I'm Michael, not Mike. How do I get this into people's heads?
May 22, 2009 6:41 PM   Subscribe

I'm Michael, not Mike. How do I make sure people know this? (Extra degree of difficulty: for a few years I was a girl, so I'm sensitive about names in some weird ways.)

How do I get people to call me Michael, instead of Mike?

I was born Michael; that's what's on my birth certificate. My parents insisted that I be called Michael, at least until I decided that I wanted to be called something else. At some point I must have started going by Mike, but I don't remember it.

I used a different name for four years, a name which was unambiguously female, because I identified as transgendered. (I don't identify that way any more, but I also wouldn't say I identify as entirely male, whatever that means.) A bit under a year ago I went back to using my birth name. I told everyone to call me "Michael". I did think about using a less obviously gendered name, but I couldn't find one I liked. Also, I never legally changed my name, so it was the easiest thing to do.

For a while, people did call me "Michael". But I've noticed that a few people have started calling me "Mike". That's not my name. I haven't talked to them about it, because they're for the most part people I'm not going to see much of in the future, so it's not worth my trouble. But I foresee it bothering me more and more in the future. (Perhaps I think of "Mike" as me-as-a-teenager and am trying to draw a distinction between him and me.)

So, the question: how do I get people to call me Michael? Preferably without seeming too pompous. And preferably without actually talking to people, because I find it difficult to assert that Michael is my name when I spent a while not too long ago asserting that it was not my name.

And also, what do you think about people named "Mike" as opposed to people named "Michael"?

Sort of a sub-question: I'm a graduate student, I'm teaching a summer course (it's my own course; I've been a TA before) and this is the first time I've taught since changing my name back. I think I want my students to call me Michael, because:
1. I don't have a PhD yet, so "Dr. Lastname" is inaccurate;
2. I'm not a professor, so "Professor Lastname" is inaccurate;
3. "Mr. Lastname", because of the aforementioned gender identity issues, sounds like a lie.
The culture at my institution seems to be that the undergrads call TAs by their first names and faculty "Dr. X" or "Professor X"; a graduate student who's the sole instructor for a course kind of seems like a gray area, but I've already gotten one e-mail from a student which began "Mr. Lastname".

And yes, I've seen this post (by a woman who has a name pronounced like mine! and this one on Dave vs. David, which includes the wonderful comment "If you're not upper management, and you say you prefer "Michael" or "David" or "Gabriel", you're gay."
posted by madcaptenor to Human Relations (66 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think it can be as simple as telling someone, "Hey, actually, I prefer to go by Michael." You not obligated to explain it further. Asking your students to call you by Michael shouldn't be an issue.
posted by runningwithscissors at 6:46 PM on May 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Completely understandable. I'm Emily, and the only people who I feel comfortable calling me Em are my very close friends and family, as it implies a degree of intimacy that makes me uncomfortable coming from people I don't know well.

I would think that if you consistently introduce yourself as Michael, write that name on name tags, papers, have people who understand your discomfort with "Mike" refer to you as "Michael" to others, and generally use it as much as possible, you'll have two types of people calling you Mike- people who don't know you very well so haven't noticed that you never call yourself that, and people who are close to you and using it to indicate informality. For the first group, I'd say just ignore it; I don't think it's worth it to correct everyone who is peripheral to your life who says that. For the second group, I'd think that you could just say, "Hey, could you call me Michael?" I'd think if they were calling you Mike because they like you and want to indicate a level of intimacy in your relationship, they'll be receptive to that.

Good luck!

P.S.- People who extrapolate sexuality from name preference are morons. That's ridiculous.
posted by emilyd22222 at 6:51 PM on May 22, 2009

Easy peasy, unless you make it a big thing. I had an acquaintance who decided he preferred Matthew to Matt even though he'd been answering to both names for a few years. He did something like this:

Me: Hey Matt, how's it going?
Matthew: Not bad, but I've been meaning to tell you, I really prefer to go by Matthew.

This is what he did, every time someone called him Matt, until all but the most stubborn/forgetful switched to "Matthew." There will always be some people who just can't not shorten your name. I don't know why this is. Most people, though, as long as you are gracious and act like it's the most normal thing in the world rather than a big change on your side or a big mistake on theirs, will respond positively.
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:53 PM on May 22, 2009

Some people are clueless about nicknames versus names. I recommend just consistently introducing yourself as Michael, and not worrying too much that there are people out there with the equivalent of colorblindness when it comes to Mike vs Michael.

Re classroom names, I've been on a first-name basis with my instructors since I was an undergrad. I rarely hear "Dr X" or "Professor Y" in the US. I think the more formal forms were more common in the 70s and earlier.
posted by zippy at 6:54 PM on May 22, 2009

You will be referred to as Mike. You will have to get used to it.

However, the above sentence is only at the start of a relationship with a person (probably most people). After they call you Mike, just mention as an aside "Actually, I don't really like to go with Mike, please call me Michael". You can explain the real or a fake reason. People will feel a bit more comfortable with a reason (as in some people will think of you as a bit pretentious if you just flatly ask to be called Michael), but I think a plurality of people will file it away in the 'what is this person's name?' section of their brain and not worry.

For the better part of two years I called my friend, who is named Stephen, George. It was entirely on purpose and we lived together/took classes together, and our other housemates / random people also called him George. We stopped when he came out and said "Guys, I just don't like George. My name is Stephen". Well, we stopped after we reprogrammed our brains, which was another 2 weeks. No cause for concern.
posted by Lemurrhea at 6:55 PM on May 22, 2009

As much as you [rightly] don't like that comment you quoted it is something you're going to face. If your name is "Michael", "Christopher", "Nathan", "Philip", etc you're going to get people calling you by the most common nickname for those names.

It helps to think of it from the other person's perspective. They really have two choices: Calling someone who goes by Mike "Michael" can be seen as extremely formal or negative, while calling a Michael "Mike" is both extremely common and fairly harmless, so "Mike" becomes the default.

As everyone else says you're going to have to correct it all the time. One thing that will be a great help is to sign ALL your emails with the name you prefer - no oneliners or unsigned mail. That's the first clue I use on how to address someone since it's their clearly stated preference.
posted by true at 6:58 PM on May 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you introduce yourself as Michael, I can't imagine a student deciding it was ok to call you Mike... it just seems to casual for the Teacher/student relationship. Also, I appreciate your name issue - I don't have the added complications, but some people insist on calling me Nate, which I've always hated. I stopped fighting that battle a while ago though... you can't win with some people.
posted by blaneyphoto at 7:01 PM on May 22, 2009

Response by poster: zippy: I think calling instructors by first name is more common at some schools than others. At my undergrad I don't remember people calling professors who had just taught them in a class by first name; the only instructors people called by first names are ones whose lab they had worked in.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:03 PM on May 22, 2009

And preferably without actually talking to people

Simply not possible. If it bothers you, you will need to tell people. Even if you tell people, they will occasionally forget. Tell them again. When they forget, or when they call you Mr. Lastname in an attempt to be formal or polite, they are not making a comment about your personality or your gender identity, they are just doing what comes naturally to them.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:03 PM on May 22, 2009

Response by poster: blaneyphoto: I agree, it seems too casual. But wearing pajamas to class seems too casual, and I've seen it.

My female name didn't have an obvious short version; it had a short version I preferred in informal contexts, but my students didn't know this was my preference. So I don't know if students will spontaneously start shortening my name.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:06 PM on May 22, 2009

Response by poster: Rock Steady: I was being a bit sarcastic. I want to minimize the amount I have to tell people, but I realize I can't totally eliminate it. I want to minimize it because I feel like crap after I ask people to please call me [name], no matter what that name is, and I don't like feeling like crap.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:10 PM on May 22, 2009

posted by Sys Rq at 7:12 PM on May 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

zippy, it varies at my institution. I'm the only one who calls my advisor Dr. Soandso, and everyone else calls him his first name. But then again, I prefer giving my professors the respect they are totally due. It's just kind of weird to call them by their first name. Graduate students, on the other hand, I call by their first name.

And I'll expect the same when I'm a TA and professor.
posted by kldickson at 7:26 PM on May 22, 2009

If you don't mind a bit of a lie, you could always go with "My dad is Mike, I go by Michael to avoid confusion."
posted by wuzandfuzz at 7:26 PM on May 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

As someone with a name that has a number of obvious and common nicknames, you're probably going to have to learn to deal with this from random people you don't know very well. It happens and they don't mean anything by it, it's just how some people(especially guys) try to establish rapport. It's not really worth the hassle of correcting them, and it will mark you out as the "guy who is weird about his name." You will become "Michael, not Mike" instead of Michael. I'd just focus on telling the people you're close enough to to explain, and not care about the rest.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:27 PM on May 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

Rock Steady: I was being a bit sarcastic. I want to minimize the amount I have to tell people, but I realize I can't totally eliminate it.

Oops, sorry. As a teacher, you have an advantage in that you will have a large group of new acquaintances ready to listen to you. Take that opportunity to be brutally clear about the situation. "Hi everyone, I'm Michael Lastname. I prefer to be called Michael, instead of Mike or Mr. Lastname, if that's OK with you. Please turn to page blah blah blah..." At least you will only have to say it once and not thirty times. If others hear your students consistently calling you Michael, they may get the hint as well

Let me also suggest, with no offense intended, that you consider not letting "Mike" get to you so much. I know you have a right to be called whatever you want, and in a just and perfect world, we would all be called just what we want to be called, but you realize that that is just not going to happen. In addition, I'd postulate that you are putting some people off slightly by insisting on a certain name. That's not fair, but it the way it is. My name is also one that is automatically abbreviated (David/Dave) and while I don't care either way, I had an associate named David who insisted on being called David, and a number of people would go out of their way to ask me (just because I shared the name, I guess -- I didn't even know the guy that well) "What's the deal with David Lastname always wanting to be David? Kind of wierd, right?"

If you combine the discomfort with asking people to call you a certain thing with their potential unpleasant reaction to it, maybe that trumps your dislike for the nickname? Just food for thought.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:38 PM on May 22, 2009

I'm the same way about my (real) name. I used to correct people more, but these days I don't stress about it because everyone who knows me calls me by my full name. If I meet someone and they start calling my but the shortened version, they usually realize pretty quickly that that isn't what people call me and start calling me by my full name too. If you aren't at that point yet, a gentle correction the first time they call you Mike is probably all you need (as others have said). I've never had anyone make a big deal about it. But maybe I'm the guy who is weird about his name and doesn't realize it.

Also, I don't often don't respond to the shortened version. It isn't that I ignore people on purpose, but if I hear the short version yelled from across the street, I'm going to assume they are yelling at someone else. The short version just isn't my name.

I agree with blaneyphoto, that if I were your student and you introduced yourself as Michael, calling you Mike would seem presumptuous and weird.
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 7:40 PM on May 22, 2009

If you want people to call you Michael, you're going to have to tell them that. It's really pretty simple. You don't have to explain it.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 7:40 PM on May 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Once you have corrected someone once, you shouldn't have to do it again. I have a Joseph let me know he preferred Joseph over Joe (via email I think) and that was that. He simply said I actually prefer Joseph and it wasn't an issue for me.

PS As a fellow Michael (actually, only my mum calls me Michael now, everyone calls me Mick) I always thought of Mike as 70s suburban American 2.4 kids with a truck and a mostache-type name. Weird huh?
posted by micklaw at 7:54 PM on May 22, 2009

I am Johnny not John. But people call me John. Sometimes I let it go and sometimes I say something along the lines of, "I have been called a lot worse than John, but I prefer Johnny." Sometimes I go for the guilt trip with, "My mother and father really wanted to name me Johnny so to honor their wishes, I would appreciate calling me Johnny." Some people call me JG or some play on Gunn ("Shooter", etc.) I have learned to embrace it if it is from a friend. Life is too short for me to fight it. I can totally see getting annoyed by it all and wanting to correct folks. Remember, a stupid or ignorant person cannot be made to think no matter how hard you try.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:10 PM on May 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Just to add my experiences, I've had two (female) friends tell me that they preferred to be called by their full name and not the short form. I wasn't offended and I've always been careful to address them by their preferred moniker, but I'm sensitive on this topic thanks to some family members with name issues.

People who care and care about you will call you "Michael." People who insist on calling you "Mike" are either forgetful, bad with names or thoughtless. I think you have the right to be called what you want to be called.

I have an Uncle Mike and a friend with whom I alternate between "Mike" and "Michael." Their names have no influence on how I perceive or feel about them.
posted by Rora at 8:10 PM on May 22, 2009

I don't know why it didn't occur to me to mention this before, but there's kind of a direct way to approach this - that I actually use with MY students. I teach elementary school, but there's no reason age should be a problem here. I introduce myself and then ask students to introduce themselves (could be a hassle if this is a huge lecture hall I suppose) and I'm quick to mention that if there's a name they'd prefer to be called rather than the one on my class list, they should let me know. This would give you a perfectly natural opportunity to say "oh, by the way I prefer Michael instead of Mike..."
posted by blaneyphoto at 8:11 PM on May 22, 2009

I had been calling my co-worker "James" for months (because that what his email account put in the "From" header). One time last week, he simply corrected me by saying, "Jim, please." So now I call him Jim. I might slip up, in which case I hope he just gently reminds me.
posted by mbrubeck at 8:11 PM on May 22, 2009

My name is not Tommy and it is Thomas and I don't particularly like it when I am called by either one, but what can I do about it? With people you know and regularly interact with, you can ask them to call you by a particular form of your name, and hopefully they'll respect your wishes. They may not. What people call you is, unfortunately, not really up to you. Some people will call you the name you prefer, some will call you Mike, some will only call you by your last name, some will call you professor, and so on. If you're going to be teaching, you're going to be faced with an entirely new group of people every 3-4 months who won't know about your name preference and many of whom just won't care. Just remind as much as is comfortable for you, and do your best to deal with it when people are inflexible.
posted by sinfony at 8:17 PM on May 22, 2009

I am Kathleen, not Kathy. Some people call me Kathy anyway. I hate being called Kathy. It makes me cringe, but I usually let it go. Sometimes I correct people, but usually upon first introduction. I like the advice Rock Steady gave upthread - explain your preference when you introduce yourself to your class.

As an aside, a good friend of mine is in a similar situation (previously identified as transgendered, went by a female name, has now reverted to his given name). He went by Jim before the transgendered period, and now prefers James. Some people still call him Jim. He says he doesn't bother correcting anyone anymore.

Some people just shorten names no matter how many times you tell them not to.
posted by bedhead at 8:23 PM on May 22, 2009

Some people are just going to do it anyway. I've learned that the hard way. And other people, hearing someone else call you by the short name even one time, after hearing dozens of other people call you by the long version, will pick up the habit. There's not much you can do about it without talking to people, unfortunately.

Just develop a light-hearted line that you can use over and over again. Mine is, "It's Jacquilynne, actually. I mean, you can call me Jacqui, but it's not really my name, so you've only got a fifty-fifty chance I'll realize you're talking to me." Said with a wink and a smile so they know you're not really serious about the whole thing, and it shouldn't get too tense.

Some people will apologize profusely and repeatedly until you want to tell them to shut up, it's not like they kicked your dog or something, sheesh, but that's also something you'll just have to learn to deal with if you want to fight this battle.

I also have the advantage of not minding being called Jacq, so with people who insist on calling me Jacqui, I've also got "I don't really see myself as a Jacqui, but I don't mind Jacq if you need a short form. I know Jacquilynne is a lot of name." There's not to much you can do in that regards with Michael, though, unfortunately. It's going to be Michael or Mike or possibly Mikey, which just seems worse.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:37 PM on May 22, 2009

Response by poster: bedhead: and on your profile you call yourself "Kat". Interesting.

(and I think I know who you're talking about. at least, there's somebody on the Internet that fits that profile. the trans Intarwubz are a small world.)
posted by madcaptenor at 8:38 PM on May 22, 2009

I think your best bet is to just charm people. It's amazing what charming people will get you. Practice saying in the mirror "I prefer Michael" with your best smile. It sounds silly and it will feel really silly when you're doing it but it needs to seem natural and unforced and easy. Then you'll be Michael, not the stuffy/awkward/uncomfortable person that wants to be called Michael. And accept that someone is always going to use Mike because you can't make anyone call you anything. But, really, a smile goes so very far.
posted by 6550 at 8:48 PM on May 22, 2009

Put your name in writing every where you can. Emails, name tag, desk name plaque, office door.

Mention it to people once per person that you prefer Michael, and expect them to pick it up from those who do it right, over time. More than once sounds like you're OCD or Aspergerer's or something. (My apologies to those whose may have this. I mean you no harm. I have a very high Asperger's score myself.)

If it's a new group, you can intro yourself as Michael. Once. Also if it's a new group/person, you can absentmindedly fail to answer to Mike, and I'd be OK with saying that's my father's name; I just forget to answer it. I'm OK with social lies, but that's me.)

All else failing, you may have to learn to deal with a few who do it wrong. The other choice is becoming known as someone who is unfailing inflexible in what you are called. Take your choice.

I wouldn't take it personally. I used to ask people if I could call them by a nickname, and often got permssion to call them something only their mother did, but only after I asked. I wouldn't assume anything gender related if they use the honorific. They are going to refer to you as what you look like for the sake of convenience, and are not all that concerned about your personal issues.

(I changed to a nickname years ago, and it worked fine, so this can be done gracefully. I got a new job and lastname at the same time, so it wasn't much of a deal.)
posted by unrepentanthippie at 9:18 PM on May 22, 2009

I'm Mike, not Michael. Except to my parents.

My suggestion is a simple "Call me Michael" or, if addressed as Mike, "Michael, please". Easy as that.
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 9:31 PM on May 22, 2009

Response by poster: Nice Guy Mike: I'm not sure if it works both ways, but I was hoping somebody named Michael would comment. (There's a lot of us, so I'm not surprised.)
posted by madcaptenor at 9:40 PM on May 22, 2009

I refer to myself alternately as Dave or David, which confuses people. My profile here says Dave, my Facebook profile says David, one email signature says Dave, the other says David, etc.

Honestly, I don't give it much thought one way or the other and when I sign up for something like, say Metafilter, I put in either Dave or David without really thinking about it.

This naturally confuses those (considerate) people who ask me, which do I prefer, Dave or David. To which question I honestly respond: I don't really care one way or the other.

It's just not something I want to control or even try to control. As long as the person is respectful when addressing me, I really could care less.

For what it's worth, the Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, refers to himself as Mike and is actually somewhat insistent on others referring to him as Mike and not Michael.
posted by dfriedman at 9:46 PM on May 22, 2009

That's funny Bedhead. I'm Kathryn, went by Kathy all my life until I decided I like Kat much better. In formal situations and at doctors' offices and such I just go by Kathryn. My family still calls me Kathy but I just don't make a big deal about it since that's the way it's always been. There was a lady at church who ALWAYS called me Kathleen (back when I still went by Kathy) and I hated it. One day I finally said, "Look, my name is KATHY, not KATHLEEN" and she looked upset, but come on, it's my name, you should get it right.

Michael (OP), I have a friend named Michael who hates to be called Mike. Do what Nice Guy Mike just suggested. If they continue to call you Mike on purpose and not by accident or forgetfulness, they're being passive-aggressive.

I had a friend Brenna whom people always mistakenly called Brenda, and hated it. One day after knowing her for a couple of years, her name just slipped out of my mouth as Brenda. I felt bad and she teased me about it a little. But she knew it was just a flub and let it go.
posted by IndigoRain at 9:48 PM on May 22, 2009

I have a former boss with whom I'm still in touch. Being from a military family, he identifies people *only* by last name. He has not ever pronounced my last name, which has a "ch" pronounced as a hard "k", correctly. Not once. When I'm around him, I have to catch myself from misprounouncing *MY*OWN*LAST*NAME*!!!!! Some people just can't deal, or honestly don't understand that it's a big deal for others. You will learn to deal with this.
posted by notsnot at 9:57 PM on May 22, 2009

People often call me Sol. I drives me up the wall. I've never been introduced to them as Sol, and never use the name myself, because my name is Solomon. So when someone calls me Sol, I just deadpan "Please don't call me Sol". It seems to work every time.
posted by Solomon at 10:22 PM on May 22, 2009

Mostly here to reinforce what's been said; essentially, to introduce yourself by the name you prefer and to correct people who say it differently. I've known several people who go by the "proper" versions of their names (David, Michael, James, Nathaniel, Diana, etc.) and people who are observant will pick up on this from introduction and the way they are referred to by others around them. I can't imagine calling these people Diane, Dave, Nate, or what have you, and it would feel extremely awkward to do so.

Alternatively, I have another friend with a slightly unusual foreign name who prefers his full name to a nickname. I fell into the habit of using the nickname because everyone else around him did (this was after he moved to a new city), but began using his given name when he mentioned in a conversation that he hated it when people called him by the shortened version. These people weren't looking to be inconsiderate, they just didn't realise it bothered him because he never mentioned it.

You can also think of this as a tool. Sure, in an academic/work environment you may have to deal with people you wouldn't necessarily choose to deal with otherwise, but the name thing can be a good barometer of someone's personality, sensitivity to detail, or attentiveness. If you introduce yourself one way, and colleagues refer to you that way, someone adopting a nickname for you can tell you something about that person that may be useful to you later on. The same for someone who continues to call you by the nickname after you ask. Think of it less as an annoyance and more as a litmus test, or a shibboleth of sorts. Like David Lee Roth and the brown M&M's -- if all the M&M's backstage are the right colour, there's a good chance everything else will run smoothly as well.
posted by the luke parker fiasco at 10:57 PM on May 22, 2009

Anytime anyone uses any of the various diminutives of Susan, I just say, 'Yep, it's Susan' and then respond to whatever else they were saying. I did have to tell a boss once, that was a little more formal, "If you could go with Susan, I'd appreciate it." I give a lot of leeway to old established friends and family -- after all, they've put up with me all these years, but everyone else? Can call me Susan. But your preference does have to be called out one way or another.
posted by susanbeeswax at 11:12 PM on May 22, 2009

I went from Debi to Deborah in my early 20s. I had changed offices within the same company at the same time, which I'm sure helped quite a bit with the new co-workers, but still dealt with a lot of previous co-workers. I persistently corrected the old co-workers in a light joking manner and made sure everything that was text oriented had Deborah, not Debi. They eventually got it. It was even better when I moved out of state.

Since changing jobs and/or moving are a wee bit extreme, you're just going to have to be persistent and consistent.

Some of my family still calls me Debi; I usually glare at them. If they persist I'll ignore them. They usually laugh and call me Deborah at that point.
posted by deborah at 11:14 PM on May 22, 2009

Introducing yourself as "Michael" will have a certain impact, since most people will be expecting "Mike." As a try-it-on experiment, I introduced myself exclusively with my full-form name when I was doing some travelling and only hanging out with people who didn't know me; about half of them used my full name and half used the nickname I'm used to. And that was without any additional prompting on my part. Anecdotally I feel like "Full name, please" is a little more common among women, maybe because women's shortened nicknames are often more diminutive, but it's not like this is all that strange a thing to ask.

One thing I've found is that providing almost any reason at all makes people faster to accept it. "Actually, I'm going by 'Michael' these days, not 'Mike.'" Even just that little note that you used to be Mike and are now Michael will go a long way toward making it click in people's heads. "I haven't been Mike since high school" will do a lot to make people understand that you've explicitly chosen Michael, and they'll tend to go along. Eventually, they'll refer to you that way in the third person - "Oh, Dr. Smith, can I borrow Michael to grade Math 101 finals?" - and that'll help it take effect even more.
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:14 PM on May 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

My name is really common. When I'm in school, there will invariably be anywhere from 1-3 girls in my class with the same name as me. So we kind of developed different variations of that name to distinguish who we were.

I also believe that it's okay to just tell people "Hey, I prefer Michael", but if you really want to have some sort of explanation ready, you could say that you're not used to responding to Mike since Mike was [someone else] to you?
posted by Phire at 11:18 PM on May 22, 2009

Speaking as a Michael (or Mike, I'm not too concerned which version people use these days) - you have an excellent excuse. "There are always five Mikes in the room, so I go by Michael to avoid confusion."
posted by mmoncur at 11:27 PM on May 22, 2009

Humor can help with this. I'm Randall, but occasionally someone will just decide to call me Randy, out of the blue, to which I usually respond with some variation on the following (more or less raunchy, depending on the circumstances):

"Only my family calls me Randy. Just how friendly are you prepared to get?"

I don't think anyone has ever made the mistake twice.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:30 AM on May 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

When the oral surgeon who is doing a crown lenghting on me next week called me "Jen" at the consultation, I looked him in the eye and said "Jennifer".

Jennifer untilI I feel comfortable, then I'm Jennie. I loathe being called Jen because my father's friend would always boom: "why are you so quiet, Jennnn?" every time he'd see me. The only person I ever tolerated it from was my first aunt by marriage.
posted by brujita at 12:36 AM on May 23, 2009

Correct them if they call you Mike. My name is Christina, and while I'm fine with people calling me Chris (it's actually the only name-based nickname I approve of), I prefer to be called Christina.

My family and friends used to call me Chrissy until at the age of about 13, I told everyone basically 'enough, just call me Christina'. I have the same issue "Chrissy" sounds immature and juvenile. It was okay when I was 5, but not anymore.

So now everyone I know uses the right name, but every so often someone will try and call me all sorts of things, like "Tina", which I actually hate, so I just say "it's Christina" in a polite, yet firm tone, and continue with the matter at hand. Usually it works just fine.
posted by cmgonzalez at 1:09 AM on May 23, 2009

I don't think people calling you "Mike" should bother you more and more in the future, but rather less and less, or at least I would hope that would be the case. I definitively settled on Michael in my early teens with a strong preference against further "Mike" usage. Far too many years later, lots of random people still call me Mike. "Mike" used to grate in my ears, but the effect has lessened over the years. Now I don't much care. People of importance to me either know I'm Michael or they get a pass because they knew me back when "Mike" was fine.

It depends on the dynamic of your family and friends, but if they are like mine, I don't think you can insist on being called Michael without sounding like a pompous ass (though most would probably try to honor the wish). And personally I'd feel like a pompous ass insisting on being called Michael by people who knew me as Mike back when I was snot-nose kid or in diapers. So I'm Michael to my wife, but Mike to my nephew, as an inheritance from my brother. Yes, even name variations reproduce by proxy.

One problem you are going up against is that Michael sounds more formal than Mike to a large portion of the population. Many people who want to be buddy-buddy or plain-speaking will start right out with "Mike", even if your introduction, your e-mail address, your nameplate, or your business card says Michael. You can keep correcting all those people if you want, but there is an endless supply of new people to do it, and there will be for the rest of your life.
posted by mdevore at 2:23 AM on May 23, 2009

I've got the opposite problem. My name is Jeffrey. But I go by Jeff. If anyone calls me Jeffrey it reminds me of my father who always called me that when he was about to make some sort of important parental pronouncement. ;-)
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 4:38 AM on May 23, 2009

My birth certificate says Stephen, and that's what my family uses. Whereas friends usually call me Steve. If I introduce myself as Steve, apparently it gets interpreted as Stu (this has happened many times). Anyway, the way I view it is a matter of formality, Stephen being more formal, Steve more casual. My brothers are the same way, David/Dave, Gordon/Gord. So, a) you're not alone and b) people tend to choose one or the other based on what they prefer. I've also often had colleagues ask which I prefer, and really I don't care, if it gets my attention and isn't 'hey you' or some variant then it served its purpose.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 5:12 AM on May 23, 2009

It's not really worth the hassle of correcting them, and it will mark you out as the "guy who is weird about his name." You will become "Michael, not Mike" instead of Michael. I'd just focus on telling the people you're close enough to to explain, and not care about the rest.

I'm a Michael (uh, obviously), and introduce myself as such. And seven times out of ten, within the next few minutes, the person to whom I just introduced myself will address me as "Mike." And what I quoted above is true. If someone asks if you prefer one or the other, tell them, but it's probably better to just accept that people will always call you "Mike" and at some point you need to roll with it.
posted by The Michael The at 6:02 AM on May 23, 2009

I have a female name that everyone likes to shorten, just like Mike/Michael. I LOATHE the most common shortened form and have successfully kept nicknamers from branding me with it for nigh on these 40 years.

What you need to get used to is being comfortable enough with yourself that you don't feel like a dick asserting your name preference. It's not a dick move. It's your name! It's a signal of your very identity, just like your identification with a particular gender--or your place along a gender spectrum.

After you say "Hey, I actually prefer Michael" and someone keeps talking about it, it'll be easy to tell if a person is questioning you because they're looking for a way to give you an affectionate moniker or if they're questioning you because they think you're unreasonable. The ones who think you're being unreasonable aren't going to be swayed in their opinion, so don't sweat their opinion. For the ones who just really really want to label you with an endearment (we should all be so lucky!) consider having an alternate nickname handy for them that doesn't rub you the wrong way. Doesn't have to be a variant of Michael.

Or play it with comedy: "Please call me Michael. Or Rico Suave. Your choice. Just not Mike."
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 6:18 AM on May 23, 2009

My husband is another Michael who prefers Michael strongly over Mike. He has two suggestions: First, ask what the other person likes to be called. "Do you go by Dave or David? Oh, I go by Michael." It puts the request in a polite context. Second, for rude repeat offenders, don't answer to Mike.

When I met Michael, he had two groups of friends. One of them consistently called him Michael and the other consistently, and despite his stated requests, called him Mike. The real offenders in the second group are no longer his friends, in part because they disrespected other parts of his identity. Your request is not unreasonable nor is it unreasonable to feel cranky when people ignore it, as opposed to forgetting.

Having said that, it's hard sometimes when people have known you for years. Michael still gets Mike out of people who knew him in college, and we have friends who have switched (Larry to Laurence) that we both have to remember to call by the new name. But most people will, I've found, make an effort if asked.
posted by immlass at 7:39 AM on May 23, 2009

I am not a fan of the name my parents assigned me and I particularly loathe one of the frequent nicknames.


I find that correcting people is simply counter productive. People who you are going to encounter frequently can and do self-correct. People who you are not going to encouner frequently don't matter.

A name is just a moniker and a placeholder.
posted by rr at 7:44 AM on May 23, 2009

I go by my middle name which is always confusing in professional or consumer situations where my full name comes up.

I've found that if I try to explain the decision to go by my middle name as a preference, you get people who see the decision as arbitrary and unimportant. Not worth the effort to remember in a casual situation. Instead I make it clear that I identify so strongly with my middle name that I honestly won't know you're talking to me if you use my first name. You aren't doing me a favor by calling me by my middle name, you're making it clear that you need my attention.

If I want to make a point, I'll take a few seconds to respond, and then say "Oh sorry, everyone calls me by my middle name. I don't even see myself as a [first name]".
posted by politikitty at 8:09 AM on May 23, 2009

When I run in to someone with a name that can be shortened or turned in to a nickname I always ask upon meeting them "James? Jim? Jamie? What do you go by?" because at work I deal with correspondence that has the persons full name on the paperwork, but when I actually contact them and start to get to know them I ask to make sure you're not being the guy who calls a Jeffrey a Jeff like a goob.

Also, I go by my middle name which is pretty uncommon, but I have a very common first and last name. As a result, people always call me either my first name or my last name until they get to know me, or are corrected. In the case of one vendor I dealt with he kept calling me by my last name and then my middle name until I wrote him an email that basically said "Hey, I know my name can be switched around, but here's the right order and I go by my middle name." Cleared it up, I wasn't a jerk and I don't think he was put off by it.

I think the key is to address it with a little humor, a little humility on having to correct someone and to introduce yourself using the name you want to use.
posted by Phoenix42 at 8:10 AM on May 23, 2009

As a Michael-not-Mike, I can say that being a nearly-done grad student is your biggest advantage here. You're about to go through a big life change, switching to a new job and likely a new town. I went through the same thing in my teen years and going to college out of town was the best thing that happened in the process. It was much easier to just hit a new town and introduce myself as such, write my name as such, and the first time anybody called me "Mike," I'd usually say something to the effect of "Oh, I usually go by Michael." I sometimes added the tagline, "There's so many Mikes" and tell stories of being a kid, being in a toy store, my mother telling me to stop doing something and six kids around the store suddenly dropping what they were doing. Asking that everyone use your full name might come off as pretentious, but casting that as a practical move diffuses matters and people will remember the story. (Feel free to cop it.)

Oh, and based on an admittedly limited data set, I can predict that 100% of the people who call you "Mike" after you say that to them will be male and assholes. So you'll probably avoid talking to them altogether.
posted by el_lupino at 9:50 AM on May 23, 2009

I have a lovely colleague named Michael who, well, acts like a Michael. He is always well-dressed even with casual and has an air of formality in him even when he is, say, bitching about office procedures. He ALWAYS uses Michael and nobody calls him Mike!
posted by By The Grace of God at 10:43 AM on May 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Just tell them flat out "Oh hey, I notice you've been calling me Mike. I'd really prefer Michael."

They'll feel bad for five seconds and then the problem is solved.

I don't have this particular problem, but my name is mispronounced *all* the time. I never corrected my boss in time, and now she's taught the youngest girl (I'm a nanny) to use the same mis-pronunciation and it drives me BATS. Names are so personal, and quite a few people have very strong feelings about their names as part of their identity. You're totally fine with having a distinct prefrence and wanting people to go along with it. No need for an explanation - "I prefer Michael" is all that anyone needs.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:51 AM on May 23, 2009

I also loathe diminutives of my name. When people use them, I say "[realname], please." Or "please call me [realname]," or "I prefer [realname]," etc. And then I move right along with the conversation with barely a pause. Some people get very embarrassed to learn that they have been calling someone by a nickname that that person dislikes.

I let a group of people use the less-loathsome nickname for me for a couple of years in the interest of "not making it such a big deal." It bugged the shit out of me, and after a couple of years I let the more outgoing and/or fussy members of that group know that I really don't go by [nickname], I prefer [realname.] I only had to tell anyone else in that group once before my friends took it upon themselves to help me "enforce" the preference. Now, I've got some weird friends, but the principle is the same -- your friends can be your ally here.

I think you're a little oversensitive to the issue of correcting your name because it has some more complicated signifiers to you from your gender identification. But as you have seen from previous AskMes, lots of people have strong preferences about nicknames, pronunciation of their name, etc., that have absolutely nothing to do with anything except for personal preference. It's not a weird thing to ask people to call you by your given name.
posted by desuetude at 12:37 PM on May 23, 2009

I feel your pain. I'm Alicia, pronounced like Alysha, NOT Aleesha. I love my given name and hate Aleesha, but that's what 95% of people think my name is when we meet. I've learned that is really important to correct people the first time you meet them (nicely, of course!) and don't get discouraged if you have to correct people multiple times. It took some of my good friends several MONTHS to consistently call me by my correct name. Try not to take offense, though; there are a lot of Mikes (and Aleeshas) out there, and names are difficult for some people. Also, a name is an important part of you, so don't feel bad about insisting on being called your real name.
posted by kookaburra at 2:01 PM on May 23, 2009

First, ask what the other person likes to be called. "Do you go by Dave or David? Oh, I go by Michael."

This could be a charming way to go about it, but on the other hand, it reminds me of the time someone who had forgotten my father's name and didn't want to admit it took an equally charming way out, asking "How do you pronounce your first name again?" My father said, very deadpan, "The usual way: Bill."
posted by dlugoczaj at 7:00 PM on May 23, 2009

I typically refer to people as they introduce themselves to me. If you tell me your name is Michael, I would almost unfailingly refer to you as Michael. But, if I called you Mike for some reason, and you took offense to that, I would be surprised and, depending on the method of correction, possibly offended or even angry myself.

My name is one that is frequently shortened. I do not care which is used, and if asked which I prefer, I will say "no preference". In fact, I have to make a conscious effort to even notice which form people use, because I consider them equivalents. I hear my name from a voice I recognize, and respond.

It strikes me as a very odd thing to care about, and an even stranger thing to be so purposeful, if not downright rude, in dealing with.

Ignore people if they don't use the formal construct of your name? Really? Egads. How embarrassing. I can assure you this will neither have the effect you desire nor will it make you very well received or admired. This is being a jerk.

Most of my friends use the short form of my name. Most of my family use the longer form. My wife uses the longer form. Most of my coworkers use the longer form. Males seem more likely to use the short form. Females seem more likely to use the long form.

I can't even imagine trying to tell a friend of 20 years to suddenly start using the long form of my name, simply because some sort of arbitrary preference on my part.

If someone is calling you Larry and your name is Bill, then correct them. But someone calling Robert "Bob" and receiving a rebuke is startling to me.

I sometimes think about people like Sting and Madonna, who adopted stage names as their full identity. Do they expect friends and family to address them as such?

The more I think of it, the more odd this becomes to me. It strikes me as like a chemist that would refuse to hand you the salt, because he doesn't know what "salt" is. The sodium chloride is in this handy shaker, however.
posted by Ynoxas at 10:35 AM on May 24, 2009

I can't even imagine trying to tell a friend of 20 years to suddenly start using the long form of my name, simply because some sort of arbitrary preference on my part.

Well, okay, but there's nothing arbitrary about madcaptenor's decision. Obviously it's something he's put a lot of thought and feeling into.

And there's nothing rude about correcting someone for calling you the wrong name. If someone calls me "Cassie" and I correct them ("it's Cassandra") it's not much different than if someone called me "Catherine" or "Chelsea." I like to think I have the social sensitivity not to go nuclear on someone who makes an honest slip-up, and I bet the people responding with different strategies for dealing with folk who assume a shortened form is okay, or who habitually forget, or whatever, aren't really talking about a one-time, honest mistake.

Just because you don't feel particularly tied to your name doesn't mean other people are being pretentious or weird for wanting to be called by their actual, correct names.

- A Cassandra who had to fight to stop being Cassie in seventh grade (though now I don't care much, especially if people ask first. I also don't care if it's CasSANDra or CasSAUNdra, but it's always kind of lovely when people bother to ask.)
posted by Neofelis at 1:19 PM on May 24, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks, everybody. It's difficult for me to know how people regard these questions when they aren't all tied up with gender, so this has been really helpful. I will ask people to use "Michael", since that's what I want people to call me, and people seem to say that they would actually listen if I said that. I don't mind telling people to do that if they'll listen, but telling people when they won't even give a crap is more than I have the patience for.

Also, I find it interesting that, in general, men seem to be saying that caring about this is a bit silly of me and women seem to think it's not. (Of course there is a vast generalization, especially since I'm not sure of everybody's gender.) I'm not sure why this is.
posted by madcaptenor at 4:38 PM on May 24, 2009

I sometimes think about people like Sting and Madonna, who adopted stage names as their full identity. Do they expect friends and family to address them as such?

Don't know about them in particular, but I do remember reading an interview with Iggy Pop who basically said he happily answered to either Iggy or Jimmy (his birth name) and that quite a few folks used them interchangeably.
posted by dlugoczaj at 6:45 PM on May 24, 2009

I sometimes think about people like Sting and Madonna, who adopted stage names as their full identity. Do they expect friends and family to address them as such?

Madonna is her real first name. I believe I read an interview years back where Sting said that at some point, "Sting" just became his default nickname.

My name is one that is frequently shortened. I do not care which is used, and if asked which I prefer, I will say "no preference". In fact, I have to make a conscious effort to even notice which form people use, because I consider them equivalents. I hear my name from a voice I recognize, and respond.

Unlike you, a lot of people do not recognize the nicknames of their given name as "their name." It is, in fact, equivalent to using a completely wrong name. For some people.
posted by desuetude at 9:47 PM on May 24, 2009

It isn't a rebuke. It's a correction. I don't take offense when people call me by the short version of my name. I just prefer if they didn't. I try not to make a big thing about when correcting people, and I hope they don't make a big thing about it in turn.
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 3:22 PM on May 26, 2009

A bit late - I always added the "Uhll" syllable for anyone who said Mike. It's annoying as hell, but it gets the point across for those who stubbornly insist on "Mike."

It's a bit immature, it's annoying as hell - and therefore, it delivers results. It may not fly in a professional setting, but it does make a point.

What I would not recommend in a professional setting is shortening anyones name who shortens yours. While it gets results, it tends to infuriate people, while the "Uhll" solution usually gets a laugh, or at worst, mild annoyance.
posted by MysticMCJ at 10:11 AM on August 18, 2009

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