“Katie” or “Kate” – What’s in a name?

In recent headlines, it has been said that Katie Holmes is officially using her name, “Katie”, despite her soon-to-be ex-husband’s insistence on calling her “Kate.”

What’s in a name?

Brain research indicates that specific parts of our brain light up when we hear our own name.  Interestingly, similar parts light up when we are making judgments about ourselves.  As we have discussed before, Words are things. Likewise, our name is intimate, personal and filled with meaning.  (Maybe this is why Katie wants to keep her name.)

Or, we can think of it other way. Remember a name you were called that you did not like?  How do you feel when you think of that name?

For teaching, whether we are starting an email, discussion board response, or grading comment, we need to start with a name such as, “ Hi Melody.”  If a student has asked to be called by a nickname, it is important to comply.  Personalizing our responses in this way, engages students in the learning experience.

What is or was your nickname?

Melody (Mel) Pickle

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2 Responses

  1. kuwcnews says:

    Hi Molly (Molls),

    I really like how you put this, “All these different names help me recognize the context in which someone knows me.” The context of knowing indicates the nature of our relationships and what exactly they about know s. This raises all kinds of interesting philosophical questions about knowing and being known. I think what people call us also triggers certain behaviors (likely due to the parts in the brain that light up).


  2. This is an interesting question, Melody! My father insisted that I be given a name that would not easily lend itself to a nickname. My mother had a student named Molly, and my father instantly agreed. “It already sounds like a nickname,” he reasoned. I was frustrated as a child knowing other children who had given names but went by nicknames. I asked for friends to make up nicknames for me, like “Molls,” “Moll-doll,” and the like. On Facebook I use my first and middle name together, since the account settings don’t like that I have two middle names (the second middle name being my maiden name). All these different names help me recognize the context in which someone knows me. My given name tends to be used among my colleagues and family; interestingly, these two groups of people are the closest to me, though in different ways. My first and middle name together show someone who knows me exclusively through social media. Anyone who ventures a nickname is one of my more playful friends or former classmates. Of course, someone who uses my last name is a former composition student, and it’s a rare treat to hear from them. I think that name is my favorite to hear, especially when I can tell them, “Call me Molly. You’ve passed my classes now.”

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