True story. I was at a social thing one time recently where I was introduced to a new faculty member. He said his name is Ian. (When you are telling an anecdote in the past tense, would you say, he said his name was Ian, or is Ian? I get confused on this point, because although the story is told in the past tense, which would suggest was, his name is still Ian in the present. Or, is it?) So, for quite some time I carried on a conversation with Ian. “Hey, Ian, what are things like in your department? Do you guys have things, Ian? We have a lot of things, Ian, but most of them are old and out of date.” People like hearing their name repeated frequently while in conversation, because it makes them feel that they are important to you, and it helps to reinforce the connection you are trying to make with them.
After what I thought was a very pleasant conversation, I said, “Well, it was very nice meeting you, Ian. I hope to encounter you again, sometime, possibly in the distant future, but before the machines have risen and dominated humankind.” To which he replied, “Yes, likewise. Oh, and, by the way, my name is Sean.” Here I must confess, I am not totally confident on the spelling, because when people speak I only hear the sounds the words make, and I do not actually see them spelled out in the air. His name might actually be Shawn, Saün, Seán, or some other spelling with a mix of vowels and consonants. There may even be a schwa thrown in there for good measure, thusly, Sǝan.
Well, I was a bit taken aback for a moment, and I was mildly embarrassed. Not for me, but for him. He obviously looked more like an Ian than a Sean, hence my confusion, and after a pause for deliberation, I replied, “You should change your name to Ian. It would be better for both of us.” I mean, here he is going around wearing an Ian face and clothes, all the while pretending to be a Sean. You have to admit that it was pretty rude of him to deliberately confuse me like that. It would be like finding out that the animal you have been calling a sheep all this time actually thinks itself a pony. He disagreed, but I concluded with, “Goodnight, Ian.” I think he got the point.