anonymous said...

I work with a guy called Michael Jackson... he's one I never forget!

Anonymous said...

Yes, but I don't know a Patrick McGinty so I wouldn't have done that. Perhaps the secret is to have fewer names in your head to juggle? If you figure out the secret, please let me know. I have trouble remembering both names and faces.

Anonymous said...

I'm infamous for this around our office, but I'm still at the stage where I try to fumble my way around it and pretend it isn't so. If I'm dealing with the person themselves, I just avoid names. If I'm trying to indicate a person to someone else, generally it's a description "new blonde girl" or "tall guy in accounting."

I've never accidentally introduced anyone as the owner of a nefarious goat, though. That would probably be enough to set me straight and just admit that I have a problem.

Catherine @ Sharp Words said...

I'll forgive you again this year too, since you seem to have learnt my name perfectly in the intervening months!
What's the Paddy McGinty song though?

Ken Armstrong said...

Cellobella: Michael Jackson... I would probably introduce him as Marvin Gaye or somebody. :)

Carol: I've put links on the names so if you click on them you can enjoy the songs in question. :)

Mike: We should meet up sometime, we have stuff in common... what's your name again?

Catherine: Thanks. Click on Patrick McGinty in the post and enjoy 'Paddy McGinty's Goat' I reckon you'll know it. :)

Anonymous said...

Hello Ken,

I was laughing after reading did you think of Paul McGinty? he he he...Michale Finnegan, Paul Mcginty...huh? he he he

All the best.

hope said...

I swear it's a guy thing. I can remember names LONG past needing them but hubby can't. Yet he can remember your face and phone number. :) I finally realized that if hubby forgot a name, I became invisible. So I learned to wait five minutes then politely introducing myself with, "Hi I'm...and you are?" Hubby doesn't get embarrassed, I don't feel ignored or unworthy of introduction and the new person is still the center of the conversation.

If you want a better, more scientific answer, check the end of my Saturday post. :)

Ken Armstrong said...

Jena: I've put some links on the names so you can see the songs associated with them. When you don't know the songs (as many non-Irish readers won't), the point is that I memorised the guy's name on the basis of a well known song but recalled a completely different well-known song when required. :)

Hope: I *so* do that to my poor wife. She is similarly understanding of my deficiency in this regard. :)

CS McClellan/Catana said...

I can sympathize, but I can do more than that; I can oneup you. I'm not only bad with names, I"m mildly faceblind. Putting together a face I'm not sure I recognize with a name I can't remember is the ultimate in frustration. At least you have the advantage of cuffs.

Susan at Stony River said...

I'm visiting friends this weekend and we've all confessed to being sufferers of CRS Disease: "Can't Remember Shit".

I think I used to remember things better than I do now, but uh...I can't, erm, ... remember, really.


Reese said...

Who are you again?
I have the same problem. I deal with salespeople all day. Of course they remember my name and everything about me, because they are trained to do so. All I can say is thank goodness for name tags!

Catherine @ Sharp Words said...

Ah, sorry Ken - I don't follow YouTube links very often because I'm still scared of being RickRolled.
Will check it out. Or else ask my husband if he knows it.

Ken Armstrong said...

Catana: Hi :) 'Faceblind' eh? That's a new one on me. It sounds like an excuse I could use for a change. "I'm sure I remember your name, it's your face I can't place." On second thoughts... :)

Susan: Huh, 'come over here swearing and shit. :)

Reese: I'm KEN, KEN!! (For God's sake) :(

Catherine: I will undertake never to Rickroll you. Unless you ask. :)

Anonymous said...

HAHAHAHAHAH But I don't understand how it even happened? I mean how did you get messed up in a matter of minutes? lol

Oh Ken. What will we do with you?

zorlone said...

Hi Ken,
Nice post! Something we can all relate to. There are a lot of people who have trouble remembering names. Specially, people we are only acquainted with.
In my line of work (as a Physician) I see people all the time. If I see a familiar face on the street or at malls my introductory question is "what was I treating you for?" The name of course was written on my data sheet in my clinic! Then, the face in front of me. Was this guy the one who had cough last week? Or was it an infection in the urine. hmm...
I would of course stop guessing and ask him who he was.

Anonymous said...

Oh Ken -- if it weren't for the fact that my husband of 30 years has the same name as you, I wouldn't remember yours either :lol:

I used to teach dog obedience classes. By the end of the first night, I knew every single one of the dog's names, but couldn't tell you the first one of their owners.


Relax Max said...

Dear Karl,

Funny post. It probably would have been even funnier if I were Irish or knew who Patrick McGinty was. But still funny.

And I can definitely sympathize - I too called Kathryn by the wrong name early last year. Worse, I forgot she was Welch.

Ummm... she's made about three comments already to this post, so she's not likely to return, right? Right? :)

Don't you dare throw that, Missy. Welsh. Sorry. Welsh. Sheesh!

Ken Armstrong said...

Fragileheart: Your laugh is infectious, I think I caught it. Minutes? I assure you that I can get completely messed up in one split second. No prob. :)

Zorlone: Perhaps use their ailments as their names. Hello Chlamydia, how are we today? :)

eyespi: You've got that wrong, you only remember hubby's name on account of me. Go on, admit it!!

Relax Max: I thought everybody knew Paddy McGinty's Goat. What a cultural hole some of you exist in. I exhort you to go back and click the link, "She had rings on her fingers and she wore a sable coat, you can bet your life she didn't get them off Paddy McGinty's Goat." :)

Dave King said...

Snap! I am awful with names. Always have been - and not getting any better! Like you, I inwardly dance for joy when confronted by a name I think I can tag on to something I'll not forget - like we have a new decorator, whose name is Roderick. Wonderful, for I can summon it up by recalling the Pirate Reading book series. One of the characters was Roderick the Red Pirate. I just have to hope I never call him Bejamin (the Blue Pirate) or Gregory (the Green Pirate)! Once showing some visitors round our school, I went to introduce them to my head of juniors, only - you've guessed it - for her name to vanish totally. Not even a trace of it in the archive.

Ken Armstrong said...

Dave: The name 'Roderick' would take me straight to Monty Python's Life of Brian: "Whom shall I Wwwehlease?"

"Wwwehlease Wwwoderick."

Doubtless I would then end up calling the guy 'Woger'. :)

Laura Brown said...

I remember you posting that before.... now what was your name?

Ken Armstrong said...

Bond... James Bond.
(cue music, hand me my skis)

Nene said...

This has been a problem for me all my life. I know people say it's a man thing, but hey, I'm a woman! I used to be in the entertainment business and I met heaps of new people all the time. As I myself have an unusual name and then had an unusual job, everybody seemed to remember me. Countless are the times where I tried to bluff and failed!
Now I do like you - best way forward.