Sorry, what was your name?


forgotten namesI am so bad with names these days.  In general, and especially here.  It takes me something like 3-6 passes to learn a new person’s name – if it’s simple – horribly longer if it’s not.  Aging brain cells are definitely part of the problem, however, it gets a lot worse when you are dealing with names that have no root in Western languages.

For example: It took me a while to realize that I was subconsciously making assumptions on someone’s sex just by reading their name on paper.  I would email someone several times at work, make arrangements to meet them in person, and be completely shocked to discover that when I finally met Punya in person, he was, in fact, male.  Most western languages (especially the romantic ones) have fairly similar rules on name endings: i.e. suffix of -a, is a girl… -d is a guy. That’s not true here.  I can’t spot any trends in defining who is male and who is female from the spelling of their name, and no-one I’ve asked can give me any useful pointers.

So combine my failing memory, with a set of completely alien names, and no clues to help with the process and you have a recipe for social disaster.  As the cartoon points out, you can politely ask again, but there’s a limit.  And don’t tell me that using mnemonics helps… what the hell rhymes with “pragyma” or “aadishankar” or “indrajaytra”…Help!!  Also, the Nepali language has more than one type of Devanagari symbol for the letter “T” or “D” (and others too)…so lots of extra “h”s and “a”s are added in to help distinguish between them.  Before you learn any Nepali, it seems totally random. When you are reading “Thamel”, for example, it’s actually pronounced “Tamel.”  You learn this over time, but the bottom line is that all the extra “h”s really mess with visual memory too.  So, in addition to all the other problems I have to remember that “Shanta” is pronounced “Santa”, “Shrestha” is pronounced “Sresta” and so on…. It’s so hopeless!

So to any Nepalis that I have asked too many times or if you’ve spotted me skirting around name introductions because I’ve forgotten yours…I’m so sorry!  It’s slowly getting better ,as I am building friends and colleagues with names that I recognize and they are added to my vocabulary, but I am afraid that I may run out of time here before I run out of new names!!

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