Dave or David...which is better?
December 29, 2008 1:35 PM   Subscribe

Dave or David? Is there a difference in your perception?

I have been on a lot of interviews lately and have been constantly asked if I prefer Dave or David. I have really never had much preference. I do notice that my family tends to call me David while friends tend to refer to me as Dave.

I am wondering though. As a individual in a leadership position is it better to go by one or the other? Does one command more respect?

What thoughts come to mind between the two names?


Dave (or David)
posted by sirhensley to Society & Culture (47 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
being named joshua, i've always gotten the exact same thing for as long as i remember. i too have always preferred the given name of joshua, but i really couldn't care less which people address me as.
posted by austere at 1:38 PM on December 29, 2008

Dave sounds somewhat younger & funner & more open-ended;
David a bit more buttoned-down and serious, maybe more final.
Maybe Dave is a bit better for a fun, casual, artsy boss, and David a bit more conservative/authoritative?
I wouldn't want a President Dave just yet, I guess. But a CEO Dave of a cool company would feel right.

But both are pretty good, approachable names, with this particular name and its nickname, it's not like the difference between Heathcliff and Cliff or anything. You could look at Steve versus Stephen/Steven for a good comparison, as the names and their nicknames are about equal in terms of formality, to my eye.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 1:40 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

David's a little more formal, and for some will have that little tinge of Biblical oomph. I don't think you'd see a serious difference either way, but David probably has a tiny respect edge.

(This from a Ben who is never, ever Benjamin.)
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:41 PM on December 29, 2008

Dave strikes me as more casual and friendly. It might depend on the kinds of places you're interviewing as to whether the "friendly boss" is the right way to go.

It might be safer to go with David, you can always be Dave after you start the job.
posted by cabingirl at 1:41 PM on December 29, 2008

"Dave" is slightly more informal, obviously.

I always ask people that sort of question because some people really care about what nickname they're called by. I usually don't mentally distinguish among the names, so if coworker David doesn't want to be called Dave I want to be able to make a mental note about it.
posted by hattifattener at 1:41 PM on December 29, 2008

My personal view is that a Dave is more approachable than a David. Whether or not that's your aim is your call. Honestly, though? Your personality will have a much bigger impact on how someone views you than your name.
posted by lizzicide at 1:41 PM on December 29, 2008

I'm a Thomas, and being called anything other than Tom (or maybe Tommy, if you're my wife) just seems odd, not just formal.
posted by tommasz at 1:43 PM on December 29, 2008

I have so many friends named "Dave" that if you told me to call you "David" I'd probably forget and just call you Dave anyway. I think Dave might be slightly preferable to David in an interview setting, if merely for the subtle inference that you are comfortable, casual, and friendly, whereas, "actually, I prefer David," could come off sounding a bit defensive or arrogant or something. That's probably reading waaaaaaaaaay too much into it, though, and so long as you just say "Dave" or "David" with calm confidence at the greeting, you'll be fine.
posted by billysumday at 1:43 PM on December 29, 2008

The Kids in the Hall have answered this question for you.

Assuming that you are in the US - the use of Mr. has all but disappeared in most professional contexts. So if you're looking to add a little formality without seeming pretentious then ask that people call you "David". Or maybe it's just your preference. I know a dozen Jennifers and very few of them like being called "Jenny". It's you're name, and according to How to Make Friends and Influence People it's the sweetest sound in the world to you. Make it what you want it to be.
posted by quadog at 1:45 PM on December 29, 2008

I don't actually feel any difference between the two. That said, if I were interviewing you, I might ask--because some people really do care what they're called.

(As an Aubrey, I absolutely hate every possible derived nickname.)
posted by Netzapper at 1:46 PM on December 29, 2008

A non-representative sample for your data set: The people I've known who go by "David" have generally tended to be older, more educated, higher in class status, and in higher positions of authority, whereas the people I've known who go by "Dave" have generally tended to be younger, lower in class status, in more menial jobs, and smokers. The Daves were thrilled to have a brand of cigarettes named after them.

I do think people are at least slightly influenced by previously-formed impressions on names, although in most cases that should be overridden by actual experience with the person. But if I were, say, buying a book and knew nothing else about the author, I might subconsciously take a book by "David So-and-So" more seriously than a book by "Dave So-and-So".
posted by Jacqueline at 1:54 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

As a individual in a leadership position is it better to go by one or the other? Does one command more respect?

To me David is what you put on your resume, business cards, etc. and Dave is what you tell everyone to call you around the office. Several of the Davids/Daves I've worked with did that. A high profile version of it would be David Letterman, he's David in the title of the show but everyone calls him Dave in conversation.

It makes sense to be formal in some situations, and informal in other situations, and switching between different forms of your name is one way to do that. Even if you don't explicitly tell people to call you Dave, many of them will probably end up doing it anyway in casual conversation.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:55 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

I recall seeing an advert for a product once. The scene was of a large brick tower. The camera was focused on one, but another one nearby fell. A male voice shouts "Dave!", as if in blame.

That's why I think "Dave" sounds like a chav name.
posted by Solomon at 2:00 PM on December 29, 2008

I wouldn't want a President Dave just yet

You'll change your tune after President Mitchell goes into a coma.

Also, I'm a Dave, and not a David. David sounds, to my ears, even more conservative than most unshortened names, to the point where being addressed as David sounds almost scolding. Then again, I'm as conservative as a drunk in a lampshade, so make of that what you will. Being called "David" reminds me of Six Feet Under's David Fisher, who is a great character, but also unremittingly repressed.

Should you become a David, you will have to prepare yourself for, as mentioned above, people addressing you as Dave and you having to correct them. Sounds defensive. Compare that with someone addressing you as David: should you decide to correct them, you're bringing them closer, not further away.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:03 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

like with most diminutives of names, dave is more casual, david more formal.
posted by violetk at 2:25 PM on December 29, 2008

David sounds like someone who should be handing out copies of The Watchtower.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:35 PM on December 29, 2008

Informal sample of 10 seconds in my brain:

David Attenborough, David Sedaris, David Tennet, King David, David Letterman, David Gilmour

Dave Barry, Dave Thomas Founder of Wendy's, uh..., that's it.
posted by Jon_Evil at 2:56 PM on December 29, 2008

Dave is a slob. David is gay.

Being called "David" reminds me of Six Feet Under's David Fisher, who is a great character, but also unremittingly repressed.

True and true. In America at least, Dave is less "marked" than David (i.e., it's more of a default); same goes for Matt and Matthew, whereas Robert is probably preferable in a professional setting to Bob.

But overall, I'd say it's a small difference and saying "Either is fine" would indicate you don't get hung up on unimportant things.
posted by kittyprecious at 2:58 PM on December 29, 2008

David = Jewish.

Dave = Goyish.
Dave = Jewish guy going to school at UC Santa Cruz.
posted by charlesv at 3:00 PM on December 29, 2008

Rob, Robert
Mike, Michael
Tony, Anthony
Douche, Douchebag

I'm Tim, and have always sort of bristled at being called Timothy. I figure once they start erecting statues in my honor with the born and died stuff on it, they can use Timothy. Mostly I just answer to "Hey You!"...or in informal situations...."Hey"
posted by timsteil at 3:04 PM on December 29, 2008

I think the Dave/David thing is more flexible than (say) Tim/Timothy or Jim/James. In those cases, there is a sharp difference between the level of formality implied by the two versions.

Dave/David doesn't seem (to me, and I'm one) to have that same strong variance. As somebody posted:
To me David is what you put on your resume, business cards, etc. and Dave is what you tell everyone to call you around the office.
This is it, exactly.
posted by woodblock100 at 3:13 PM on December 29, 2008

The long version of my name (Christian...vain hope on Mom's part) is only used on my resume, my signature, and when my mom is mad at me (of course, followed by my middle and surnames).

If you're not upper management, and you say you prefer "Michael" or "David" or "Gabriel", you're gay.
posted by notsnot at 3:15 PM on December 29, 2008

I agree David sounds more formal and Dave sounds way more casual.

That said, I'm Portuguese. In Portuguese, "David" is pronounced "Dah-veed", so we don't have a shorter version of the name. And it always reminds me of my friend David, who my friend Lina's Grandfather always addressed as "Ramirez" (and this isn't David's last name or even close) because he could never remember "David", which for whatever reason was exotic to him. So whenever I hear "David" I automatically think "Ramirez". Also, "Ramirez" is a very popular brand of Portuguese canned tuna.
posted by neblina_matinal at 3:16 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

One of my bosses at work started off with "Gabriel" and quickly transitioned to "Gabe". I think that'd be the way to go.
posted by Precision at 4:03 PM on December 29, 2008

Dave is a slob. David is gay.

As a gay slob named David, I feel uniquely qualified to comment on this.

Just go with whatever you prefer. If you don't have a preference, just say so. Some people call me Dave, others David. My coworkers call me Dave, for the most part, while my gay friends usually call me David.

I don't think the Dave/David distinction carries as much weight as some people mention upthread: younger/less successful vs older/successful/conservative. I'm fairly old, and fairly successful, and plenty of people still call me Dave.
posted by me & my monkey at 4:30 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Dave is they dude I drink beer with at the beer garden. Although he knows a good deal about beer, is a great conservationist... David is KING!

...and what Precision just said (above).
posted by ezekieldas at 4:33 PM on December 29, 2008

What charlesv said. David also sounds Russian or Spanish to me / generally indicates a foreigner - but that's from someone who's spent most of her life in metropolitan areas or abroad.
posted by lorrer at 4:39 PM on December 29, 2008

David to start with, and see where it goes. After years of knowing someone, "Hello, James" can turn into "Hey, Jimborino!" Perhaps not in a professional setting, but whatever.

I don't think they're trying to judge your character so much as asking a preference though. I'm Dan, and it best stay that way unless you're my mom. Some people do actually have a preference, and for the most part I doubt it has anything to do with personality. For example, I know a really uptight Chuck and a really mellow Charles.
posted by papayaninja at 4:47 PM on December 29, 2008

It is pro forma that you are asked this question when you join a new environment, and I would argue that expressing a preference (even if it is totally arbitrary on your part) is the more polite thing to do.

My pet theory is that most people who you interact with on a first name basis who didn't know you at age 4 will tend toward the more casual name unless otherwise informed.
posted by i love cheese at 4:49 PM on December 29, 2008

I feel like I'd have a beer with Dave, but a glass of wine with David, FWIW.
posted by ersatzkat at 5:31 PM on December 29, 2008

David- Jewish.

Dave- not Jewish.
posted by Zambrano at 5:53 PM on December 29, 2008

I am a Dave/David whose father is also named Dave/David. When I was young, my dad was Dave and I was David, so it wouldn't be quite so confusing around the house.

However, when I reached grade two, for the first time (of many) there was another student in my class named David. We had a coin flip to see who would be David and who would be Dave, and I won. Because I wanted to be more like my dad, I picked "Dave." So, to my friends and teachers from elementry through high school, I was Dave, and to my family, I was and am David. Nowadays, I go by David when doing professional-type things. I am a graduate student, and to professors and editors and such I am David. However, to my friends, I am Dave. If anyone ever asks, I always say that I have no preference, because I really don't; the fact that even the profs I work closely with still call me David is probably due to the fact in our initial correspondence I signed my e-mails "David" and it stuck.
posted by synecdoche at 5:59 PM on December 29, 2008

I have something similar: Chris/Christopher.

I have Christopher on my CV, but Chris on my business cards. Generally, only my Mother calls me Christopher, and that's when I'm in trouble. The rest of the time I'm Chris.

I'd go with David for CV and for the purposes of the interview process. Once you're incumbent, then you can ask people to call you Dave if you prefer. So long as your name isn't David Icke, I think you're safe.
posted by arcticseal at 6:11 PM on December 29, 2008

David = Jewish.

so true! i don't know any jewish daves not that i think about it.
posted by violetk at 6:32 PM on December 29, 2008

You are lucky. As an Alexandra, you cannot imagine the number of creative permutations people come up with. When nax is such an obvious choice.

Perhaps you could suggest that people call you "Vid." Just kidding. David is my favorite boy's name. I didn't name my son that because I didn't want people calling him "Dave." So clearly, I think you should stick with David.
posted by nax at 6:36 PM on December 29, 2008

I've worked for two Dave/Davids. In personal interactions, both go by Dave but on their business cards, email addresses, etc. they go by David. Actually pretty much everyone I've worked for has a similar construct: go by the shortened nickname in person with pretty much everyone, but go by the more formal, full first name in professional situations where there is more distance like CVs, business cards, formal documents, etc.

I have a similar situation in that my name is Kaitrin but people also know me as Kate & Katie. I have no personal preference per say, but if I am introducing myself, I generally use Kate unless I'm in a professional setting, but that's mostly to distinguish myself from the many Kates in the world. Go by what feels most like "you" and the rest will fall into place.
posted by katemcd at 6:39 PM on December 29, 2008

I'm a Dave/David. As far as your particular question goes (As a individual in a leadership position is it better to go by one or the other?) I'd say it depends on the leadership style you want to adopt. If you want to be the lovable, just-one-of-the-guys leader, definitely Dave. If you want to be the more professional, on-the-way-to-the-top-of-the-food-chain leader, then David's the way to go.

Personally, I use Dave with friends, and David professionally.
posted by EarBucket at 7:22 PM on December 29, 2008

My brother's a David, and as a senior waiter (quite well liked and respected) in a fairly upscale restaurant in a large touristy city he has almost exclusively been renamed "Dave" by his co-workers and regular customers. He's in a leadership position in that he trains new employees, is looked up to by his peers, and has been there forever (but he is not in an official management position). He doesn't care what they call him......as long as they tip well!
posted by ourroute at 8:29 PM on December 29, 2008

I'm in the same boat. Nick/Nicholas. Nicholas is my legal name, but please don't call me that. Call me Nick. Nicholas sounds pretentious to me. Although I prefer it on formal things like a diploma. To make matters worse, when I was a kid (I'm 42), my name was not very common. I met one other Nick through 12 years of school, and I was always self conscious of having an unusual name. Now it's a popular name and the young'uns prefer to be called Nicholas (or their parents prefer it). So I'm constantly called that by people that don't know me and it drives me nuts. What matters is what you prefer to be called. It is your name after all.
posted by AstroGuy at 8:35 PM on December 29, 2008

Ever since it was pointed out that gay men tend to use their full names in STEEL MAGNOLIAS, I've always assumed "Dave" was straight unless informed otherwise and "David" was gay or super square, unless informed otherwise.

In a professional setting, I tend to think that "Dave" is warmer and more casual than a "David". If you're an accountant or doctor, go for David. If you're in a people profession/soft skills job, I'd prefer Dave.
posted by Gucky at 8:50 PM on December 29, 2008

'Dave' is butch, as the interesting results of the survey posted about here suggest. Sadly, 'manly' still correlates in many people's minds with 'capable, efficient, decisive'. So get 'em to call you Dave, and beat 'em about the head with your big cock if they try to pull any of this 'David' shit.
posted by ShameSpiral at 9:01 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Dave to me is frat-boy.
posted by brujita at 9:37 PM on December 29, 2008

I like Dave ok, but much prefer David. I think in the case of your name, both are professionally fine--good, even--but I've known Dave and Daivd authority figures. If you don't mind Dave, just let it go. If you like David better, many people will pick it up when you always use it (Hi, this is David) but if you REALLY hate it, saying "I prefer David" might come off a tiny bit negatively (I hate my full name, and usually only say I prefer the familiar when asked, but that's different because it's inviting familiarity rather than formality, which can sometimes be offputting).

Given all examples that come to mind of nicknames similar to this, I like and associate them totally differently. I usually prefer the familiar (Tim, Tom, Rob, Dan, Nate, Alex, Chris, Jeff) but sometimes like the full name much better (James, Michael, Nicholas, Peter, Patrick). I'm split on Matthew, William and Stephen. Of course, if they are really good friends, I think the cutesy nickname is adorable (Paddy, Nicky, Mikey, and Bobby are some of mine who are ok with it--but they are split on whether they hate that or not). For girls names, I usually like both (except for mine).
posted by Pax at 6:55 AM on December 30, 2008

I'm Stephen, but only my parents, employers and the government calls me that. My friends call me Steve. Some people (Like Jonathan's who don't like being called John) don't like this, but Steve isn't so bad. "Professionally" I go by Stephen, since there were TWO professional skateboarders named Steve Olson.
posted by apetpsychic at 7:42 AM on December 30, 2008

I am a non-gay, extremely liberal, non-jew David. When people ask my name, I say David. I never say Dave. People who pick up on that call me David. The less observant (no pun intended) call me Dave. I respond to either, though I may respond to Dave with less alacrity than David.
posted by jdfan at 8:23 AM on December 30, 2008

I have to post an obligatory link to Narbonic, which has a "Dave Conspiracy" and if you're booted, you have to be called David...

Really, I think it just depends on how formal/"adult" you want to be. Less of an issue in non-work situations, I think. Daves tend to be more hang-loose sort of folk.

As for me with my name, I'm about 50% Jennifer and 50% Jen(n) (I don't care how other people spell that last one). "Jennie" got old in first grade. I introduce myself as Jennifer but answer to Jen, and some people just really like to nickname you. Those people will call you whatever the hell they feel like anyway.
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:51 PM on December 30, 2008

Dave/David are so close compared to other names like, say, Alex/Alexander or Bea/Beatrice, I don't think it'd have quite the same difference one way or another. With longer names in particular, one may wonder why you didn't just go by the shorter version, and whether or not you're an uptight, highbrow stick in the mud. That's probably not the case with David.

But, Dave is certainly easier to say than David, and Dave isn't especially youthful like "Jimmy," or even "Davey" (names which have a remote chance of seeming less deserving of respect in a business setting). So I'd vote "Dave" in person and casual print (e-mails to employees), "David ____" in formal print (cards, letters to the bosses).

Plus, think how much productivity will increase by saving that extra syllable!

Now that I think about it, I'm surprised no one's mentioned David Brent from the UK Office. I haven't seen the entire series, but I'm surprised he didn't go by "Dave" considering how laid-back he tried to appear. Same goes for Michael on the US version.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 11:37 PM on December 30, 2008

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